The Orioles open their 2011 campaign in Tampa on Friday night looking to avenge their 4-3 come-from-ahead loss against the Rays in last year’s road opener. The Rays accounted for five of the Orioles’ eight losses in their first nine games last season. The O’s posted a season-worst record for any month in 2010 by starting 5-18 (.217 winning percentage) in April.
Road openers are never as much fun as home openers, especially when your newly acquired free-agent closer posts a blown save and takes the loss (though, to be fair, he did so during the home opener as well). However, the away games can be memorable for positive reasons as well.
The Orioles earned their first-ever Opening Day victory on the road when they defeated the Washington Senators 7-6 at Griffith Stadium on April 15, 1957 (Read the news story from the following day). The O’s had lost each of their openers since moving to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954.
Roar from 34 favorite Sam Horn knows something about memorable moments on the road. He clocked two home runs and established a club record with six Opening Day RBI in Kansas City in 1990.
Speaking of Opening Day long balls, Hall of Famer Frank Robinson’s eight home runs are tied with Ken Griffey Jr. for the most on the season’s first day. Robinson homered during his first Opening Day with the Orioles on April 12, 1966, as part of a 5-4 victory in 13 innings at Fenway Park.
On the defensive side, Hall of Famer Jim Palmer’s five Opening Day wins are the most in club history. Palmer started six openers for the Birds. Only Mike Mussina (three Opening Day wins) pitched the first game of the season for the O’s as often as Palmer.
Among Palmer’s victories was an April 9, 1976, gem (okay, it was at home) against Boston – 8 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 3 K, 2 BB. Palmer picked up the victory against fellow Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins 1-0. The pitchers won a combined 552 career games.
And as long as I’ve allowed home openers to sneak into this post, Wee Willie Keeler started his 44-game hitting streak for the International League Orioles in Baltimore on Opening Day 1897. Keeler’s record streak began with that April 22 game and extended until June 18. Joe DiMaggio broke Keeler’s record with his 56-game hitting streak in 1941.
Happy Opening Day, O’s fans.
Opening Day on the road can still prove memorable (Roar from 34)
Season Previews: Baltimore Orioles (Babes Love Baseball)