The forgotten stars from Opening Day at Home

The best and most hilarious moments ... that didn't make headlines

March 27th, 2020

With the real Opening Day delayed, we celebrated Opening Day at Home with 30 spectacular games streamed all Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to nearly 1 a.m. ET. All day long we were treated to some of the most significant moments in baseball history: The Cubs broke their century-long World Series drought; King Félix threw his perfect game; Aaron Boone crushed Boston's hopes only to see the Red Sox storm back the next year.

But while we remember the big names and big plays, one of the best parts of watching these games is catching the little moments that we've forgotten -- the veterans in uniforms that didn't stick in our brains, the diving stops and big hits that thrilled us at the moment, but soon were overshadowed.

In honor of these things, let's take a look at 16 of the forgotten stars and hilarious moments that made us smile.

Ryan Raburn: From goat to hero to ... inconsequential

The Tigers outfielder had one of the most eventful innings possible. Facing the Twins in the must-win Game 163 tiebreaker in 2009, Detroit had taken a 5-4 lead entering the bottom of the 10th thanks to a Brandon Inge double in the top half.

But things got hairy to start the bottom half. Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer hit a soft fly ball to left field. Raburn raced in and, rather than let it drop in for a single, tried to make a sliding catch. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the ball dropped and got past Raburn, letting Cuddyer exhaust himself with a triple.

After a groundout and a walk, Matt Tolbert singled Cuddyer home to tie the game.

One batter later, Raburn made up for it. Nick Punto lined out to Raburn, who then threw an absolute strike to home plate to beat the tagging Alexi Casilla and keep the game tied.

Unfortunately for Raburn and the Tigers, it wouldn't matter. In the bottom of the 12th, Casilla hit the RBI single that sent the Twins to the postseason and the Tigers to an early vacation.

Fernando Rodney: Still Around

One thing you may have noticed in that clip: Fernando Rodney -- then 32 years old -- was on the mound. Tigers manager Jim Leyland left him in for the 11th and 12th inning, too, so the right-hander was saddled the loss.

Of course, the last time you saw Rodney was on the mound this past World Series.

Gabe Kapler does Gabe Kapler things

It's impossible to think of the ripped manager as anything other than insanely intense. I mean, the guy rips the breading off his chicken nuggets and treats ice cream as if it were mouthwash. So, yeah, Kapler is a pretty intense dude.

He made that clear when facing the White Sox on July 23, 2009 -- otherwise known as Mark Buehrle's perfect game. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Chicago's Jayson Nix hit a pop fly to the outfield. Ben Zobrist backed up and called the outfielders off, ready to make what appears to be a routine catch.

But the routine is boring for Kapler. He called Zobrist off, and then, with a Superman-leap, made the diving grab.

The Pandas

Sure, sure, the most important part of Game 7 of the 2014 World Series was obviously Madison Bumgarner's five innings of relief. But the second most important were the fans wearing giant panda heads in the first row for Pablo Sandoval ... right?

Miguel Cabrera: Outfielder?

Here's Cabrera making an error in Game 1 of the 2003 World Series

It's hard to remember, but it's true. While Cabrera's bat has always been a beast, it took a long time before teams finally realized his glove was best used at first base (or not at all).

But when Cabrera first came up, he was actually an outfielder. Fortunately, his glove didn't cost the Marlins, as Josh Beckett pitched a complete game, and Cabrera was only called on to make three putouts.

The Most Insane Play You'll Probably Ever See

The 2015 ALDS moment we all remember is José Bautista's epic bat flip. That makes sense. It's one of the greatest baseball moments in history, punctuated with the most emphatic celebration possible.

But it obscures one of the stranger moments possible that happened earlier in the inning. I don't even know how to describe it, so why don't you just watch the video?

Two Lairds, Three Teams, One Day

You may not think of the Laird brothers very often. But if you tuned in to Opening Day at Home, you probably couldn't have avoided them.

Brandon Laird showed up in Yankees-Rays Game 162 from 2011, while Gerald appeared with the Tigers for 2009's Game 163 and with Cardinals in 2011 World Series Game 6. Perhaps most amusing, Gerald never actually played in that last one. He was announced as a pinch-hitter and lifted before ever earning a plate appearance.

Also, this has nothing to do with anything that happened on Thursday, but I try to repeat it whenever I can: Gerald wore No. 15. Why? "One man, five tools."

Todd Walker: Gold Glover

Walker was never known for his glove, instead earning his playing time thanks to his power and patient batting eye. But if you only ever tuned into Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, you would have thought he was a defensive star.

After the Yankees came back to tie the Red Sox, 5-5, in the bottom of the eighth, they loaded the bases and seemed ready to take the lead -- especially when Alfonso Soriano hit a grounder that bounced wildly off the mound. But Walker was ready to field it, and he stepped on second to end the inning.

Then in the bottom of the ninth, Walker was ready again -- this time making a diving grab to rob Bernie Williams and send the game to extra innings.

Justin Morneau: Pittsburgh Pirate?

You may remember Morneau for a lot of things. He was a star on the dominant mid-2000s Twins teams, even winning an MVP Award in 2006. You may remember him from his late-career renaissance in Colorado. But unless you're a Pirates fan, or someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Morneau family, you probably forgot about the 25 games he played with Pittsburgh in 2013.

After being acquired at the waiver trade deadline that August, Morneau played 25 regular-season games for the Bucs -- somehow never homering along the way. He then started that 2013 Wild Card game, going 1-for-4 with a single.

Tiny Eric Thames

When you think of Thames now, you think of the man who arguably may be the buffest dude to ever play baseball. I mean, just look at this photo from last year:

But before Thames left for Korea and reinvented himself at the plate, he also played for the Blue Jays and Mariners. Two weeks before Hernández's perfecto, Thames was traded to Seattle, which meant he was in the lineup against the Rays.

While he wasn't not buff, the 'ceps he had on this day were nothing like what he'd one day have. Thames went 0-for-2 with a walk, and recorded two putouts in right field.

Evan Longoria's 2011 defense

When we talk about the Rays' amazing Game 162 in 2011, we usually talk about Longoria's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th that sent the team to the postseason. But rarely do we talk about the play he made in the top half of the 12th that was equally as important.

With runners on the corners and no one out, Yankees catcher Jorge Posada hit a ground ball to Longoria at third. Greg Golson thought about running for home before thinking better of it and trying to get back to third base. Longoria saw this, and with a heads up play, tagged him for the out.

Had this gone another way, perhaps the Yankees take the lead, and Longo's home run would have only tied the game.

Matt Harvey could have been the hero

In retrospect, the Royals seemed destined to win the 2015 World Series. How else can you describe the way they dinked and dumped their way to a World Series title?

Still, had things gone a little differently in Game 5, when Kansas City clinched, Matt Harvey may have forever etched himself into Mets lore.

For eight innings, the Royals were unable to touch him. He had struck out nine, walked only one, and surrendered only four hits. If only he could have closed out the game, and Lorenzo Cain's double hadn't chased him, the Mets would have been down 3 games to 2, and anything could have happened.

Harvey was also the last pitcher to go eight innings in a World Series game until ... Stephen Strasburg got the win in Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.

The batting stance to end all batting stances

What was the most beautiful thing to see in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series? No, it wasn't the purple D-backs uniforms, nor was it Matt Williams' perfectly shaved head. Rather, it was Craig Counsell's insane batting stance.

Just look at him -- his stance is more like someone trying to reach the back of a tall shelf with a broom rather than a batting stance.

After Counsell was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Luis Gonzalez came up to win the Series for Arizona. But he never could have done it without Craig.

Abraham Toro has a day

You may have tuned into the Astros-Blue Jays game from Sept. 1, 2019, to watch Justin Verlander's third career no-hitter. But while Verlander may have been the star that day, none of it would have mattered without Toro.

The third baseman was playing in just his eighth career game when he got the nod at the hot corner. He made arguably the hardest defensive play of the day just one out into the game when he raced in to glove Vlad Guerrero Jr.'s slow roller and throw him out at first.

Jump forward to the ninth inning and it was Toro's two-run homer that gave the Astros the lead. Naturally, Toro was called on again for the 27th out, as Verlander got Bo Bichette to ground out to third base to end the game.

Nelson Cruz's home run

Listen, we all know what happened in the 2011 World Series. David Freese hit that triple and, well, if Cruz got a better read on that fly ball, maybe the Rangers win the World Series. It's easy to blame Cruz.

But you have to remember: If not for Cruz, the Rangers likely don't even reach the World Series. The power hitter had just come off winning the ALCS MVP after crushing six home runs against the Tigers, and he hit two more against the Cardinals in the World Series.

One of them came in Game 6, when Cruz and Adrián Beltré went back-to-back to give Texas a 6-4 lead. In another world, these are the home runs that ended the Series, and would have made Cruz the likely World Series MVP.

Kevin Millar's hair

This is probably the real reason the Yankees blew the 3-0 Series lead in 2004. They were blinded by the hydrogen peroxide that Millar had dumped on his head.

Do you have a favorite forgotten moment from Opening Day at Home that we didn't highlight? Tweet it out with the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome to let everyone else know about it.