Seventy-five years ago, Newark Eagles right-hander Leon Day joined Bob Feller as the only major-league pitchers to throw a no-hitter on Opening Day. The future Hall of Famer shut out the Philadelphia Stars 2-0 on May 5, 1946, to begin play in the Negro National League season.
Day’s no-hitter was so filled with excitement that it makes Feller’s 1940 gem seem almost mundane. Though it was a shining moment for Day on the mound, a near-riot in the sixth inning — precipitated by a controversial call at home plate — and the concern about the impact that the event might have on the progress of baseball’s integration received equal attention. In light of the attention the game received at the time, one might think the game would be well-remembered, but like much of Negro Leagues history it fell into obscurity for many baseball aficionados.
Click here to read Rick Bush’s full account of Leon Day’s no-hitter at the SABR Games Project.
As we celebrate the start of a new baseball season in 2021, the SABR Games Project has published a variety of new stories on memorable Opening Day games, including articles featuring Hall of Famers Babe Ruth, Roy Halladay, and Derek Jeter; the first steps in pennant-winning seasons; the aftermath of one of the most infamous trades in baseball history; and openers that were played far away from “home”:
- April 13, 1914: Terrapins top visiting Buffalo in Federal League’s first big-league game, by Chuck Hildebrandt
- April 12, 1916: Babe Ruth’s throwing error costs him an Opening Day shutout, by Bill Nowlin
- April 16, 1946: Cleveland’s Bob Feller hurls 3-hitter against White Sox on Opening Day, by Joseph Wancho
- April 19, 1960: Rocky Colavito, Harvey Kuenn trade places as Tigers top Cleveland on Opening Day, by Tim Otto
- April 5, 1974: Streaking, brawling Chicago fans overshadow Angels’ Opening Day win, by Jim Klann
- June 21, 1977: Blue Jays bring baseball back to Utica with Opening Day win, by Kurt Blumenau
- April 9, 1985: Cubs’ Rick Sutcliffe, Lee Smith shut down Pirates in opener, by John Fredland
- April 6, 1987: Giants rally for Opening Day extra-inning win over Padres, by Tom Schott
- April 4, 1988: Darryl Strawberry blasts 525-foot homer off Olympic Stadium service ring, by Gary Belleville
- April 2, 1996: Derek Jeter makes first Opening Day start in Joe Torre’s debut as Yankees manager, by Tim Otto
- March 29, 2000: Cubs top Mets in season opener at Japan’s Tokyo Dome, by Thomas J. Brown Jr.
- April 5, 2012: Roy Halladay, Phillies blank Pirates 1-0 on Opening Day, by John Fredland
- July 29, 2020: Toronto Blue Jays play ‘home’ opener in Washington, lose to Nationals, by Laura H. Peebles
To find dozens of other SABR Games Project stories about Opening Day, click here.
Originally published: March 29, 2021. Last Updated: April 2, 2021.