Big League Baseball on Easter Sunday

The history of baseball on Easter Sunday is a rich one, with numerous memorable games and moments throughout the sport's history. Baseball is one of the oldest and most beloved sports in the United States, with a rich history spanning over a century. The sport has been played on Easter Sunday for many years, with several memorable games taking place on this special day. From early exhibition games to regular-season contests, Easter Sunday has become an important day on the baseball calendar.

The origins of baseball on Easter Sunday can be traced back to the early days of the sport, when teams would often play exhibition games on holidays as a way to draw crowds and generate interest in the sport. These games were typically played in local parks or on makeshift fields, and often featured amateur teams or barnstorming professionals.

One of the earliest recorded Easter Sunday baseball games took place in 1876, when the Cincinnati Reds defeated a team of local amateurs by a score of 27-1. The game was played at the Union Grounds in Cincinnati, which was one of the earliest ballparks in the United States.

Another early moment in the history of baseball on Easter Sunday was in 1898, when the New York Giants took on the Boston Beaneaters in a doubleheader. The games were played at the Polo Grounds in New York City, with the Giants winning both contests by scores of 9-6 and 5-2. While the games themselves were not particularly noteworthy, they set a precedent for future Easter Sunday matchups.

Dates to Remember

Over the next few decades, Easter Sunday became a popular day for baseball games, with many teams scheduling doubleheaders to take advantage of the holiday crowds. One of the most famous Easter Sunday doubleheaders took place in 1929, when the New York Yankees faced off against the Philadelphia Athletics at Yankee Stadium. The games were heavily promoted, with fans being offered a free Easter lily upon entering the ballpark. The games themselves were exciting, with the Yankees winning both contests by scores of 11-4 and 9-6. The doubleheader drew a crowd of over 64,000 fans, which was a record for the time.

As baseball grew in popularity throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Easter Sunday games became more common, with many major league teams scheduling games on this holiday. Some of the most memorable Easter Sunday games in baseball history include:

  • April 9, 1911: Ty Cobb's debut - On this day, 18-year-old Ty Cobb made his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers in a game against the Cleveland Naps. Cobb went 2-for-3 with a double in the game, which the Tigers won 6-5.
  • April 9, 1916: The Red Sox win in 17 innings - The Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Athletics played a marathon game on Easter Sunday in 1916, with the Red Sox eventually prevailing 4-1 in 17 innings. The game, which lasted over 3 hours, was notable for the performance of Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth, who pitched 13 scoreless innings in relief.
  • April 9, 1944: The Dodgers and Yankees play in front of 50,000 - In one of the largest Easter Sunday crowds in baseball history, over 50,000 fans packed Ebbets Field to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers take on the New York Yankees. The game, which was won by the Yankees 8-4, featured a home run by Dodgers outfielder Pete Reiser.
  • April 17, 1960: Ted Williams hits his final home run - Although not technically an Easter Sunday game, this April 17th game between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles was played on Easter weekend. In the game, Red Sox legend Ted Williams hit the 521st and final home run of his career.

Big Games

In 1939, Easter Sunday fell on April 9th, which happened to be the same day that legendary Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig retired from baseball. The Yankees were playing an exhibition game against the New York Giants at Yankee Stadium, and Gehrig announced his retirement in an emotional speech before the game. The game itself was a memorable one, with the Yankees winning by a score of 5-2. Gehrig did not play in the game, but he received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was introduced before the first pitch.

Another memorable Easter Sunday game took place in 1950, when the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs faced off in a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. The games were particularly significant because they marked the debut of future Hall of Famer Stan Musial as the Cardinals' starting left fielder. Musial had previously played in the minors and had been a pinch hitter for the Cardinals, but this was his first start in the outfield. Musial made an immediate impact, going 4-for-4 in the first game and hitting a home run in the second game. The Cardinals won both games by scores of 10-5 and 9-4.

In 1960, the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians played a memorable Easter Sunday game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The game featured a pitching duel between Tigers ace Jim Bunning and Indians hurler Jim Perry, with Bunning ultimately coming out on top. Bunning pitched a complete game shutout, allowing just four hits and striking out nine batters. The Tigers won the game 2-0, with both runs coming on a home run by catcher Bill Freehan.

In 1972, the Oakland Athletics and California Angels played a memorable Easter Sunday game at Anaheim Stadium. The game featured a pitching duel between A's ace Vida Blue and Angels starter Clyde Wright, with both pitchers throwing complete games. Blue was particularly dominant, striking out 17 batters and allowing just two hits in a 1-0 A's victory. The game was notable not just for Blue's pitching performance, but also because it was the first time that the designated hitter rule was used in an American League game on Easter Sunday.

In more recent years, Easter Sunday games have continued to be an important part of the baseball calendar. In 1994, for example, the Colorado Rockies played their first-ever regular season game on Easter Sunday, defeating the Montreal Expos 11-4.

Of course, Easter Sunday has not always been a day of celebration for baseball. In 2005, the sport was rocked by news of the death of legendary broadcaster and Hall of Famer Jack Buck. Buck had been a fixture in baseball broadcasting for over five decades, and his death was felt deeply by players, fans, and broadcasters alike. The St. Louis Cardinals, for whom Buck had called games for over 50 years, paid tribute to him on Easter Sunday by wearing black armbands and observing a moment of silence before their game against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Despite its ups and downs, Easter Sunday remains an important day in baseball history, filled with memorable moments and cultural significance. From walk-off home runs to Easter egg hunts, baseball and Easter will continue to be intertwined for years to come.

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