2nd Bring on the Cubs and Indians. A bizarre exhibition tripleheader takes place in the Astrodome as the Astros, Yankees and Twins square off in three 5-inning games. The Astros beat the Yankees, 2-1; then the Twins beat the Yankees, 4-1; and lastly the Astros beat the Twins, 5-3. The Astros “win” the tripleheader, as they have the highest run-differential, and the Twins finish second. Attendance is 8,088.
4th On the last day of spring training, White Sox pitcher Joel Horlen tears a cartilage sliding into 2B against the Cubs in Scottsdale. He returns with the Cubs to Chicago, while the Sox go to California to open the season. Horlen is expected to be out 8 weeks, but will pitch in 4 weeks, but not gain his first win until June 15.
5th With 45,000 fans on hand at RFK Stadium, the Senators beat the Oakland A’s, 8–0, behind the pitching of Dick Bosman. The loser is Vida Blue, who allows 4 runs in less than 3 innings. This will be the last Opening Day in Washington.
In 45 degree weather, the Reds play their first opener at Riverfront Stadium, dropping a 7–4 decision to the Braves. The Reds make 6 errors, 3 by 3B Woody Woodward. The win goes to 6′ 6″ reliever Cecil Upshaw, who missed last season after almost losing the ring finger on his pitching hand. Upshaw was dunking a basketball and his hand got entangled in the net causing the injury.
Decked out in their bright new uniforms, predominantly orange, the Astros open at home with a 5–2 win over the Dodgers. Larry Dierker is the winner over Bill Singer. Astro OF Cesar Geronimo and Jim Wynn make great throws to cut down LA rallies.
6th Willie Mays, a month shy of his 40th birthday, homers (his 629th) on the first pitch he sees in a 4–0 Opening Day Giants win over the Padres. He also laces a double. Mays will go on to hit homers in each of the Giants first 4 games of the season, setting a since-tied ML record. Juan Marichal wins on a 5-hitter.
At Fenway Park, the Red Sox take their second straight Opener against the Yankees, winning 3–1. Boston’s Ray Culp allows 5 hits in 9 innings in winning over Stan Bahnsen, who gives up 2 runs in 7 innings. Reggie Smith has 3 hits and his throw to the plate in the 8th gets the last out.
Before 39,712 chilled fans in Pittsburgh, the Pirates win their Opener, 4–2, over the Phils. Dock Ellis is the winner, laying down 3 sac bunts, and getting help with 4 Phillie errors.
Before 41,121 at Chicago, Billy Williams clubs a 10th inning homer off Bob Gibson to give the Cubs a 2–1 win over the Cards. Joe Torre’s homer, off Fergie Jenkins, is the only Cardinal score.
At Houston, Claude Osteen allows 4 hits and rookie Bill Buckner’s homer accounts for all the scoring as the Dodgers beat the Astros, 2–0. Don Wilson takes the loss. Osteen was 6–0 last year against Houston.
The Mets win their first opener ever at Shea Stadium, beating the Expos, 4–2, in 5 innings. Heavy rain and wind cuts the contest short. Tom Seaver is the winner over Morton.
7th The dismissal of Curt Flood’s suit against baseball is upheld by a 3-judge U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Tommy John pitches 6 innings and Vicente Romo adds 3 scoreless innings as the White Sox edge the A’s, 6-5. Sal Bando has a 3-run homer for Oakland. Chicago tacks on a 12-4 win in game 2 as Bill Melton, who homered in game 1, hits a grand slam and Mike Andrews has 3 hits and 4 RBIs. Chicago is 2-0.
8th Willie Mays hits a grand slam, off Dick Kelley, and drives in 5 runs as the Giants tip the Padres, 7-6. For Mays, it is his third homer in three games against San Diego.
9th The A’s trade OF/1B Felipe Alou to the Yankees for 2 pitchers, Rob Gardner and Ron Klimkowski. Klimkowski will come back to the Yankees next year and Gardner will return in 6 weeks.
10th The Phillies debut in new $49.5 million Veterans Stadium, beating Montreal 4–1. Don Money connects for the park’s first HR.
The Pirates drop a 5–4 decision in Atlanta despite getting 3 HRs from Willie Stargell.
Willie Mays and Dick Dietz hit 2-run homers, off Jerry Reuss, and the Giants beat the visiting Cardinals, 6-4. Mays has now homered in each of the first 4 games, the first player to do so. Mark McGwire will match him in 1998.
Cleveland piles on 11 runs in the first 5 innings and holds on for an 11-10 win over the Red Sox. Larry Brown has 5 RBIs for the Cleveland while Luis Aparicio has a grand slam and 6 RBIs for Boston. The win goes to reliever Camilo Pascual who gives up 3 runs in 3+ innings, and walks 5 and strikes out 5. He’ll rack up one more win in his stellar career.
11thThe Twins Jim Kaat scatters 11 hits in shutting out the White Sox, 6–0.
The Mets trip the Reds, 1-0, when Jerry Grote hits a game-ending homer in the 11th off Wayne Granger.
Rookie Roger Freed hits his first ML homer, a grand slam, off Howie Reed, and drives in 5 runs as the Phillies paste the visiting Expos, 11-4.
13th A 2-run single by Lou Piniella in the 7th allows the Royals to beat the Twins 5–3 in a game that features a record 7 hit by pitches. This ties the mark set by the Tigers and Senators on August 24, 1914 and tied again in 1989. The plunkers include Tom Burgmeir (2), York (1) and Abernathy (1) for KC, and Williams (1) and Perranoski (2) for the Twins.
17th At Detroit, Willie Horton is 5-for-6 with 2 HRs and 6 RBI, and Detroit needs all of it as they win in 10 innings over Boston 10–9. Horton, with a grand slam and solo homer, singles in the 10th with the bases loaded. Trailing 7–1, the Tigers eventually tie the score in the 7th on successive homers by Northrop, Cash, and Horton. Timmerman, with 4 scoreless innings, is the winner.
19th Longtime Giants announcer Russ Hodges dies at Mill Valley, California.
Harmon Killebrew has 6 RBIs as the Twins build a 9-0 lead after 3 innings and hold on for a 9-8 win over the visiting Royals. Bob Oliver cracks a grand slam for KC.
21st In a 10–2 Pirates win over the Braves, Willie Stargell hits 3 HRs in a game for the 2nd time of the young season. Stargell turned the trick 11 days ago.
22nd In the Pirates 7–4 win over the Braves, Willie Stargell hits his 10th HR of the month to tie a ML record.
23rd Steve Kline scatters 5 hits and Bobby Murcer is a double shy of the cycle as the Yankees beat the Twins, 7-3. The Twins score in the 1st on a triple steal as Rod Carew swipes home, Tony Oliva takes 3B and Harmon Killebrew swipes 2B. It is the 5th time Killebrew has participated in a triple steal. He’ll end his career with 19 stolen bases.
24th Milt Pappas (3-1) gives up a grand slam to Tommie Agee but his Cubs still beat the Mets, 7-5. Ron Santo has a homer and scores 3 runs for Chicago.
Roger Repoz of the Angels belts a walkoff grand slam in the bottom of the 9th, off Dick Hall, to beat the Orioles, 7-4.
Dick Green hits a grand slam in Oakland’s 5-run 5th as the A’s edge the Tigers, 5-4. Catfish Hunter has 3 hits as he picks up his second win.
27th Hank Aaron becomes the 3rd member of the 600-HR club, but one of the other 2 members—the Giants Willie Mays—hits a 10th-inning single to beat Aaron’s Braves.
Curt Flood jumps the Senators after 13 games and departs for Denmark, ending his playing career. He sends a telegram to Senators’ owner Bob Short, which says in part:
” I tried. A year and a half is too much. Very severe personal problems are mounting every day. Thanks for your confidence and understanding.” Flood batted .293 and won 7 Gold Glove Awards during his 15-year tenure in the major leagues. He will continue his antitrust suit which will eventually reach the Supreme Court.
The Pirates lose to the Dodgers 7–5, but Willie Stargell sets a ML record with his 11th HR in the month of April with a shot over the CF wall in Pittsburgh.
30th Oakland dazzles the Indians with a color display as Dick Green, Vida Blue, and Larry Brown score the runs in a 3–1 victory. Blue (6-1) gives up 6 hits, including a single to Lou Camilli, who gets his first ML hit in his third year. He snaps a 0-34 to start a career, a ML record (for a non-pitcher; the records go back to 1920) that Vic Harris will topple next year.