Forty-five years after the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson delivered one of the most dominant Opening Day performances in big-league history, the Angels’ Jered Weaver spun a similar effort.
Weaver struck out 10 and walked no one in eight scoreless innings, carrying the Angels to a 5-0 season-opening victory over the Royals on April 6 in Anaheim. Boxscore
Weaver joined Gibson (1967) and the Phillies’ Chris Short (1968) as the only big-leaguers since 1900 to pitch at least eight shutout innings with 10 or more strikeouts and no walks on Opening Day, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
On April 11, 1967, Gibson pitched nine innings, walked none and struck out 13 in the Cards’ 6-0 victory over the Giants on the first Opening Day at Busch Memorial Stadium in St. Louis. (The stadium had opened in May 1966.)
Gibson struck out the first five batters _ right fielder Ken Henderson, left fielder Jesus Alou, center fielder Willie Mays, first baseman Willie McCovey and third baseman Jim Ray Hart _ before retiring catcher Tom Haller on a pop out to catcher Tim McCarver. The right-hander became the third National League pitcher to strike out the first five batters of a game, joining the Dodgers’ Dazzy Vance (1926) and the Giants’ Bob Bolin (1966).
Mays and McCovey, both destined to join Gibson as inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, each went 0-for-4. McCovey struck out three times; Mays, once.
Gibson yielded five hits, all singles. The Giants got three in succession in the third inning but failed to score.
With one out, second baseman Hal Lanier singled to left and pitcher Juan Marichal singled to center, advancing Lanier to second. Henderson followed with a single to right, loading the bases. (Roger Maris, making his regular-season Cardinals debut, was the right fielder. The Giants opted to have Lanier stop at third and not challenge the strong-armed outfielder).
Gibson got out of the jam by inducing Alou to ground into a double play. Alou, a right-handed batter, hit the ball to first baseman Orlando Cepeda, who stepped on first and threw to McCarver, who tagged out Lanier at home plate.
The win was Gibson’s first against the Giants since 1965. He was 0-3 against them in 1966. “I always pitch good against them and get beat,” Gibson said to the Associated Press after the game. “It’s refreshing to beat them.”
St. Louis scored all of its runs against Marichal, who yielded 14 hits. Left fielder Lou Brock’s three-run home run in the second was the big blow.
“I felt good,” Marichal said. “They were hitting my good stuff.”
Said Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood: “I’ve seen him throw better. He didn’t throw any fastballs for strikes.” Boxscore
A year later, April 10, 1968, Short struck out 10 and walked none in nine innings, leading the Phillies’ to a 2-0 season-opening victory over the Dodgers at Los Angeles. Short gave up four hits. Haller, traded by the Giants to Los Angeles in February 1968, was the Dodgers’ catcher. Boxscore
Not until Weaver pitched his gem for the Angels against Kansas City would a big-league pitcher have a season opener the caliber of Gibson and Short.
Previously: How Bill Bergesch got Bob Gibson to Cardinals