TORONTO -- Opening Day is approaching for the Blue Jays, the 45th in the organization’s history.
Some of the club’s most memorable moments have come on Opening Day, when records sit at 0-0 and optimism is allowed to run free. The Blue Jays are 22-22 on Opening Day, too, with this year's scheduled for April 1 against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
Let’s take a look back at some of the Blue Jays’ best Opening Day moments.
1. Game 1: April 7, 1977
Where better to start than the beginning? The expansion Blue Jays opened their inaugural season at Toronto’s Exhibition Park on April 7, 1977, and it snowed. It was a bizarre scene at the time and slippery underneath, but that image lives on four-plus decades later as a nostalgic piece of Blue Jays history.
With Bill Singer on the mound and a lineup pieced together for the very first time, it was first baseman Doug Ault who became the first hero for the Blue Jays. Ault launched a solo home run in the very first inning, then homered again in the third, this time a two-run shot. Thanks to a home run from Al Woods and multihit games from Otto Velez, Pedro Garcia, Dave McKay and Rick Cerone, the Blue Jays earned a 9-5 win.
Those expansion Blue Jays eventually played some warm-weather baseball in their inaugural season, where they went 54-107, but the snowy opener was fitting for Canada’s second Major League club.
2. Bell rings in the new season: April 4, 1988
In 1987, George Bell became the first Blue Jays player to win the American League MVP Award. On Opening Day the next season at Royals Stadium, he reminded everyone why.
Batting fourth behind Nelson Liriano, Lloyd Moseby and Tony Fernandez, Bell homered three times and drove in four, one of the best individual games of his great career. All three came off Royals starter Bret Saberhagen, with Bell’s final blast, a solo shot in the eighth inning, giving the Blue Jays some padding for their 5-3 win.
3. Stewart, Batista lead Blue Jays into 2000: April 3, 2000
The Blue Jays were coming off an 84-78 record in 1999 that still left them short of the postseason, but they started off the 2000 season with a thriller.
With one home run already under his belt in the fourth, Batista came back to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 4-4 and launched a walk-off solo home run to give the Blue Jays one of their most exciting Opening Day wins.
4. It begins: April 6, 1992
The road to the first World Series title in Blue Jays history began at Tiger Stadium, and there was already plenty of buzz around the club.
On the mound was Jack Morris, who joined the Blue Jays after 15 Major League seasons with the Tigers and Twins and had won the World Series MVP Award the year prior. Morris was expected to be one of the pieces who would push Toronto over the top, and on Opening Day, he lived up to that billing.
Morris threw a complete game in the 4-2 win, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out seven. He also three 144 pitches, which you aren’t likely to see from a pitcher any time soon, especially in the first game of the season. Pat Borders and John Olerud homered for the Blue Jays, while Dave Winfield went 3-for-4 in his debut with the club.
5. Blue Jays and Red Sox put up 23: April 1, 2002
This was a tough start to the season for all pitchers involved, but a great day to be a hitter. What might be most impressive, though, is that the Blue Jays pulled off the 12-11 win without hitting a single home run.
Shannon Stewart, Eric Hinske, Carlos Delgado, Jose Cruz and Darrin Fletcher all recorded multiple hits for the Blue Jays, who also took six walks that day. Tied at 11-11 going into the bottom of the ninth, it was a sacrifice fly off the bat of Fletcher that put Toronto ahead by bringing in Raul Mondesi.