Being a fan of the Cleveland baseball team is not for the faint of heart. The franchise has changed names, owners, stadiums and traditions. And, unfortunately for many Cleveland diehards, the team also owns the longest championship drought (74 seasons) in Major League Baseball history.
But it’s not all bad news. The current roster is unfazed by the Guardians‘ history. The 2022 American League Central division winners are not at all concerned about the past. In fact, the Guardians are 5-2 after a West Coast road trip to start the 2023 season.
Cleveland’s home opener is Friday against the Seattle Mariners. First pitch at Progressive Field is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. Kansas City Chiefs tight end and Cleveland native Travis Kelce and his mother, Donna, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Before the Guardians’ home opener — and with Ohio sports betting fully up and running — here is a brief list of the most memorable Opening Day moments.
It doesn’t get better than this on Opening Day
Raising a World Series banner is, without a doubt, the highlight for any organization. It’s been a long time — a really, really, really, long time — since Cleveland baseball fans experienced anything close to this, so we have to go way back.
The 1949 season began with such hope for the Cleveland Indians. The team had secured its second championship, besting the Boston Braves 4-2 in the ’48 Fall Classic. With returning stars and young talent, the Indians were among the favorites to repeat as AL champs.
Future Hall of Famer Bob Feller was on the mound for Opening Day in ’49 against the St. Louis Browns. Feller got hurt during the game, and the Indians lost 5-1.
The season spiraled out of control, and the team missed the postseason. After the team was officially eliminated that season, the 1948 AL pennant was buried in center field at the old Cleveland Stadium.
Welcome to The Jake, Cleveland
There are not many times in a baseball fan’s life when they get to attend a game at a brand-new ballpark. While the nostalgia attached to older venues is irreplaceable, the novelty and excitement of a shiny new stadium are unmatched.
When Jacobs Field officially opened on April 4, 1994, former President Bill Clinton was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The Indians defeated the Seattle Mariners 4-3 in 11 innings.
A strike-shortened season in ’94 derailed a Cleveland team that was putting on a show for the home fans. Before labor issues canceled the season, the Indians were 35-16 at home, including an 18-game winning streak.
The Jake hosted its first playoff game the following season, ending a 41-year playoff drought for the Cleveland ball club.
Best of all time? Yep, that’s right
This one is less of a specific Opening Day memory and more of an all-time trivia nugget. Do you know which MLB franchise has the highest winning percentage on Opening Day?
Well, the rhetorical question notwithstanding, you’d be right if you guessed Cleveland. The Guardians have a .700 winning percentage on Opening Day, according to baseball-reference.com. The team’s record is 63-27 on Opening Day, all time.
From 1995 to 2001, Cleveland reeled off seven consecutive Opening Day wins. The other team in Ohio owns the longest Opening Day win streak.
They go together like lamb and tuna fish
Snow and baseball are not friends. The two go together like ice cream and pickles. It’s unnatural and should never happen.
Yet, sometimes Mother Nature is just not ready for baseball. Such was the case in 1996 when snow forced a one-day postponement to the start of the MLB season in Cleveland.
With the New York Yankees in town, nearly seven inches of snow fell to the ground, covering Jacobs Field in the heavy white stuff. Call it a cruel April Fools’ Day joke.
The Indians promptly went out the next day and got smacked around, losing to David Cone and the Yanks by a score of 7-1.
A little over a decade later, snow also postponed the start of the 2007 season. In fact, that entire three-game series was canceled because of inclement weather.