Best and worst Opening Days in Red Sox history
Best and worst Opening Days in Red Sox history
Will Monday’s season-opener against the Pirates be the best in Red Sox history? Will it be the worst? Will John Mayer be involved?
At any rate, there have been plenty of great, dramatic, funny, strange season-openers over the years. Here are the best and worst.
(Note: This is Opening Day, not home-openers. That’s why games like Mo Vaughn’s 1998 walkoff grand slam game don’t apply here.)
After missing the entire 1968 season as a result of his 1967 eye injury, Tony Conigliaro returned to the Red Sox for the 1969 season. His first game back couldn’t have gone much better.
Facing the Orioles in the season opener, Conigliaro went 2-for-4, hitting a two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning and then scoring the winning run in the 12th of a 5-4 victory.
Conigliaro would go on to play 141 games that season, hitting 20 homers in his full-time return to the lineup.
It was bad enough that co-owners Haywood Sullivan and Buddy LeRoux let Carlton Fisk become a free agent after the 1980 season by sending out his contract too late. The Red Sox then had to face Fisk in the first game of the season.
Having signed with the White Sox after 12 years with Boston, Fisk was back at Fenway as an opponent on Opening Day. After Dennis Eckersley had held Chicago to two runs over seven innings and left with a 3-2 lead, Fisk hit a three-run homer off Bob Stanley in the eighth inning to give his new Sox a 5-3 win.
Fisk, who took no pains to hide his animosity towards Red Sox management, wasn't exactly magnanimous in victory. "That," he announced after the game, "was for Haywood and Buddy."
The early 2000s Red Sox were very good at keeping expectations of them in check. Why win the first game of the season and then put pressure on yourself the rest of the year?
That would be one potential explanation as to why the Red Sox lost every season-opener from 2001 to 2005. They finally turned their Opening Day luck around in 2006, when Curt Schilling held the Rangers to two runs over seven innings.
Furthermore, that 2006 opener provided a sign of what was to come with trade acquisition Mike Lowell. Dummies say that he was a throw-in in the Josh Beckett trade. He wasn’t. He was a mandatory inclusion on the Marlins’ part, as they were willing to move Beckett if it meant also getting rid of Lowell’s contract after a dreadful eight-homer season.
Anyway, Lowell homered in that opener, one of 20 dingers he would hit in his first of five seasons in Boston. Also, Roger Clemens was at the game and everyone was freaking out over the possibility that he'd end up with perhaps the Red Sox or Rangers that season. Nah. Astros again.
This was bad for a couple of reasons, only one of which was that it brought Carl Crawford into the Red Sox’ lives.
This was the infamous “closer by committee” year, as the Red Sox employed Bill James’ idea that teams were better off pitching to matchups rather than having one failsafe. So while the Yankees had Rivera and the A’s had Foulke, the Red Sox had… Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, Chad Fox, Ramiro Mendoza, Brandon Lyon and Bobby Howry.
So on Opening Day, things naturally went to hell after Pedro Martinez held the Devil Rays to one unearned run on three hits over seven innings. Mendoza worked a clean eighth to preserve Boston’s 3-0 lead, but Embree gave up a leadoff single in the ninth followed by a Terry Shumpert home run and then a Ben Grieve single before being yanked without having recorded an out.
Fox looked like he might stop the bleeding when he struck out Toby Hall and got Brent Abernathy to ground into a fielders choice, but after talking Marlon Anderson, he served up a walkoff homer to Crawford, who at the time was in his first full season.
The Red Sox and A’s opened the 2008 season with a two-game series at the Tokyo Dome, and honestly this Opening Day could also go in the “worst” category.
The game started at 6 a.m. Eastern time, and because of some sort of technical issue, nobody with standard definition could watch the game on DirecTV. That meant a lot of people missed what was a pretty exciting game, as Manny Ramirez won the game in the 10th inning with a two-RBI double.
So what was so great about it? John Mayer is what.
So this technically happened at the second of the two Japan games they played, but it still made the whole Japan series worth it. In Japan at the time, Mayer posted a video from behind home plate during a Dustin Pedroia at-bat in which he pretends to be the worst baseball play-by-play man ever.
The video remains pretty hilariously mysterious, but then again that’s pretty fitting for Mayer.
Quick: Who was the Red Sox Opening Day starter the season after the won the 2004 World Series? That’s right, kids, it was David Wells. Hilarious!
The circumstances that allowed for this: There was significant turnover in Boston’s rotation that offseason, with Pedro Martinez signing with the Mets and Derek Lowe leaving for the Dodgers. Furthermore, Curt Schilling was still recovering from the right ankle issues that had led to the bloody socks.
Which brings us to April 3, 2005. Wells gave up 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings, and though the Yankees only managed four runs during the hit parade, Randy Johnson was solid enough in his Yankees debut (five hits, one run over six innings) to cruise to a 9-2 victory.