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Feller's Opening Day no-hitter stands alone

Many pitchers have come close to equaling HOFer's feat
February 22, 2019

Hope springs eternal for every club on Opening Day, and perhaps nothing has the potential to keep that hope going a little longer like a no-hitter. Well over 100 Opening Days have come and gone since the dawn of baseball's modern era in 1901, but of the thousands of season

Hope springs eternal for every club on Opening Day, and perhaps nothing has the potential to keep that hope going a little longer like a no-hitter.

Well over 100 Opening Days have come and gone since the dawn of baseball's modern era in 1901, but of the thousands of season openers in the books, only once has a pitcher held the opposition hitless from start to finish. That occasion itself took place generations ago, when the Indians' 21-year old Bob Feller -- a name already well-known to hitters across the Junior Circuit -- climbed the hill against the White Sox on April 16, 1940. It was an inglorious start for "Rapid Robert," who led the league in walks a handful of times to along with all those strikeouts.

"The first couple of innings I was pretty wild," Feller later recalled. "In the second inning, I loaded the bases. Someone in the bullpen was warming up and the manager (Ossie Vitt) was getting ready to walk out to the mound. But I managed to strike out the last hitter on a full count."

But when Feller settled in, Chicago's opening game turned into a long afternoon. The future Hall of Famer struck out eight White Sox that day, navigating around five walks to record the first Opening Day no-hitter in history.

Feller's no-no remains the only one recorded in a season opener, though many pitchers have come close to equaling the feat. Below are some of the closest attempts:

Red Ames (New York Giants), 9 1/3 innings vs. Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1909
Ames carried the nickname "Kalamity," and it wasn't without reason. A skilled yet notoriously unlucky pitcher in his day, Ames held the Dodgers without a hit until the 10th inning and without a run until the 13th and still lost 3-0. Ames carried another Opening Day no-hitter into the eighth the following season, and he lost another no-no in the seventh frame the year after that. Incredibly, the right-hander lost all three season openers.

Herb Pennock (Philadelphia Athletics), 8 2/3 innings vs. Red Sox on April 14, 1915
Pennock became the A's de facto ace in the wake of Connie Mack's first fire sale, and he sure pitched like one on Opening Day of the 1915 season. Pennock was one out away from history when Boston's Harry Hooper hit a dribbler to the left of the pitcher's mound. Pennock deferred to second baseman Nap Lajoie, but he was unable to make the play in time. All three players were later enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Robin Roberts (Phillies), 8 1/3 innings vs. New York Giants on April 13, 1955
Roberts still owns the Major League record for the most consecutive Opening Day starts with a single club, and he nearly made history in start No. 6 of that streak. "My knees would not stop shaking," Roberts would later recall, as the Phillies legend had one out in the ninth before Giants shortstop Alvin Dark played spoiler with a single to right.

Lon Warneke (Cubs), 8 1/3 innings vs. Reds on April 17, 1934
Trivia buffs might recognize Warneke as the man who hit the first triple and scored the first National League run in the inaugural 1933 All-Star Game. The Cubs' righty was on the verge of something more in the next season's opener until Cincinnati's Adam Comorosky poked a single to center. It marked the first of back-to-back one-hitters for Warneke to open the '34 campaign, and he would later get his no-hitter as a Cardinals pitcher in '41.

Sonny Gray (Athletics), 7 innings vs. Rangers on April 6, 2015
The 2015 season marked Gray's coming out party (14-7, 2.73 ERA and third-place finish in the American League Cy Young vote), and it began right on Opening Day. The righty held Texas hitless through the first seven innings until Ryan Rua led off the eighth with a single, prompting a sellout crowd to chant 'Sonny!' in appreciation. Gray's eight innings of one-hit ball helped Oakland snap a Major League-record 10-year losing streak in season openers.

Randy Johnson (Mariners), 7 innings vs. Indians on April 4, 1994
Four years removed from his first no-hitter, Johnson was rolling toward another one through the first seven frames as he aimed to spoil the first-ever regular season game at Cleveland's Jacobs (now Progressive) Field. Feller fittingly threw out the ceremonial first pitch that day, but Sandy Alomar ended Johnson's bid for a most ironic tale with an eighth-inning single. Manny Ramirez tied the game two batters later with a double, and the Tribe went on to win, 4-3, in 11 innings.

Kevin Appier (Royals), 6 2/3 innings vs. Orioles on April 26, 1995
Appier's no-hit bid didn't end in the hands of a batter, but rather his manager. The end of the strike brought about an abbreviated Spring Training, and Royals skipper Bob Boone came to get Appier in the seventh because his arm wasn't fully stretched out. Appier would get plenty of early reps in Boone's four-man rotation, starting 12 of Kansas City's first 43 games of the season while earning his only All-Star Game selection.

Shaun Marcum (Blue Jays), 6 1/3 innings vs. Rangers on April 5, 2010
Marcum's missed the entire 2009 season with elbow troubles, and so a no-no against a powerful Rangers club that went on to win the AL pennant would have made for quite the story. Marcum retired Michael Young on a flyout to open the seventh before he walked Josh Hamilton and allowed his first hit on a Vladimir Guerrero single. Nelson Cruz followed with a three-run homer, quickly closing the book on Marcum's storybook afternoon.

Brian Moehler (Tigers), 6 1/3 innings vs. Rangers on April 5, 1999
Moehler's first career Opening Day start was shaping up to be a memorable one, as he held a Rangers lineup that included Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez hitless through six innings in Arlington. Gonzalez ended the party with a one-out single in the seventh, followed immediately by a run-scoring double from Palmeiro.

Jim Merritt (Reds), 6 1/3 innings vs. Montreal Expos on April 6, 1970
Montreal had enough to deal with in Cincinnati's budding "Big Red Machine" lineup before Merritt came out firing in the final opener at Crosley Field. Known as a pitcher who attacked the zone, Merritt worked quickly through the Expos lineup until the top of the seventh, when Rusty Staub laced a one-out triple to give his club a lift. Merritt went on to make his only All-Star appearance that summer at Cincinnati's brand-new Riverfront Stadium.

J.R. Richard (Astros), 6 1/3 innings vs. Dodgers on April 10, 1980
The sky seemed to be the limit for Richard at the start of 1980, beginning Opening Day when he mowed through the Dodgers for six frames before Rudy Law broke through with a seventh-inning single to right. Richard won 10 of his first 16 starts and owned a 1.96 ERA before he suffered a stroke in late July, effectively ending his career and leaving many to wonder what could've been.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.