APRIL 7, 2022 — Fifty years ago, baseball’s first-ever labor stoppage delayed the start of the 1972 season. By the time the players’ strike was resolved, the scheduled Opening Day on April 5 had passed. Instead, 22 major-league teams played their first games of 1972 on April 15, and the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles held their rain-delayed opener a day later.
The belated start provided plenty of storylines. The New York Mets mourned the recent passing of manager Gil Hodges as Tom Seaver shut out the defending World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates. The Oakland A’s began their championship season by rallying to beat the Minnesota Twins. The Texas Rangers, newly relocated from Washington, lost to the California Angels on a ninth-inning wild pitch. The Detroit Tigers’ one-run win over the Boston Red Sox proved significant when Billy Martin’s Tigers finished a half game ahead of the Red Sox at the end of the strike-skewed schedule.
Accounts of those four games from Opening Day 1972 – David Krell on the Mets and Pirates, Geoff Young on the A’s and Twins, Steve West on the Angels and Rangers, and Christopher Chavis on the Tigers and Red Sox – are available at the SABR Games Project.
As we celebrate the start of a new baseball season in 2022, the SABR Games Project has published a variety of new stories on memorable Opening Day games, including historic firsts involving new leagues, broadcasting, and baseball’s color barrier; debuts of significant rule changes; first steps in championship seasons; and presidential appearances at the ballpark:
- April 27, 1893: Cy Young, Cleveland Spiders beat Pittsburgh in opener after pitching distance change, by John Fredland
- April 24, 1901: White Stockings thump Cleveland as American League turns from minor to major, by Andrew Harner
- April 13, 1911: Cobb and Crawford lead Tigers to Opening Day victory, by Tim Odzer
- April 20, 1912: Red Sox open Fenway Park with extra-innings win over New York, by Bill Nowlin
- April 12, 1922: Del Gainer and Rogers Hornsby power Cardinals to Opening Day romp over Pirates, by Thomas E. Merrick
- April 13, 1926: First Red Sox game is broadcast on Boston radio, by Donna L. Halper
- April 14, 1941: FDR deals and Phil Rizzuto debuts for Yankees as the drumbeats of war grow louder, by Larry DeFillipo
- May 9, 1948: Springfield Sallies drop inaugural game as AAGPBL’s overhand pitching era begins, by Gary Belleville
- April 17, 1956: Phillies, Robin Roberts beat World Series champion Dodgers on Opening Day, by Steven C. Weiner
- April 10, 1959: Sparky Anderson debuts, delivers key hit as Robin Roberts outduels Don Newcombe, by Tim Otto
- April 11, 1966: Emmett Ashford makes history as first Black umpire in American League, by Richard Cuicchi
- April 15, 1971: Bobby Cox’s Hall of Fame managing career begins with last-play loss in minor leagues, by Kurt Blumenau
- April 6, 1973: Nolan Ryan whiffs 12 on Opening Day; Vietnam War POW throws out first ball, by David Krell
- April 6, 1982: Jim Kaat becomes first major-leaguer to pitch in 24 seasons as Cardinals blast Astros, 14-3, on Opening Day, by Tom Schott
- March 31, 2003: Tampa Bay scores 5 runs in ninth inning to beat Red Sox on Opening Day, by Thomas J. Brown Jr.
- April 8, 2021: Mets win home opener on controversial walk-off hit-by-pitch, by Laura H. Peebles
To find more SABR Games Project stories about Opening Day games, click here.
Originally published: April 7, 2022. Last Updated: April 6, 2022.