Giants Who Cracked the Opening Day Lineup Most

Who are the Giants who got the most starts on Opening Day?  As you would expect, it’s a pretty elite group.  To get to start on opening day, year after year, a ballplayer has to be pretty special.  Here are the Giants who got the most calls on Opening Day (capitalized like Arbor Day since it should be a holiday).

  • P – Juan Marichal, 10 starts, 1962, 1964-69, 1971-73.  Marichal three times won 25 or 26 games.  “This guy is a natural.  He’s got ideas about what he wants to do and then he goes and does it,” said Carl Hubbell, the man who himself won two MVP awards and is second on this list of pitchers starting on Opening Day.
  • C – Wes Westrum, 7 starts, 1950-53, 1955-57.  Westrum caught the fabulous pitching of the 1951 and 1954 pennant winners.  August 12, 1951, was Wes Westrum Day at the Polo Grounds.  It was a day the affable catcher was presented with a brand new Mercury automobile, a day the Giants trailed the Dodgers by 13 games.  From that day on, while the Dodgers played .500 ball, the Giants won 37 of 44, sixteen straight in one stretch, magically closing the gap.
  • 1B – Willie McCovey, 13 starts, 1960-61, 1965-73, 1977-78.  “Stretch” was also an Opening Day starter in left field in 1963 and 1964, but neither he nor Orlando Cepeda played the outfield well, and the team needed only one starting first baseman, so ultimately one had to go.
  • 2B – Our first tie.  Larry Doyle, 11 starts, 1908, 1910-16, 1918-20.  Doyle famously said, “Gee, it’s great to be young and a Giant.”  It should have been.  Doyle played on three pennant winners.  Robby Thompson, 11 starts, 1986-96.  The Sporting News rookie of the year in 1986, Thompson was part of manager Roger Craig’s enthusiastic “You Gotta Love These Kids” collection of infielders that included Will Clark, Jose Uribe and Chris Brown.
  • 3B – Another tie.  Art Devlin, 8 starts, 1904-11.  Devlin was a better player, a speedy hitter with an outstanding glove, than Fred Lindstrom, who’s in the Hall of Fame.  Matt Williams, 8 starts, 1989-96.  Williams was one of the game’s elite sluggers 1993-95, and we’ll always wonder whether but for the 1994 strike he would have broken Maris’s single-season homer record.
  • SS – Travis Jackson, 8 starts, 1924-26, 1928-32, 1934.  Jackson was a Hall-of-Famer who spent his entire career as a Giant.  He got his big break when longtime shortstop Dave Bancroft was stricken with pneumonia in June of 1923.  Jackson was inserted into the starting lineup and there was no looking back.  John McGraw traded Bancroft (and Casey Stengel) to the Braves.
  • LF – Barry Bonds, 14 starts, 1993-2003, 2005-07.  It’s all Bonds.  Of the ten best Giant seasons, as measured by WAR, Bonds has the first, second, a tie for fifth, ninth and tenth.
  • CF – Willie Mays, 20 starts, 1952, 1954-72.  It’s all Mays, who has all of that top-ten by WAR that Bonds doesn’t: third, fourth, two ties for fifth, and eighth.  Mays is the only player to hit four home runs in one game (4/30/1961) and three triples in another (9/15/1960).
  • RF – Mel Ott, 16 starts, 1929-30, 1932-37, 1939-46.  When not opening the season in right field, Ott was doing so in center or at third base.  His willingness to play third helped the Giants to the pennant in 1937.  He wasn’t Mays or Bonds, but he was a great player, behind only Ruth, Aaron and Robinson among the game’s greatest right fielders.
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