This afternoon at Progressive Field, the Indians will kick off their season. This is the 116th season in franchise history, which means that unless my math is wrong, today is their 116th Opening Day. Here's a run through some of what happened in the previous 115...
(A version of this post ran a couple years ago; I've made updates an additions to that information.)
The Indians are 59-56 on Opening Day. However, during the last 50 years they are only 20-30, and during the 2000s they are just 6-10. The Indians' longest Opening Day winning streak is 5 games (1925-29, 1931-35, and 1951-55). Sadly, in the last 50 years, the Tribe has never won even 3 Opening Day games in a row. The team's longest Opening Day losing streak ever is 4 games (1969-72, 1979-82, 1990-93, 2003-06, 2009-12).
72 of those 115 games took place on the road, which works out to 63%. Today's weather forecast for Cleveland makes it somewhat understandable that the Tribe might often start on the road (not that most American League teams play in dramatically warmer climates), but that seems like a huge disparity between home and road openers. Today will be the Indians' first time starting the season at home since 2012, and only the fourth time since 2001.
For the 102 seasons that are easily searchable (1913-2015), and among the 16 teams that have been around that entire time, only two teams have played fewer Opening Day games at home than the Indians: The Red Sox, who've been at Fenway on Opening Day just 37 times, and the Pirates, who opened at home just 25 times during that stretch, including not once until 1954, which is a scheduling oddity I've never heard about before.
The Reds have opened at home every season except for 1966 and 1990. The Orioles lead the American League with a home game on Opening Day in 62 of those 103 seasons.
Perhaps today's game will begin a trend of more equitable openers for the Tribe.
A total of 59 different pitchers have been given the honor of starting on Opening Day. Corey Kluber is set to make his second consecutive Opening Day start for the team, but he's got a ways to go if he's going to get near the top of the leaderboard.
Most Opening Day starts for the Indians:
- Bob Feller: 7
- Stan Coveleski: 6
- Bob Lemon and CC Sabathia: 5
- Addie Joss, Willie Mitchell, Gaylord Perry, and Charles Nagy: 4
Feller holds the franchise record for Opening Day wins, with four. Coveleski, Lemon, and George Uhle each won three. Feller and Jake Westbrook each lost three (and Westbrook only started two openers). The Tribe's Opening Day record for saves is... one. There are 15 different players who've saved an opener for the Indians, but not one of them has done it twice. That won't change this year, because no one on the roster is among those 15 players.
Feller also hold the record for total strikeouts (39) and walks (20), while Nagy holds the record for most home runs allowed (8).
Twenty different pitchers have 15+ Opening Day innings for the Indians. Among that group the ERA leaders are Jim Bagby (0.53), Uhle (0.65), Masterson (0.86), and Feller (1.21).
For a single game, Gary Bell holds the record with 12 strikeouts (in 1960). A Tribe starter has recorded 10+ strikeouts five other times, including twice by Feller.
The Tribe's Opening Day starter went more than 9 innings five times, topped by Mel Harder, who pitched 14 innings in 1935, but no one has pitched a complete game on Opening Day for the Indians since 2002, when Bartolo Colon pitched a Madddux, something that's only happened twice on Opening Day for any team.
There have been 9 Opening Day shutouts thrown by Indians:
- Stan Coveleski (1920)
- Bob Feller (1940)
- Jim Bagby (1943)
- Bob Feller (1946)
- Bob Feller (1948)
- Bob Lemon (1953)
- Dick Donovan (1962)
- Sonny Siebert (1968)
- Bartolo Colon (2002)
Feller's shutout in 1940 was a no-hitter. It remains the only Opening Day no-hitter in MLB history.
On the opposite end of things, Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez allowed 10 runs in 2011, which is the most ever allowed by an Indians pitcher on Opening Day.
Terry Turner may have played in as many as 15 Opening Days for the franchise, but we don't have complete box scores for the first 12 games, so the total number of starts for Turner, Nap Lajoie, Jack Graney, Steve O'Neill, and others from the team's early years can only be estimated. Since 1913 the record for Opening Day starts for the Tribe 11 games, by seven different players (including Feller), with Omar Vizquel being the only one of those seven whose career began after World War II. Among active players, Michael leads with 6 Opening Day starts, but he won't get to add to that total today, which will allow Carlos Santana to join him for the active lead.
The other records here are also for only 1913 on...
Omar Vizquel holds the franchise records for Opening Day plate appearances, with 55. Michael Brantley leads active players with 27, followed by Carlos Santana with 25.
Joe Sewell holds the record for hits with 15., Sewell, Lou Boudreau, and Michael Brantley each hit 4 doubles, Kenny Lofton hit 2 triples, and Cory Snyder hit 3 home runs. Other than Brantley's doubles, no active Indians have more than one of any type of extra-base hit on Opening Day with the team.
Joe Sewell and Manny Ramirez each had 10 RBI; Omar Vizquel and Travis Hafner each scored 9 runs; Tris Speaker and Jim Thome each had 8 walks; Andre Thornton had 9 strikeouts. The closest active players to any of those marks are Santana, who has 6 walks, and Kipnis, who has 7 strikeouts.
39 different players have 25+ Opening Day PA for the Indians. Among that group the batting average leaders are Ray Chapman and Bill Wambsganss (each at .417) and Joe Sewell (.405). The on-base percentage leaders are Sewell (.500), Larry Brown (.458), and Steve O'Neill (.455). The slugging percentage leaders are Julio Franco (.607), Sandy Alomar (.563), and Larry Brown (.550).
Dale Mitchell's 5 hits in 1950 are the team's Opening Day record. Duke Sims (1968), Juan Gonzalez (2001), and Travis Hafner (2004) each hit 2 home runs on Opening Day. Jim Thome walked 3 times in 1997, Max Alvis struck out 3 times in 1965.