Four days ago, we featured Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers at 22 days remaining in our countdown to Major League Baseball’s Opening Series on March 22 in Sydney, Australia. That was an easy one. A shutout and a decisive homer last April 1, too obvious.
But maybe you remember that on the other side of that Dodgers-Giants rivalry game, Matt Cain made his first Opening Day start in the Majors. And when he left after six innings, it was a scoreless tie. Granted, Cain pitched out of trouble a lot for the Giants that day, but he got the outs when he had to and he was able to experience something he had been wondering about.
“You’ve seen some guys do it, and you always kind of wonder what it feels like,” Cain said that day. “There definitely is a lot of hype going on with it, a bit of overreporting, kind of. But that’s the fun part leading up to the first game.”
Now another Opening Day awaits. Cain figures to be a lot better than 8-10 this season, having finished strong after a disappointing first half last season. Giants fans are counting on it. The Giants open the 2014 regular season on March 31 at Arizona to start a four-game series, and then they visit the Dodgers for a weekend series on that trip. The home-opener at AT&T Park is April 8 against the D-backs, and more memories are waiting to be made.
Who should be No. 17? Tell us in the comments below.
“Through baseball I built a name for myself,” Orlando Cepeda said 15 years ago in his Hall of Fame Induction speech, and he began building it right away. Ask Cepeda today for one hit that meant the most in his life, and he will tell you that it was his first one in the Majors, because it came in such remarkable circumstances: the Giants’ and Dodgers’ first game on the West Coast, his MLB debut.
It was April 15, 1958, and the New York Giants were now the San Francisco Giants opening their new world before 23,448 fans at Seals Stadium. The Brooklyn Dodgers were now the Los Angeles Dodgers, and on the mound for them was a blossoming star, Don Drysdale, one of many future Hall of Famers in the ballpark. Cepeda, a brute force from Puerto Rico known as the “Baby Bull,” started at first base and grounded out to third in the second inning. In the bottom of the fourth, Cepeda flied out to left.
Fortunately for the rookie, Drysdale was getting roughed up elsewhere. The righty was chased later that inning with the Giants ahead, 4-0, and charged with his fifth and sixth runs when Willie Mays singled to the right side. Then with one out in the fifth, Drysdale was out of the picture and Cepeda achieved a lasting moment against the pitcher who replaced him that game.
“My first big-league hit, Opening Day, I hit a home run of Don Bessent,” Cepeda said told MLB.com. “My first big-league hit? Incredible. I’ll never forget that. I’ll never forget that game. It was my biggest thrill, my first game in the big leagues.”
Cepeda wound up 1 for his first 17 in the Majors, so that is another reason he appreciates that first hit so much today. He recovered to be named National League Rookie of the Year that season and then was an All-Star the next six consecutive seasons. Cepeda was traded to the Cardinals for Ray Sadecki in May of 1966, and the next year batted .325 with 25 home runs and 111 RBIs in leading St. Louis to a world championship and earning NL MVP honors.
More Opening Day memories are waiting, starting with the MLB Opening Series in Sydney on March 22-23. Who should be No. 29 in our countdown? Suggest away in the comments below and make plans of your own this season. MLB Schedule | Tickets
Pablo Sandoval went 2-for-5 for the Giants at Arizona on April 6, 2012. Opening Day is all about beginnings, a stage for someone to create the performance of a lifetime, and for Panda and the Giants it was the beginning of something truly big. It began his 19-game hitting streak to start the season, breaking the Giants franchise record set by Johnny Rucker in 1945. It also was the beginning of a year in which Sandoval would have a huge All-Star Game triple and go on to World Series MVP, homering three times in Game 1 on the way to a Giants sweep at Detroit. It happened like this:
Sandoval will report to Scottsdale, Ariz., this month as a sleeker version of the player who last season batted .278 with 14 homers, 79 RBIs and 52 runs. He and the Giants open the season March 31 at Arizona, and one week later the teams meet again in the Giants’ home opener. Who should be No. 47? MLB Schedule | Order Tickets