As we are coming upon the beginning of the baseball season, I thought it would be fun to look back at Opening Day for each of the years dating back to 1966-the Braves' first season in Atlanta. If you're like me, you would like to see Opening Day made into a national holiday. Federal employees get their upteen days each year for holidays that a lot of us don't get; all I'm asking for is one special day per calendar year.
April 11, 1967- Houston Astrodome- Houston, Texas
There's nothing like drawing a crowd of 26,001 for Opening Day, and yet that is the announced attendance for the Braves 1967 opening day game in Houston. Those who did show up (and stuck around) witnessed a late-inning rally by the Astros, who beat the Braves 6-1.
Braves starter Denny Lemaster and future Oriole (and 20 game/CY Young winner) Mike Cuellar were locked in a pitchers dual for the first six innings this night. Through the first six innings, Atlanta was able to scrap out four hits to only one by the Astros. In the top of the seventh, new Braves third baseman Clete Boyer gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead with a solo home run. The lead didn't last long however, as the Braves bullpen blew up in the bottom of the seventh inning. After Lemaster walked the lead off hitter, manager Billy Hitchcock replaced the starter with Dick Kelly-who would give up a one out triple to former Braves legend Eddie Mathews. With the score now tied, Clay Carroll replaced Kelly and gave up three straight singles and left without recording an out. Down 3-1 now, Ramon Hernandez enters the game and pitched the final 1.2 innings, giving up another three hits as three more runs score-sealing the Braves fate with a 6-1 defeat.
Player of the Game-Eddie Mathews
Unfortunately for the Braves, Mathews was wearing the wrong uniform. The Braves legend and HOF third
baseman went 2-4 in his first game in a uniform other than a Braves one. As mentioned previously, the 500 HR member hit a triple to drive in the first Houston run, and also scored the go-ahead (winning) run for the Astros.
Pitcher of the Game-Mike Cuellar
For as good of a game as Lemaster pitched, it's too bad he
didn't get a victory for Atlanta.
This evening would belong to Cuellar, who pitched a complete game for the victory. In his nine innings, he allowed only 5 hits and 1 earned run, while striking out seven Braves.