Top 5 Opening Day moments in Twins history

March 31st, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- As they say, every team is tied for first place on Opening Day.

No matter the expectations for your favorite club, whether lofty or pessimistic, the first day of the season is a blank slate for hopes to run high and for fans to rejoice around America as they pile into ballparks for the first time after a long winter and get their first look at the newest version of their team.

At the end of the day, Opening Day is but one of 162 games and likely inconsequential in the big picture. On the other hand, the spectacle of the occasion lends itself to a bigger stage -- grander first impressions, more potent memories. With that in mind, let's take a look back at the five biggest moments in Opening Day history for the Twins.

1) Ramos blanks Yanks in first game in Twins history
April 11, 1961

No better time to make a big first impression than in a club's first ever game, right? Relocation brought Major League Baseball to Minnesota in '61, but the newly formed Twins began that new chapter on the road at the old Yankee Stadium against, you know, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford. Those Yankees would go on to win 109 games -- third-most in franchise history -- and the World Series. Needless to say, it wasn't exactly the easiest task for the Twins to get things started on a positive note.

Those Twins sure did make it look easy, though. Harmon Killebrew knocked the first hit in Twins history with a single in the fourth, and Bob Allison finally broke a scoreless tie in the seventh with a solo blast down the left-field line. Reno Bartoia went deep and Killebrew tacked on a sacrifice fly, and all the while, Minnesota starter Pedro Ramos dominated the Bronx Bombers' lineup. Ramos allowed three singles in the first five innings before retiring the final 13 batters he faced to secure the first win in club history.

Ramos also helped his own cause with a two-run single off Ford in the seventh, sending the future Hall of Famer to the showers.

2) Mauer reaches base four times in debut
April 5, 2004

Boy, was there hype for the hometown kid from the moment he was drafted with the first overall pick in the 2001 MLB Draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall. He raked at every level of a quick rise through the Minors, and before the 2004 season, the Twins formally began preparations for Mauer's arrival in the Majors by trading A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants, clearing the way for the 20-year-old Mauer to make his first career start as the club's Opening Day catcher in front of 49,584 at the Metrodome.

CC Sabathia walked the young Mauer on four pitches in his first plate appearance, and the catcher drew another walk to lead off the eighth inning and scored one of four Twins runs in the game-tying rally during that frame. It took until the ninth inning for him to collect his first hit -- a single up the middle -- and he made it a two-hit game in the bottom of the 11th, when he followed Matt LeCroy's walk with a line-drive single to right. He scored on Shannon Stewart's walk-off homer -- and embarked on a 15-year career as the face of the franchise with a huge first game.

3) Alyea sets record for Opening Day RBIs
April 7, 1970

Brant Alyea isn't exactly a household name in the history of the Twins. He arrived from the Senators in a 1970 trade that sent two pitchers to Washington and was lost to the A's in the Rule 5 Draft a year later. (Interestingly enough, one of the pitchers dealt to the Senators in that trade was current St. Paul Pioneer Press columnist Charley Walters.) Alyea hit .248/.333/.421 in two seasons with the Twins and also happened to set an MLB record along the way.

In fact, that actually happened in his first game with Minnesota, when he batted fifth (behind the 2-3-4 punch of Rod Carew, Harmon Killebrew and Tony Oliva -- must have been nice) and clubbed four hits, including two homers, in a 12-0 victory over the White Sox. Alyea tagged Sox starter Tommy John with an RBI single in the first, singled again in the fourth, crushed a three-run blast off John in the fifth and smacked another three-run shot in the seventh. He's one of only four Twins to knock four hits in a season opener and set an MLB Opening Day record with his seven RBIs. Only Corey Patterson (2003, for the Cubs) has since matched Alyea's feat.

4) Kepler homers on first pitch of season
July 24, 2020

The history-making "Bomba Squad" from 2019 couldn't quite replicate its success in '20, but it sure looked for a while like more offensive craziness was in store -- and Kepler had a lot to do with that. The baseball world was in upheaval due to the COVID-19 pandemic and tense negotiations between the league and players' association that delayed the start to the regular season, but Kepler jolted the Twins back with a first-pitch blast off White Sox ace Lucas Giolito to christen the new season -- and followed it up with another homer one inning later. He became the first player in Twins/Senators history to homer in his first two at-bats of a season and the fourth player in MLB since the turn of the century to homer on the first pitch of a season.

5) Tovar walks off the Yanks amid flooding
April 12, 1965

The Twins won the pennant for the first time in '65, but many Twins fans weren't there to see the start of that journey. That's because, as detailed by SABR, heavy precipitation and snowmelts around the region that April led to massive flooding along the Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix Rivers. The governor deployed the Minnesota National Guard to help residents limit the damage, which was estimated around $160 million in a five-state area. That's why only 15,388 made it to Metropolitan Stadium on April 12 to watch the Twins -- three of whom were stranded by the flood and had to be airlifted to the park by helicopter -- take on the Yankees. Cesar Tovar brought some relief to an ailing region in the 11th inning with an RBI single, scoring Bob Allison with the walk-off run.