4/08 in Yankee History

The red-letter days:

2003: Hideki Matsui makes a spectacular debut in pinstripes.


After delaying their home opener by a day because of impending snow‚
the Yankees beat the Twins‚ 7-3‚ with a Matsui grand slam the key blow
in the game. The new arrival from Japan becomes the first Yankee in
history to hit a slam in his first game in the Stadium. He also becomes
the first to hit his first Yankee homer with the bases loaded since
Horace Clarke did so in 1965. The loss puts the Twins below .500 for
the first time since the end of the 2000 season‚ a club-record span of
328 consecutive games.


1985: At Fenway‚ 46-year-old Phil Niekro gets the ball for the Yankees‚
making him the oldest pitcher in American league history to start an
Opener (Jack Quinn of the Brooklyn Dodgers set the MLB record, for
Brooklyn in 1931, at age 47). Boston chase Niekro after 4 innings and
behind the pitching of Oil Can Boyd coast to a 9-2 win. Niekro walks 4
in the 3rd inning‚ including two with the bases loaded‚ to lose his 7th
Opener in a row (6 with Atlanta)‚ the worst opening day record ever.
Tony Armas‚ Dwight Evans‚ and Jim Rice stroke homers for Boston.



On other 8ths of April…

2004: Javier Vazquez makes his Yankee Stadium debut, in the home opener. Hall of Famers Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto and Whitey Ford get things off to a festive start by tossing ceremonial first pitches to Jorge Posada, John Flaherty and Bubba Crosby respectively, and Paul Cartier becomes the new answer to the question, ‘Who plays the Stadium organ?’, keyboard stalwart Eddie Layton having  recently retired. Gary Sheffield singles in one run and scores anotheron on a Posada sac fly in the home 1st, and
Vazquez makes it stand up in a 3-1 win for the pinstriped hosts over Scott Schoenweiss and the ChiSox.



2002: The Yankees pound out 22 hits in clobbering the Blue Jays‚ 16-3.
Alfonso Soriano collects 5 hits for NY‚ including a double and a
three-run homer‚ while Robin Ventura (below)  drives across 6 runs.




2001: In the Yankees 16-5 win over Toronto at the Stadium‚ Yankee pinch hitter Scott
Seabol becomes the lowest-drafted player (in the 88th round in 1996) to ever
appear in a major league game. Former Royals star Al Cowens‚ picked on
the 75th round in 1969‚ was the previous record holder. This
distinction will last just 11 days before Travis Phelps – the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays’ selection in the 89th round‚ also in 1996 – makes his debut
on April 19. Roger Clemens is the winner as batterymate Jorge Posada
belts his first grand slam‚ one of 20 Yankee hits. The fact that the first five Toronto batters to come to the plate in the 4th also come around to score will be scarcely noticed by the hometown crowd, since the Bombers entered the inning with a 12-run lead. 




1993: The Yanks are on the losing end of an historic event when Indians
second sacker Carlos Baerga becomes the first player in major league
annals to homer from both sides of the plate in the same inning‚
connecting in the 7th frame (off Steve Howe and Steve Barr,
respectively) of Cleveland’s 15-5 win over the visiting New Yorkers.



1986: The Kansas City Royals are the first defending champions – other
than the Bronx Bombers themselves – since the 1925 Washington Senators to open at Yankee
Stadium‚ and they start the season on the wrong foot by losing‚ 4-2.
New York score all 4 runs off starter Bud Black‚ who gives up a
three-run homer to Butch Wynegar in the 2nd. Hal McRae accounts for
both KC runs with a two-run homer off starter Ron Guidry‚ one of two
hits Guidry gives up in 5 innings. Guidry wins his first Opener with
relief help from Rod Scurry and Dave Righetti.




1978: Highly touted off-season acquisition Goose Gossage gets off to a
rocky start with the Yankees.


At the season opener in Arlington‚ the Rangers
edge the Yanks 2-1 behind newcomers Richie Zisk and Jon Matlack.
Matlack scatters 8 hits in winning‚ while Zisk delivers a 9th inning
solo walkoff shot against the Goose. Ron Guidry, embarking on one of the greatest single seasons for any pitcher in major League annals, goes 7 innings for New
York, scattering six singles – after this no-decision‚ he will win 13
straight games.


1976: At County Stadium‚ the Brewers open against the Yankees with Hank
Aaron starting what will prove to be his final Major League campaign by driving in 3 runs to back Jim Slaton’s 4-hit 5-0 win.


 Five days
later‚ Slaton will shut out the Tigers. Catfish Hunter is the loser‚
allowing 5 runs in 7 innings. Later‚ both he and reliever Sparky Lyle complain about the flatness of the mound.


1975: The Yankees are participants in history again as they take the
field in Cleveland. After Rachel Robinson‚ widow of Jackie‚ tosses out
the first ball, Frank Robinson‚ in his opening game as the first black
manager in the majors, adds a dramatic touch by homering in his first
at bat (as a DH).



The blow will be the catalyst for a 5-3 win over the
visiting Bombers. For player-manager Robinson‚ it is his 8th Opening
Day homer, setting an MLB record. Starter Doc Medich is the loser‚
going 5 innings and giving up all 5 runs. Gaylord Perry goes all the
way to win for the Tribe‚ while Boog Powell backs him with a 3-for-3
outing, including a double and homer.


1946: Catfish Hunter is born.

Hunter was the highest paid pitcher in baseball when he signed with the
Yankees in 1975. He got off to a rough start, going 0-3 in his first
four outings. He settled down after that, ultimately winning more than
20 games and was also named to the All-Star team for the seventh time.
In 1976 Hunter won 17 games, led the Yankeees in complete games and
innings pitched, and was again named to the All-Star team. The Yankees
won three straight pennants with Hunter from 1976 to 1978. However, the
years of arm strain and the effects of diabetes had begun to toll on
the pitcher and in 1979, Hunter retired from baseball. Hunter was an
effective pitcher, not because he overpowered batters with his speed,
but because of the precision of his pitching. He was inducted into the
National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1987. At the time a player was
allowed to choose which cap would be memorialized on his Hall of Fame
Plaque. Before and after his induction, Hunter spoke highly of his
experiences with both the A’s and Yankees and his appreciation for both
team owners, Charlie Finley and George Steinbrenner. For this reason,
he refused to choose a team and thus the plaque depicts him without an
insignia on his cap.

Hunter died at his home in Hertford, North Carolina in 1999 after he
took a fall down the stairs at his home. He had been suffering from
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in
an advanced stage at the time.



1930: In Memphis‚ the Chicks beat the Yankees in an exhibtion game‚
3-1. Babe Ruth‚ hobbling from an injury incurred 2 days ago in Dallas‚
bashes a homer for the vistors’ only run. In his next at bat he hits
the top of the signboard at Russwood Park as Ruth ambles to 1B for
single. Sam Byrd pinch runs.



1909: While at spring training in Hialeah, FL‚ Hal Chase contracts
smallpox. The entire Highlander team is vaccinated and will be
quarantined while travelling back to New York.


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