March 29, 2011 – This year Opening Day for our Minnesota Twins will take place on Friday, April 1st at the Rogers Centre (formally called the SkyDome) in Toronto, Ontario next to the CNN Tower and the shores of Lake Ontario. The once proud Toronto Blue Jay team is coming off an 85-77 season and a third consecutive fourth place finish in the tough as nails American league Eastern Division.
Opening day is always a special day, no one has lost a game as yet, everyone is still in the pennant race and visions of the playoffs are on everyone’s mind. The Twins and Jays are no different and both teams will send their Ace’s to the mound hoping to get off to a fast start. As things stand today, I think it will be Carl Pavano for the Twins and Ricky Romero for the Jays, but I wouldn’t expect to see either pitcher around at the end of the game. Since the 1998 season started 13 years ago, the only complete games on Opening Day were by Jeff Weaver when his Tigers lost to the Twins 3-2 in 2001 in a 9 inning effort, In 2002 both Bartolo Colon then a Cleveland Indian beat the Angels 6-0 in 9 innings and Randy Johnson (130 pitches) as an Arizona D-Back beat the Padres 2-0 in 9 innings, in 2003 Hideo Nomo as a Dodger beat Arizona 8-0 in 9 innings, in 2005 Jake Westbrook of the Indians lost a complete 8 inning 1-0 effort to the Chicago White Sox. The last pitcher to chuck a complete game on Opening Day was the often injured Ben Sheets in 2007 when he pitched his Milwaukee Brewers to a 7-1 win over the Dodgers. That makes 6 complete games on Opening Day in the past 13 seasons.
So where do the Twins stand on opening day complete games? The Twins have taken part in 50 Opening Days and have a 24-26 record to show for their efforts and Twins Opening Day starters have pitched a total of six complete games and the last one was in 1978 but that was an 8 inning effort. The Twins have won 5 of the 6 times their pitcher pitched a complete game on the Opener.
The very first game the Minnesota Twins ever played was Opening Day effort against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium I on April 11, 1961 and Twins hurler Pedro Ramos pitched a complete 9 inning complete game and the Twins were victorious by a 6-0 score over Whitey Ford and his gang. Pistol Pete Ramos finished the season with an 11-20 record while pitching 264.1 innings in his only season as a Minnesota Twin. 14,607 fans saw the game. (Box score)
The second Twins complete Opening Day game took place in 1966 at Met Stadium on April 12 when both starters pitched complete games and the Twins Mudcat (Jim Grant) bested the Catfish (Jim Hunter) and his merry band of Kansas City A’s 2-1 in 9 innings in 1 hour and 45 minutes in front of only 21,658 fans. (Box score)
Opening Day complete game number three took place in D.C. Stadium on April 10, 1968 when Dean Chance went 9 innings and the Twins beat the Washington Senators and former Twins pitcher Camilo Pascual 2-0. Minnesota native Vice-President Hubert Humphrey threw out the first ball. (Box score)
The fourth complete Opening Day game took place on April 7, 1970 at Chicago White Sox Park when Jim Perry pitched a complete game and won the first of his 24 games during his Cy Young award season as the Twins pounded the Might Whitey’s by a 12-0 score. The White Sox starter that day was non other than Tommy John, just a pup then as he was just in his 8th big league season and he would end up pitching in the big leagues for 26 seasons. (Box score)
The fifth complete game and the last time a Minnesota Twins hurler pitched a complete 9 inning Twins win on Opening Day was by Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven, then a 22 year old peach faced kid when he pitched the Twins to a 8-3 win over the Oakland A’s in Oakland-Alameda County Stadium on April 6, 1973. April 6? What is special about April 6? Everybody knows that, it is Bert Blyleven’s Birthday! The loser that day was Jim “Catfish” Hunter. A nice Birthday present indeed! (Box score)
The sixth and final Twins complete game on Opening Day was an 8 inning 3-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners in the KingDome by Minnesota native Dave Goltz on April 5, 1978. (Box score)
That is it, six complete games in 50 tries and none since 1978. One additional bit of trivia since this is of course Twinstrivia.com. Did you know that Camilo Pascual, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, and Jack Morris have “toed the rubber” as starters on Opening Day for both the Minnesota Twins and also against the Minnesota Twins?