Opening Day is magical not just because it's the beginning of the baseball season, but because of the endless possibilities it brings.
Every team starts the year with World Series dreams, and many of those title runs have their origins in the earliest days of the regular season. Many a championship team has ridden a strong start to the year all the way to the Fall Classic.
MLB.com is looking back at the teams who put together historically great opening runs. From the 1955 Dodgers to the '84 Tigers to the '98 Yankees, this list is full of some of the best teams to ever step onto a baseball diamond. They were often led by some of the game's most iconic players, from Ted Williams to Rickey Henderson to Ichiro Suzuki.
Here are the hottest starts in Major League history:
MOST CONSECUTIVE WINS TO START SEASON
1982 Braves, '87 Brewers: 13
Final records: '82 Braves, 89-73 (Won NL West, lost NLCS); '87 Brewers, 91-71 (3rd in AL East)
The 1982 Braves were the first team to open the season with 13 straight wins. They were managed by Joe Torre, who was in his first year with the team, and they were led on the field by franchise icon Dale Murphy, who would go on to win his first of back-to-back National League MVP Awards that year. Murphy hit .281 with 36 home runs and a league-best 109 RBIs, and won a Gold Glove in center field. The team, meanwhile, would go on to win the NL West after its historically hot start, although the Braves lost in the NL Championship Series to the Cardinals.
Five years later, the Brewers matched the Braves' season-opening feat, roaring to a 13-0 start. Even after their first loss, the Brewers won seven of their next nine games for a 20-3 record. And even though they had two Hall of Famers in the lineup, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, Milwaukee would not make the playoffs despite finishing with a 91-71 record. Part of the reason? The Brewers followed that 20-3 run with a 12-game losing streak, the beginning of a larger stretch in which they lost 18 of 20 games.
1981 A's: 11
The 1981 A's were catalyzed by a 22-year-old Rickey Henderson, who in 108 games (the season was shortened because of the players' strike) led the American League with 56 stolen bases and 135 hits, led the Majors with 89 runs scored and won a Gold Glove in left field. Oakland also had All-Star Tony Armas providing the power -- he hit a league-leading 22 homers. Henderson finished second in AL MVP Award voting, while Armas finished fourth. The A's went to the playoffs after winning their first 11 games, beating the Royals in the AL Division Series before falling to the Yankees in the ALCS.
Also came close
1955 Dodgers, '62 Pirates, '66 Indians: 10
The 1962 Pirates and '66 Indians couldn't turn their hot starts into anything more. Pittsburgh went 93-68, but that was only good for a fourth-place finish in the NL that year; Cleveland finished its season 81-81. The 1955 Dodgers, though, were another story...
BEST START THROUGH 20 GAMES
1911 Tigers, '18 Giants, '55 Dodgers, '84 Tigers, '87 Brewers: 18-2
Final records: '11 Tigers, 89-65 (2nd in AL); '18 Giants, 71-53 (2nd in NL); '55 Dodgers, 98-55 (Won World Series); '84 Tigers, 104-58 (Won World Series); '87 Brewers, 91-71 (3rd in AL East)
Each of these clubs were nearly flawless out of the gate, winning 18 of their first 20 contests. The 1911 Tigers featured two of the AL's best players in Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford and jumped out to a 59-24 record before playing below-.500 baseball the rest of the way. The '18 Giants fell out of first place by early June and were unable to climb back to the top of the standings. After years of finishing second-best to the Yankees, the '55 Dodgers season (as you'll read below) was storybook in nature from beginning to end. The '84 Tigers, as you'll also read in further detail below, compiled one of the most impressive wire-to-wire seasons in history. The '87 Brewers season saw Paul Molitor compile a 39-game hit streak and Juan Nieves twirl a no-hitter, but the club's fast start quickly dissipated by mid-May.
1902 Pirates, '07 Giants, '38 Giants, '46 Red Sox, '77 Dodgers, '81 A's, 2003 Yankees, '18 Red Sox: 17-3
Three of these clubs were able to ride their hot starts to a pennant, but each of them came up empty in the World Series. The 1946 Red Sox came closest, falling to the Cardinals in a dramatic seven-game series. Reggie Jackson's iconic power display kept the '77 Dodgers at bay, while the heavily-favored Yankees couldn't solve Josh Beckett and the Marlins in 2003.
BEST START THROUGH 25 GAMES
1907 Giants, '55 Dodgers: 22-3
Final records: '07 Giants, 82-71 (4th in NL); '55 Dodgers, 98-55 (Won World Series)
Though the 1907 Giants came out of the gates on fire, they cooled off just as fast. After starting 24-3, they dropped 11 of their next 15 games to quickly fall behind the Cubs in the NL standings. They fell even further back with an 8-11 record in the month of June, then dropped to a fourth-place finish after going 13-23 in September/October, including losing 12 of their last 14 games (and each of their final seven). Meanwhile, the '55 season came in the heart of the Dodgers-Yankees rivalry that dominated baseball for much of the era. And this Brooklyn team was special. Not only did the Dodgers win their first 10 games, they rattled off another 11-game win streak from Game 14 through 24. Of course, that's not what most fans remember them for. No, the '55 Dodgers made history by winning the franchise's first World Series title -- they beat the rival Yankees in a thrilling seven-game Fall Classic. It was in this World Series that Jackie Robinson pulled off his iconic Game 1 steal of home.
The '55 Dodgers were loaded with Hall of Famers: Robinson, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese. (Oh, and a 19-year-old rookie named Sandy Koufax, who made only five starts and 12 appearances and didn't pitch in the postseason.) Campanella won the NL MVP Award that year, hitting .318 with 32 home runs and 107 RBIs. Snider was the runner-up, hitting .309 with 42 homers and a Major League-best 136 RBIs and 126 runs scored.
1902 Pirates, '07 Cubs, '11 Tigers, '46 Red Sox, '77 Dodgers, '84 Tigers: 21-4
Unfortunately for the 1902 Pirates, who finished atop the league at 103-36, their incredible season came one year before the inaugural World Series. The '07 Cubs, meanwhile, rode their hot start to a 107-45 finish and a World Series sweep of the Tigers. Speaking of the Tigers, that '11 Detroit club was led by baseball legend Ty Cobb, who won the AL MVP Award that season after batting .420 while recording 248 hits, which was then a single-season record. The '46 Red Sox would make the World Series behind Hall of Famers Ted Williams and Bobby Doerr, but lost to the Cardinals in seven games (as the Curse of the Bambino lived on). The '77 Dodgers also made the World Series behind star players Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Don Sutton before falling to the Yankees.
And more on the 1984 Tigers momentarily.
Also came close
1905 Giants, '12 Reds, '25 Athletics, '28 Yankees, '39 Yankees, '58 Yankees, '81 A's, '86 Mets, '87 Brewers, 2001 Mariners, '03 Yankees: 20-5
This group includes five World Series champs: the 1905 Giants; 1928, '39 and '58 Yankees; and the '86 Mets. The '28 and '39 Yankees squads will make appearances below, but the others are noteworthy in their own right. The '05 Giants leaned on Hall of Famer Christy Mathewson, who went 31-9 with a 1.28 ERA over 338 2/3 innings of work. As for the '58 Yankees, they were led by the Hall of Fame trio of Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford, and rallied from a 3-1 deficit in the Fall Classic to win in seven games -- beating a loaded Braves team that had Hall of Famers Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Red Schoendienst and Warren Spahn.
The 1986 Mets are one of the most memorable teams in MLB history, both for their personality and their ability on the field. The '86 World Series is one of the greatest ever played, with the Mets' unbelievable Game 6 rally among the sport's most famous moments.
BEST START THROUGH 40 GAMES
1984 Tigers: 35-5
Final record: 104-58 (Won World Series)
Here's that memorable 1984 Tigers team. It's the last Detroit team to win the World Series, and it was one impressive club. That year, the Tigers never trailed in their division -- they won nine straight games to open the season, jumping out to a lead in the AL East that they never relinquished. Their 35-5 start to the year was a remarkable display of dominance. More importantly, though, they finished the job. After a 104-58 regular season, the Tigers swept the Royals in the ALCS and beat the Padres in five games in the Fall Classic.
The 1984 Tigers were led on offense by the likes of Hall of Famer Alan Trammell, Kirk Gibson, Lou Whitaker and Chet Lemon. Atop their starting rotation was Hall of Fame workhorse Jack Morris, who pitched two complete-game wins in the World Series. And at the back of the bullpen was Willie Hernandez, whose sensational season, which ended with a pair of World Series saves, netted him both the AL Cy Young Award and the AL MVP Award.
1928 Yankees, '39 Yankees: 33-7
It's no surprise that a pair of the legendary Yankees teams of the 1920s and '30s started out so strong. The '28 Yankees had Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig at the helm, two of the best to ever play the game. Ruth crushed 54 home runs that season, leading the Majors once again the year after his record-setting 60. Gehrig batted .374 and drove in a Major League-best 147 runs. Add in a few more Hall of Famers like Tony Lazzeri and Waite Hoyt, and this team couldn't be stopped. The Yankees went 101-53 in the regular season, then swept the Cardinals in the World Series to bring home the second championship of the franchise's MLB-record 27.
The 1939 Yankees won the World Series, too, after a 106-45 regular season. This was the DiMaggio era in the Bronx -- Joltin' Joe won his first AL MVP Award that season after batting .381 to lead the Majors. With Hall of Famers Bill Dickey and Joe Gordon helping fill out the lineup around DiMaggio, and another pair of Hall of Famers on the pitching staff in Lefty Gomez and Red Ruffing, the '39 Yankees rolled to a sweep of the Reds in the Fall Classic.
Also came close
1902 Pirates, '12 Giants: 32-8; '05 Giants, '07 Cubs, '29 Athletics, '41 Browns, '46 Red Sox, '98 Yankees, 2001 Mariners: 31-9
Most of these teams make appearances elsewhere here, but the 1929 Athletics deserve mention. With MLB's all-time winningest manager Connie Mack at the helm, Philadelphia went 104-46 in the regular season to clinch the AL pennant by 18 games over the Yankees, then beat the Cubs in five games in the World Series. Chicago had Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Hack Wilson, Kiki Cuyler and Gabby Hartnett, but it was overpowered by the A's own group of legends, which included Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove.
BEST START THROUGH 50 GAMES
1946 Red Sox: 40-9-1
Final record: 104-50 (Lost World Series)
This Red Sox club was remembered for both capturing the franchise's first AL pennant in nearly three decades and coming oh-so-close to winning it all. Leading the way was none other than Ted Williams, who picked up right where he left off in his first season back from his service as a fighter pilot in World War II. Williams paced the Junior Circuit in runs (142), walks (156), on-base percentage (.497), slugging (.667) and total bases (343) to capture his first of two AL MVP Awards.
Boston's hot start included a 15-game win streak as fans flocked to Fenway Park to set club attendance records. The Red Sox sewed up the pennant by mid-September but lost a heart-breaking Game 7 of the Fall Classic thanks to Cardinals star Enos Slaughter's famous "mad dash" home from first base.
1928 Yankees, '39 Yankees: 40-10
These two Yankees clubs represent a pair of the most talent-laden clubs in history. The '28 club featured nine future Hall of Famers and swept the Cardinals in the World Series. Meanwhile, the '39 team dominated opponents to the tune of a +411 run differential that remains the highest single-season total by any club in modern history.
Also came close
1907 Cubs, '13 A's, '29 A's, '53 Yankees, '84 Tigers: 39-11
Featuring the famous double-play combination of Tinkers to Evers to Chance, this 1907 Cubs team came right in the middle of modern baseball's first true dynasty. The '13 A's were the game's next great dynasty, featuring Hall of Fame manager Connie Mack and his "$100,000 infield" with Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Home Run Baker and Jack Barry. Mack's second dynasty in Philadelphia is also included here with Hall of Famers Lefty Grove, Mickey Cochrane, Jimmie Foxx and Al Simmons. Joining them is a Yankees club that captured a record fifth consecutive World Series title in 1953, along with those dominant '84 Tigers.
BEST START THROUGH 60 GAMES
1912 Giants: 48-11 (1 tie)
Final record: 103-48 (Lost World Series)
As with many of these teams, the 1912 Giants featured several legends of the sport. They were managed by Hall of Fame skipper John McGraw, the second-winningest manager in MLB history, and their pitching staff was led by a Hall of Fame duo in Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard. After a sizzling start to the season, New York ran away with the NL pennant, but lost to the Red Sox in a dramatic eight-game World Series (one game was tied). In the winner-take-all Game 8, Mathewson was brilliant into the 10th inning, but Boston rallied to win the game and the series on a walk-off sacrifice fly.
The Giants actually trailed the Reds in the NL as late as May 20, despite having a 20-6 record on that date. But they broke through with a stretch of 18 wins in 20 games that turned their half-game deficit into a 12-game lead by June 13. When they played their 60th game on June 28, the Giants were in the middle of a 16-game winning streak which would push their lead to 16 1/2 games before the 4th of July.
1907 Cubs, '39 Yankees, 2001 Mariners: 47-13
The 1939 Yankees have already had their entry here. So we'll turn the focus to the 2001 Mariners, who had one of the greatest regular seasons in Major League history. The Mariners tied the MLB record with 116 wins (the 1906 Cubs are the other team to win 116 games), so their great start was just a part of a run that lasted the whole year. Seattle won 20 of its first 25 games, 31 of its first 40 and 47 of its first 60. Unfortunately, the Mariners couldn't turn their historic regular season into a World Series title, as they fell to the Yankees in the ALCS.
Still, that 2001 Mariners team is one to remember. This was the year that Ichiro came to the United States and took Major League Baseball by storm. As a rookie, the future Hall of Famer won the AL batting title by hitting .350, racking up an astounding 242 hits -- at the time, it was MLB's highest hit total since 1930. (Of course Ichiro then set the new MLB single-season hits record with 262 a few years later.) Ichiro led the Majors with 56 stolen bases, too, sparking the Mariners out of the leadoff spot all season. He won both the AL Rookie of the Year Award and the AL MVP Award.
Also came close
1953 Yankees, '98 Yankees: 46-14
The 1998 Yankees have their own entry below, because their hot start went far beyond 60 games. That's not to say the '53 Yankees ever went cold -- they won the World Series, too. In fact, they capped the Yankees' MLB-record run of five straight World Series titles from 1949-53.
BEST FIRST HALF
1998 Yankees: 61-20 (.753 winning percentage)
Final record: 114-48 (Won World Series)
The MLB All-Star Game was first played in 1933. Since then, no team has had a better record at the break than the '98 Yankees -- the greatest juggernaut of the late-'90s New York dynasty. Managed by Joe Torre and led on the field by the Core Four -- Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera -- and others like Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill and Bernie Williams, the '98 Yankees were one of the best teams of all time.
The Bombers set an AL record with 114 wins in the regular season, then went 11-2 in the postseason -- including a sweep of the Padres in the World Series, which began a run of three straight Yankees championships. It all started with their historically great first half. The Yankees went into the All-Star break with an 11-game lead in the AL East, and they never looked back.
2001 Mariners: 63-24 (.724 winning percentage)
The 2001 Mariners broke the 1998 Yankees' AL wins record just three years after they set it. We've covered that team above, but just one more thing to note about their first half: Seattle entered the All-Star break with an incredible 19-game lead in the AL West.
Also came close
1942 Dodgers: 52-21 (.712 winning percentage); '44 Cardinals, '52 Dodgers: 51-21 (.708 winning percentage)
The 1942 Dodgers were victims of the pennant-or-bust era of baseball. They went 104-50 in the regular season, but finished two games back of the eventual-champion Cardinals even after winning their final eight games. The '52 Dodgers had slightly better luck, taking home the NL pennant, but they lost an exciting back-and-forth World Series to the Yankees in seven games.
The 1944 Cardinals, on the other hand, went all the way after their great first half. Led by the legendary Stan Musial, St. Louis finished the regular season 105-49 and then beat the Browns in six games in the Fall Classic.