April 16, 1940 – Bob Feller’s Opening Day No-Hitter
The 1940 season began on a chilly day on the south side of Chicago. The bats were not expected to be hot with a high temperature of 48 degrees, and blustery winds off Lake Michigan held the crowd down to just about 14,000. Few of those 14,000 fans could have predicted that they would witness a piece of baseball history that has yet to be replicated.
In his fourth season in the League and second year as the Indians’ Opening Day starter, Bob Feller was maturing into full dominance. Having come to the Major Leagues directly from high school at age 17 in 1936, Feller’s fastball was the stuff of legend. In the absence of radar gun technology, Feller once raced his fastball against a motorcycle in Chicago’s Lincoln Park at the request of the MLB Commissioner.
Game 1 of the 1940 season would only further Feller’s legendary status. The second inning began with Feller striking out the talented Luke Appling looking. Chicago RF Taffy Wright reached on an error by Roy Weatherly. Feller recorded another strikeout, but after walks, the bases were loaded. Feller struck out rookie Bob Kennedy to quell the threat.
The Indians lone run came on an RBI triple from Rollie Helmsley in the top of the 4th. After settling in from some early walks, Feller was in the groove. He retired 20-straight Sox en route to his greatest test of the game.
With two outs in the 9th, Future Hall of Famer Luke Appling battled Feller for a 10-pitch at bat, fouling off four pitches with two strikes and finally drawing a walk. Taffy Wright smashed a hard-hit ball to the right side of the infield. Rookie second baseman Ray Mack made a diving stop narrowly threw out Wright at first to seal the game and complete the first and still only Opening Day no-hitter.
“I think I’ve thrown faster several times,” Feller said following the game. “Of course, the wind behind me helped make me faster. But I couldn’t seem to throw a curve very well.”
Randy Johnson was perhaps the closest to matching this feat–against the Indians at the very first Home Opener at Jacob’s Field. Feller was in the press box at that game, pacing the aisles and urging the team to get a hit. Feller was visibly relieved when Sandy Alomar poked a single between first and second base in the bottom of the 8th to keep his 54 year-old feat unique in the history of the game.
Honorable Mention: April 4, 1994 – First game at Jacob’s Field. Wayne Kirby walkoff hit in 11th