10 memorable Detroit Tigers Opening Days

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit -- Mail still gets delivered, but there might not be a bigger holiday -- designated or otherwise – in Michigan than Tigers Opening Day.

Through snow, sleet, or even the lean years, tens of thousands of fans always descend on Detroit for the first sign of spring, whether the ballplayers have seen their shadows or not.

Fans come from far and near, with tickets and without, to see their new ballclub, but also for the simple chance just to get outside, toss peanut shells on the ground and nurse nine-dollar beers.

Today marks the 116th year of Tigers baseball, meaning today marks the 116th Opening Day – and the 116h chance to dream of a World Series championship, which has become reality just four times in Detroit.

No matter, the visions of glory are strong for this first game of the year.

And the Tigers have done their best to stoke those dreams of grandeur, winning 64 times on Opening Day, losing 50 times, and tying once.

Fans’ guide to Tigers’ Opening Day

They take a seven-year winning streak into Friday’s home opener against the Yankees.

Whether you're scarfing down your breakfast at Honest John's, getting an early start on the spirits at Harry's, or putting the finishing touches on your tailgate, here's something to help pass the time leading up to first pitch – a look back at 10 memorable Opening Days in Detroit.

1. April 25, 1901 -- Tigers 14, Brewers 13

The very first Opening Day for the Tigers, played at Bennett Park – which later would become Tiger Stadium. It also ranks among the best Opening Days of all-time, as, in front of a crowd of more than 10,000, Detroit posted what, to this day, remains one of the greatest comebacks the game has ever seen. The Tigers entered the bottom of the ninth inning trailing 13-4, and ended the day with fans celebrating on the field, as Pop Dillon's fourth ground-rule double of the day drove in the tying and winning runs.

Dmitri Young

2. April 4, 2005 -- Tigers 11, Royals 2

There was some buzz entering this season, as Tigers fans thought the team finally was turning the corner. Turns out, that corner wouldn't be turned until the next season, but Dmitri Young sure sent the fans home smiling on this day. The switch-hitting slugger got the scoring started in the second inning with a homer to right-center, added a two-run homer the next inning, and capped the day with another two-run homer in the eighth inning -- three homers in all.

3. April 10, 1984 -- Tigers 5, Rangers 1

The hype for this ballclub was off the charts, as it came so close in 1983 -- then started 1984 with five consecutive wins on the road. The fun continued right away in the home opener, as the Tigers posted a four-spot in the first inning, on the strength of new Tiger Darrell Evans' three-run homer. Dan Petry did the rest, tossing a complete-game, four-hitter as the Tigers ran their record to 6-0, on their way to 9-0, and 35-5, which remains the best 40-game start in Major League Baseball history.

4. April 10, 1968 -- Red Sox 7, Tigers 3

The result wasn't the most significant aspect of this day. The game was postponed a day because of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., then 41,429 fans showed up for the first game of the season, after riots had ripped the city apart the previous summer. This was a fresh start for the city and the ballclub, which lost the pennant by a game in 1967. Tigers starting pitcher Earl Wilson homered in the loss, which would be Detroit's only one in its first 10 games, en route to a world title.

Cecil Fielder

5. April 13, 1993 -- Tigers 20, A's 4

Offense isn't always on display on Opening Day, when the weather is often cold and the bats so often sting. But the Tigers of the early- to mid-1990s could swing it, even if they couldn't pitch it. They put up 18 hits on the A's this day, including four from Cecil Fielder, plus homers by Rob Deer (three RBIs), Travis Fryman (five RBIs) and Mickey Tettleton (four RBIs). This marks the most runs scored by the Tigers on Opening Day; that slugging team scored 20 again, just four days later.

6. April 10, 2009 -- Tigers 15, Rangers 2

The Tigers had a rough start to the season in Toronto, dropping three of four. It didn't take long to get back on the feel-good train. The Tigers pounded out 14 hits, including a monster day from Miguel Cabrera, who homered, doubled and had six RBIs. Every starter but one drove in at least one run for Detroit, which also got a home run from Jeff Larish, who, believe it or not, was the starting designated hitter. This marked the first in a current string of seven straight Opening Day victories.

7. April 11, 2000 -- Tigers 5, Mariners 2

The Tigers finally moved from the corner of Michigan and Trumbull, and the early reviews for Comerica Park were spectacular -- amazing, given how much the park has changed since that day, most notably bringing in the fence in left field and moving the bullpens from right to left. The win eased the sting of starting 1-5 on the road. No surprise, nobody homered, but Bobby Higginson and Gregg Jefferies each drove in two. Future Tiger Carlos Guillen had the only Mariners RBI.

Hank Aguirre

8. April 21, 1965 -- Tigers 1, A's 0

The Tigers have only pitched nine shutouts on Opening Day, including last season's victory over the Twins. That was the first since this day in 1965, when Hank Aguirre tossed 7.1 dazzling innings, scattering five hits and two walks while walking three. Larry Sherry closed it out with 1.2 innings of scoreless relief. The Tigers only managed three hits, but it was enough, thanks to a fourth-inning double by Don Demeter, which scored Norm Cash for the game's only run.

9. April 12, 1999 -- Twins 1, Tigers 0 (12 innings)

One of just a couple losses on this list, but this one was extra special, of course, because it was the final Opening Day at Tiger Stadium. And, holy moly, was it a cold one. So cold, the bats seemed to be still in hibernation, as nobody scored until Todd Walker hit a 12th-inning home run off Sean Runyan. The Tigers got a runner to third with one out in the bottom of the 12th, but he was stranded in the defeat. The starting center fielder for Minnesota: A rookie by the name of Torii Hunter.

Jack Morris

10. April 7, 1986 -- Tigers 6, Red Sox 5

This was more like a Tiger Stadium Opening Day, with 25 hits between the two teams -- Kirk Gibson leading the way with a 4-for-4 performance that included a pair of home runs and five RBIs. The second homer put the Tigers up for good in the seventh inning. Jack Morris started his seventh of 11 consecutive Opening Days, and as Morris tended to do, he pitched to the scoreboard, scattering 12 hits, including a whopping four home runs, in the victory. Morris was 7-4 in his Detroit openers.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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