At the time, April 17, 1956, seemed like your typical Opening Day. We now know it was a day unlike any other in Major League history.
Starting in left field for the Redlegs against the Cardinals in Cincinnati was a 20-year-old named Frank Robinson, while 21-year-old Luis Aparicio got the nod at shortstop for the White Sox against the Indians in Chicago. And in Brooklyn, the Dodgers brought 19-year-old right-hander Don Drysdale out of the bullpen in the ninth inning against the Phillies.
All three were making their Major League debuts, and each would go on to achieve greatness.
Robinson finished his career with 586 homers, was the first player to win the MVP Award in both leagues and became MLB's first African-American manager in 1974.
Aparicio made the All-Star team in 10 of his 18 seasons, collected 2,677 hits and 506 stolen bases and won nine Gold Glove Awards.
And Drysdale went 209-166 with a 2.95 ERA and 2,486 strikeouts over 14 seasons, forming a dominant one-two punch with Sandy Koufax and helping the Dodgers win three World Series titles. He also took home a Cy Young Award in 1962.
Robinson, Aparicio and Drysdale all were eventually elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which makes April 17, 1956, the only day to see three future Hall of Famers play their first big league games.
Over the years, more future Hall of Famers have debuted on April 17 than any other date. It's one of five debut dates that is shared by seven or more Hall of Famers.
April 17 (11): Jim Palmer (1965), Frank Robinson (1956), Luis Aparicio (1956), Don Drysdale (1956), Roberto Clemente (1955), Mickey Mantle (1951), Duke Snider (1947), Red Schoendienst (1945), Arky Vaughan (1932), Red Faber (1914), Joe Tinker (1902)
April 15 (9): Phil Niekro (1964), Bob Gibson (1959), Orlando Cepeda (1958), Eddie Mathews (1952), Jackie Robinson (1947), Ernie Lombardi (1931), Al Simmons (1924), Freddie Lindstrom (1924), Grover Cleveland Alexander (1911)
Sept. 10 (9): Fergie Jenkins (1965), Lou Brock (1961), Luke Appling (1930), Burleigh Grimes (1916), Rogers Hornsby (1915), Stan Coveleski (1912), Rabbit Maranville (1912), Sam Crawford (1899), Joe Sewell (1920)
April 16 (7): Goose Gossage (1972), Ralph Kiner (1946), Johnny Mize (1936), Earl Averill (1929), Earle Combs (1924), Dazzy Vance (1915), Harry Hooper (1909)
April 20 (7): Roy Campanella (1948), Richie Ashburn (1948), Ted Williams (1939), Bobby Doerr (1937), Heinie Manush (1923), Chief Bender (1903), Vic Willis (1898)
Same date, same year
In addition to April 17, 1956, there have been eight other occasions when multiple Hall of Famers debuted on the same date and in the same year. These are the six that happened in the modern era (since 1900).
Molitor amassed 3,319 hits and made seven All-Star teams, while Smith became a 15-time All-Star and a 13-time Gold Glove Award winner. Both were first-ballot Hall of Famers, with Smith getting elected in 2002 and Molitor in 2004.
Campanella made his MLB debut against the Giants on Opening Day in 1948, entering as a defensive replacement at catcher in the bottom of the seventh inning. He would win three National League MVP Awards and make eight All-Star teams before a car accident led to the end of his career in 1958. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969.
Richie Ashburn played his first game the same day as Campanella, starting in left field and leading off for the Phillies against the Boston Braves. After producing 2,574 hits with a .308 batting average over 15 seasons, Ashburn was elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1995.
April 13, 1926
Opening Day in 1926 marked the first appearance by Paul Waner, who drew a walk as a pinch-hitter for the Pirates against the Cardinals. Waner didn't take long to establish himself as one of the best players in the game, winning the NL MVP Award in his second season. The outfielder recorded a .333 batting average and 3,152 hits in his career, making the Hall of Fame in 1952.
Tony Lazzeri took his first hacks for the Yankees the same day Waner made his debut with Pittsburgh. The second baseman would become a key part of New York's impressive lineup, which came to be known by the nickname "Murderers' Row." The Veterans Committee elected Lazzeri to the Hall of Fame in 1991.
April 14, 1925
The battery of pitcher Lefty Grove and catcher Mickey Cochrane was integral in helping the Philadelphia Athletics become perennial contenders in the late 1920s and early '30s. Cochrane won the American League MVP Award in 1928, and Grove did the same three years later after earning the fourth of his nine league ERA titles.
The pair actually debuted in the same game, on April 14, 1925, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Although they never shared the field that day, with Grove departing before Cochrane pinch-hit in the eighth inning, the two were forever intertwined. Both played for the A's until 1933 and went into the Hall in '47. Cochrane caught Grove in 311 of the southpaw's 616 career appearances.
April 15, 1924
On Opening Day in 1924, Al Simmons drew the start in left field for the A's in Washington against the Senators, making his first big league appearance. Simmons went on to record a .356 average during 12 years with Philadelphia and a .334 mark in his career, falling just 73 hits shy of 3,000. The BBWAA elected him to the Hall of Fame in 1953.
Freddie Lindstrom debuted the same day as Simmons, coming off the bench to pinch-run for the Giants in the ninth inning against the Brooklyn Robins. Although Lindstrom had fewer than 1,800 hits with 103 home runs in his 13-year career, the Veterans Committee voted him into the Hall in 1976.
Listed at 5-foot-5 and known for his colorful personality, Maranville played 23 seasons in the Majors, tallying 2,605 hits. Shortly after his death in January 1954, Maranville was elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA on his 14th ballot.
Coveleski, meanwhile, didn't throw a pitch in the Majors from 1913-15. He returned to MLB with the Indians in 1916 and played another 13 seasons, finishing his career with 215 wins and a 2.89 ERA. He was inducted into the Hall in 1969 after being elected by the Veterans Committee.
Others: May 2, 1882 (John Clarkson and Bid McPhee); May 1, 1880 (Roger Connor and Mickey Welch)
Other notable debut dates
Here are three more days that saw multiple players debut who could eventually make the Hall of Fame.
March 28, 2019
We're a long way away from finding out if this date will join the list. But given the promise they showed as rookies, there's a chance we could see Pete Alonso, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Eloy Jiménez in the Hall one day. All three played their first game on Opening Day of the 2019 season.
June 8, 2010
Stephen Strasburg's debut with the Nationals was the stuff of legend, as the much-ballyhooed prospect struck out 14 batters over seven innings against the Pirates. Now 31 years old, Strasburg is on a Hall of Fame trajectory, as he has posted a 3.17 ERA (130 ERA+) with 1,695 strikeouts over 10 seasons, as well as a 1.46 ERA in 55 1/3 postseason innings. While Strasburg was dominating in D.C., Giancarlo Stanton -- then known as Mike Stanton -- was playing his first game with the Marlins. If injuries don't get in the way, Stanton could join the 500 home run club in the future. He already has 308 bombs through his age-29 season.
April 2, 2001
This one is pretty much a lock, as it was the day both Albert Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki played their first game. Through the end of the 2019 season, Pujols has compiled 3,202 hits, 656 homers, 661 doubles and 2,075 RBIs. Ichiro is also a member of the 3,000-hit club, in addition to the 1,278 knocks he collected in Japan, and he stole 509 bases and won 10 Gold Glove Awards during his 19 seasons in MLB.