On Thursday, Major League Baseball presented “Opening Day at Home” -- a full slate of 30 games broadcast nationally across various platforms including networks, digital streaming and social media, creating a full-day event on what would have been Opening Day. The experience is intended to invite fans to feel a sense of community and unity on a day many were looking forward to while underscoring the importance of staying home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Using the hashtag #OpeningDayAtHome, fans can connect with each other while watching their team’s selected game at a set time. The Tigers joined the festivities by replaying Justin Verlander’s 2007 no-hitter against the Brewers.
“Opening Day at Home” also will be an opportunity for MLB to raise awareness for several worthy charities that are helping provide relief to the most vulnerable communities impacted by the pandemic. Last week, MLB and the MLBPA made a $1 million joint donation to Feeding America and Meals on Wheels, in addition to a $30 million commitment made by MLB clubs to emergency relief for ballpark employees. If so willing and able, fans can contribute toward these charities, MLB official charity Boys & Girls Clubs of America and additional causes at MLB.com/give.
Verlander’s first career no-hitter, on June 12, 2007, remains one of the most memorable nights in Comerica Park’s 20-year history. On a warm early summer night in downtown Detroit, with gulls congregating in the outfield, the second-year right-hander put forth his signature performance with a 112-pitch, 12-strikeout gem against a Brewers lineup that had no shortage of sluggers.
It was the Tigers' first no-hitter since Jack Morris in 1984. It was also the first no-hitter thrown in Detroit since Nolan Ryan blanked the Tigers in '73, a performance so dominant that Tigers first baseman Norm Cash jokingly brought a table leg with him to the plate instead of a bat. Verlander wasn’t quite as dominant as Ryan that night, but he wasn’t far off.
“Anytime you pitch a no-hitter, it's a tricky thing really,” said Detroit's then-manager Jim Leyland, who was at the helm for three no-hitters in his career. “A no-hitter sometimes can be totally dominant, and a lot of times in no-hitters somebody makes a great play or a catch. Every once in a while, a few balls can be hit hard in a no-hitter and it's still a no-hitter. Obviously, he was brilliant.”
When people talk about “Vintage Verlander,” this game is what they’re referring to. His fastball hovered around 100 mph and stayed there, all the way up to 101 mph on his 109th and 110th pitches. His changeup was precise and deceptive.
What separated Verlander in this game, though, was his curveball. On most days, it was an 80-mph bender. It had the same break that night, but he was throwing it all the way into the mid-80s, giving hitters no split-second to react. And he was spotting it.
"After the first couple of innings, I knew I had some good stuff going," Verlander said at the time. "In the bullpen, it really wasn’t that good, to be honest. But when I got out on the mound and flipped the switch, I had some pretty good stuff. I had a good fastball with control and I was able to throw my breaking ball and changeup for strikes."
Once Verlander froze future teammate Prince Fielder with one of those curveballs for a strikeout in the fourth inning, the no-hit potential was apparent. Once Geoff Jenkins whiffed on a changeup to lead off the fifth, the watch was on.
“You don't really think about it at the start of the game,” Leyland said, “and you don't really think about it in the fourth inning. You don't really get too serious about it yet in the fifth. Maybe the sixth inning or so, people start to think about it and then the superstitious part comes out. You might think about it, it might cross your mind, but it's a flash. It's usually a little later. But he was terrific.”
Verlander added two more no-hitters -- another under Leyland four years later, then one for the Astros last September. But this is the game that started it all. Thursday is your chance to relive it.
“It's a game that puts his mark on something you think you have,” Leyland said. “I don't know if that game made him or didn't, but there's been a lot of great pitchers that didn’t pitch a no-hitter.”
This week, MLB unlocked its expansive vault and is offering fans special access to the most unforgettable moments. MLB has made the entire 2018 and '19 game archives free to all fans through MLB.TV. Fans can also access more than 200 full classic MLB games on YouTube including timeless World Series games, memorable postseason matchups, no-hitters and perfect games.