More about Opening Day grand slams

A previous post described the 1952 game at Cincinnati in which Hank Sauer hit the Cubs' only Opening Day grand slam.

I determined that it was their only such slam after checking the box scores of all the Cubs' season debuts and compiling a spreadsheet of all homers the Cubs hit in their first game of the year.


Then I wanted to know how many players in all had cleared the bases on Opening Day. But the 29 other teams have played 5,548 Opening Day games -- far too many to check, game by game!

Eventually, I came up with a different way to find the answer: I did a search at for all players who, in a team's first game, had hit at least 1 home run and driven in at least 4 runs.

That produced a list of 172 players.

Then I examined the box scores from those games to see if any of the homers came with the bases loaded.



There have been 44 Opening Day grand slams.

The first was Bill Terry of the Giants, a quarter century before Sauer, on April 12, 1927, at Philadelphia. His drive with 1 out in the fifth inning increased the Giants' lead to 8-2 in a game they eventually won, 15-7.

The most recent was Matt Olson of the Athletics, on July 24, 2020: a first-pitch, 10th-inning walk-off blast that beat the Angels, 7-3.



Only 2 of the previous slams in a team's season opener ended games.

Sixto Lezcano of the Brewers was the first to do it, on April 10, 1980.

The Red Sox had tied the score at 5 in the top of the ninth, on solo homers by Carl Yastrzemski and Butch Hobson.

Paul Molitor singled to start the Brewers' ninth. After a bunt and a foul popup, an intentional walk and an unintentional walk set the stage for Lezcano's homer.


Lezcano had hit a tying 2-run homer in the fourth inning.

On April 8, 1986, Jim Presley of the Mariners matched Lezcano's feat, and did so in even more dramatic fashion.

Bobby Grich of the Angels homered as the first batter of the game. Reggie Jackson added a 2-run shot that put the Mariners in an 0-3 hole after just 4 batters.

They trailed, 2-4, when Alvin Davis led off the ninth with a double. Presley then slammed a ball over the wall in center to tie the score.

After the first Mariner was retired in the 10th, a walk, a single and a walk loaded the bases.

The next batter fouled out, but Presley drilled a pitch into the stands in left for an 8-4 victory.



Presley's slam was the 13th on Opening Day. He became the fifth player to hit 2 homers, including a grand slam, to start the season.

No one else had done it since.

The 3 before Lezcano and Presley each hit a slam, then homered again. All did it at home.

Russ Derry of the Yankees was the first, in an 8-4 win over the Red Sox on April 17, 1945.

Minnie Minoso of the White Sox did it on April 19, 1960. His second homer was a walk-off in the ninth that beat the Athletics, 10-9.

Carlton Fisk of the Red Sox turned the trick on April 6, 1973, in a 15-5 rout of the Yankees.



The same day that Derry hit his slam, Dain Clay of the Reds did it at home against the Pirates.

Clay's fifth-inning homer turned a 1-2 deficit into a 5-2 lead, and the Reds added another run before the inning was over.

Pittsburgh pulled even with 4 runs in the seventh. Then neither team scored again until 1 out in the 11th, when Clay singled with the bases loaded.

There wasn't another slam on Opening Day until Sauer's, 7 years later, then 8 years passed before the next, by Minoso.


1981 was the next season that began with a pair of Game 1 slams on the same day, by Brian Downing of the Angels and Bobby Murcer of the Yankees.

Since then, 2 slams have been hit on Opening Day 5 more times:

1995: Todd Hundley, Mets, and John Java, Brewers

2000: Eric Karros, Dodgers, and Fred McGriff, Rays

2006: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees, and Scott Rolen, Cardinals

2010: Yadier Molina, Cardinals, and Placido Polanco, Phillies

2011: John Buck, Marlins, and Neil Walker, Pirates


In 2 other seasons, 2 players hit slams in their team's first game, played on different days:

2002: Tony Batista, Orioles, and Preston Wilson, Marlins

2019: Domingo Santana, Mariners, and Rhys Hoskins, Phillies

The slams by Santana and Hoskins were separated by 8 days, as the first came on March 20, against the Athletics at Tokyo, and the second on March 28, at Atlanta.


In 2000, Richard Hidalgo of the Astros hit a slam at Pittsburgh in Houston's debut, 1 day after Karros and McGriff had cleared the bases.



2 players have hit a pair of Opening Day grand slams.

In 1978, 2 years before his walk-off slam, Sixto Lezcano of the Brewers did it in the seventh inning of an 11-3 win at home over the Orioles.

Hanley Ramirez hit slams in 2009 and 2015, but as a member of different teams.

His first came with the Marlins, in a 12-6 triumph at home over the Nationals.

His second came with the Red Sox, in an 8-0 victory at Philadelphia.



Clay, nicknamed "Sniffy" and "Ding-A-Ling," is the only player whose Opening Day grand slam was the first home run of his career.

He turned pro at age 18, in 1938, then labored in the minors until he made his debut with the Reds at Wrigley Field on June 12, 1943.

That year and the next, Clay came to the plate 497 times without hitting a homer.

He did not hit another in 1945 after his slam on Opening Day. He finished the season with 700 plate appearances and led both leagues with 656 at bats, in which he produced 152 singles, 29 doubles and 2 triples while slashing .280/.321/.335.

Clay had 502 PA and 435 AB in 1946, during which he homered twice, on June 12 with the bases empty and on Aug. 17 with 1 on.

He began 1947 in the minors and never made it back to the majors, retiring after 1954, at age 34.

In his 4 big league seasons, he had 3 homers in 1,699 PA and 1,540 AB. His slash line was .258/.314/.312, for an OPS of .626 and an OPS+ of 78.



8 other players hit an Opening Day grand slam before hitting 30 total homers:

3rd homer: Collin Cowgill, Mets

4th: Eric Fox, Athletics

6th: Russ Derry, Yankees

13th: Neil Walker, Pirates

22nd: Bill Terry, Giants

25th: Richard Hidalgo, Astros

26th: Carlton Fisk, Red Sox

29th: Daryle Ward, Astros

Like Clay's, the Opening Day slams by Cowgill, Fox and Hidalgo were the only slams of their careers.


12 others hit their first career slams on Opening Day, then hit at least 1 more. Here are their career slams:

2: Rhys Hoskins

3: Sixto Lezcano, Bill Terry, Neil Walker, Daryle Ward

5: Carlton Fisk, Alfonso Soriano

7: Brian Downing, Jim Edmonds, John Jaha, Yadier Molina, Hanley Ramirez



Alex Rodriguez's Opening Day slam was the 12th of his career, most of any such slam.

Mark McGwire smacked his 10th to start a season; Jack Clark and Carlos Pena, their 8th.


Pena's slam was the final 1 of his career. Phil Nevin hit the last of his 7 on Opening Day.

10 more players did not hit another slam after doing it on Opening Day. Besides the 4 who had a lone slam, they were Eric Karros, Joc Pederson and Domingo Santana (2 career slams each), Sixto Lezcano (3), and Scott Rolen and Jimmy Rollins (4 each).

Eddie Murray hit 14 more slams after his on Opening Day. Alex Rodriguez hit 13 more. The most by anyone else is 6.



85 players have hit at least 10 grand slams.

Only 3 of them hit any on Opening Day: Alex Rodriguez (25 slams), Eddie Murray (19) and Mark McGwire (14).

They also are the only 3 among the 28 players with at least 500 career homers who hit a slam to start any season.

Rodriguez ranks fifth in homers, with 696. McGwire is 11th, with 583, and Murray is 28th, with 504.


Rodriguez's slam was his 430th career homer, highest such number.

Fred McGriff's was his 391st; McGwire's, his 388th; and Jack Clark's, his 308th.

Carlos Pena is next, with 259, then Bobby Murcer (239), Scott Rolen (232), Eric Karros (212) and Jimmy Rollins (200).


The 42 players who hit Opening Day slams have averaged 228 career homers and 6 career slams.

Just 6 of the 42 failed to reach triple digits in career homers:

3: Clay

5: Fox

12: Cowgill

17: Derry

77: Santana

90: Ward

Polanco is next, with 104, then Buck, with 134, and Presley, with 135.



2 teams have hit 4 grand slams on the Opening Day.

1 is the Yankees, whose 16,785 total homers are 10.5 percent more than the 15,187 by the runnerup Giants -- and the Giants began play in 1883, 20 years before the Yankees.

But the other is the Marlins, whose 4,248 homers are 28th among the 30 teams, ahead only of the Diamondbacks (4,168) and Rays (4,075), who began play in 1998, 5 years after the Marlins.

20 teams have hit at least 1 Opening Day slam. Here they are, ranked by total number hit, with team name followed in parentheses by number hit at home and on the road:

4: Marlins (3/1)

4: Yankees (2/2)

3: Athletics (2/1)

3: Brewers (2/1)

3: Cardinals (0/3)

3: Phillies (0/3)

3: Red Sox (1/2)

2: Angels (1/1)

2: Astros (1/1)

2: Dodgers (2/0)

2: Mariners (1/1)

2: Mets (1/1)

2: Orioles (2/0)

2: Pirates (1/1)

2: Rays (1/1)

1: Cubs (0/1)

1: Giants (0/1)

1: Padres (0/1)

1: Reds (1/0)

1: White Sox (1/0)

TOTAL: 44 (21/23)

4 of the 16 pre-expansion teams never have had a slam in the first game of any season: the Braves, Guardians, Tigers and Senators/Twins.

The others with none: the Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Expos/Nationals, Rangers, Rockies and Royals.

Note that 4 more established teams -- the Cardinals, Cubs, Giants and Phillies -- never have had 1 at home.

4 of the first 5 teams to hit an Opening Day slam never have had another: the Giants (Bill Terry, 1927), Reds (Dain Clay, 1945), Cubs (Hank Sauer, 1952) and White Sox (Minnie Minoso, 1960).



23 teams have given up a grand slam on Opening Day, led by the Expos/Nationals and Phillies, each with 4.

Here they are, ranked by total number allowed, with team name followed in parentheses by number hit at home and on the road:

4: Expos/Nationals (3/1)

4: Phillies (3/1)

3: Athletics (2/1)

3: Brewers (1/2)

3: Yankees (0/3)

2: Angels (0/2)

2: Blue Jays (2/0)

2: Braves (1/1)

2: Dodgers (2/0)

2: Padres (0/2)

2: Pirates (1/1)

2: Rangers (1/1)

2: Red Sox (0/2)

2: Reds (2/0)

1: Cubs (1/0)

1: Mariners (1/0)

1: Mets (0/1)

1: Orioles (0/1)

1: Rockies (1/0)

1: Royals (0/1)

1: Tigers (0/1)

1: Twins (1/0)

1: White Sox (1/0)

TOTAL: 44 (23/21)

The 7 teams that never have allowed an Opening Day slam: the Astros, Cardinals, Giants, Guardians, Diamondbacks, Marlins and Rays.

The Guardians and Diamondbacks thus are the only teams never to have hit OR allowed a grand slam to start a season.

The only slam against the Cubs was by Neil Walker of the Pirates, in the fifth inning on April 1, 2011. Pittsburgh won the game, 6-3.

7 teams never have allowed a slam at home: the Angels, Mets, Orioles, Padres, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers and Yankees.

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