In honor of Opening Day, ESNY takes you through some New York Yankees facts about the first day of the season that you might not have known.Opening Day is special (not just to the New York Yankees) for an overabundance of reasons.
The best sport in the world gets underway, Summer is right around the corner and it’s time to start flocking to the stadium by the thousands to watch your favorite team play.
To start the 2017 season, Masahiro Tanaka will get the starting nod for the New York Yankees as they face off against Chris Archer and the Tampa Bay Rays. But, before we get into all the game-based breakdowns, we’re going to bring you through a little Opening Day history.
The always-wonderful Baseball Reference dedicates an entire page to the inauguration of the baseball season and after doing some digging, some pretty neat stuff regarding the Yankees came to surface.
So, sound smart with your friends during today’s contest and fill up on the seven Opening Day facts that you might not have known:
7. Better Luck In 2017
The Yankees are 1-2 against the Tampa Bay Rays in Opening Day history and both losses came at Tropicana Field — the first in 2004 and the second in 2012.
The Rays last hosted the Yankees on Friday, April 6, 2012, to kick off the baseball season in a game in which New York actually led 6-5 entering the bottom of the ninth.
After manager Joe Girardi handed the ball to his trusty closer Mariano Rivera, whose name translates to “game over,” Tampa rallied for two runs including a walk-off single by first baseman Carlos Pena.
Hopefully, for New York, this year’s opener goes a little differently but history tells us that might not be the case. The Yankees haven’t won on Opening Day on the road since 2006 when they defeated the Oakland Athletics 15-2. They have also lost seven of their last eight Opening Days with their last win coming on March 31, 2011, against the Detroit Tigers.
6. Three Starts Club
When Tanaka takes the hill for the Yankees in the bottom of the first, it will mark the righty’s third straight Opening Day start.
That will make him just the ninth starter in franchise history to start in three consecutive Opening Days. CC Sabathia, Roger Clemens, Jimmy Key, Ron Guidry, Mel Stottlemyre, Vic Raschi, Red Ruffing and Lefty Gomez were the other eight to do so.
The 28-year-old is 0-2 with a 5.87 ERA in his two starts on baseball’s first day, but hopefully, he can change the narrative against a team that failed to beat him in 2016.
5. Big Toe
Thanks to the shoulder injury to Didi Gregorius, Ronald Torreyes will be the fourth different Opening Day shortstop since 2013. Gregorius (2015-16), Derek Jeter (2014) and Eduardo Nunez (2013) all started at the position for New York in that same time frame.
Torreyes spent the entire 2016 season with the Yankees and went 40-for-155 (.258) with a .680 OPS in 79 games. From Aug. 19 to Sep. 20, he slashed .367/.415/.551 and gave third baseman Chase Headley a run for his money.
He’s no Didi, but he is the fourth different Opening Day shortstop since 2013 and is ready to make his presence felt.
4. Man, He’s Been Here A While
When Brett Gardner takes the field as the Yankees’ starting left fielder on Sunday, he will tie Charlie Keller for the third-most Opening Day starts (6) in left field in franchise history.
Right now, there is a three-way tie between Gardner, Tom Tresh and Hideki Matsui for the fourth-most.
The 33-year-old did not start the first game of last season, but has started in seven of the last eight Opening Days with five starts in left and two starts in center.
3. Speaking Of Left Field…
Out of all the positions on the diamond, left field has seen 52 different Bronx Bombers take the field on Opening Day. That’s the highest variety of players at a position for the Yankees while catcher and first base are tied for the least (33 different players).
Roy White holds the record for the most starts in left (9) and Babe Ruth (7) is second on the list.
2. The All-Time Opening Day Lineup
If you constructed a Yankees lineup featuring the players with the most Opening Day starts at each position, it would like this:
- Bill Dickey, C
- Lou Gehrig, 1B
- Willie Randolph, 2B
- Graig Nettles, 3B
- Derek Jeter, SS
- Roy White, LF
- Mickey Mantle, CF
- Hank Bauer, RF
- Mel Stottlemyre, SP
- Don Baylor, DH
The 2017 Yankees will obviously look a little different, but it’s always fun to look at a “fantasy” Yankees team and the All-Time Opening Day squad looks as if it could take home a World Series title or two…
1. Two Homers, Anyone?
The last Yankee to homer twice on Opening Day was first baseman Joe Pepitone on April 9, 1963, against the Kansas City Athletics off Diego Segui in the second and then Bill Fischer in the eighth.
Roger Maris (1960), Mickey Mantle (1956), Russ Derry (1945), and Babe Ruth and Samue Byrd (1932) were the only others to ever accomplish the feat. With a lineup that features the man who led spring training in home runs (Greg Bird), hopefully, 2017 will quench the thirst caused by the multi-home run drought.
Well, there you have it, folks. Now get to the bar and show off to the bartender. Write up a script of these facts before you go to the neighbor’s house so you have the smarter brain. Whatever you’re going to use these facts for: the more you know, the better.