Tony Oliva was the first designated hitter in American League history to hit a home run, while Rickey Henderson was the first designated hitter in National League history to smash a home run. These events occurred on August 5, 1979.
Oliva's shot came against Jack Fisher in the top of the ninth inning of a game played at Veterans Stadium. The Indians were leading 3-1 at the time and trying to win the last game of the season. They had no choice but to use him since they only had ten players on the roster.
Fisher was the last pitcher he faced that night. He got Oliva to fly out to right field and then retired Tony Lindberg on a grounder to short stop. After the game, managers throughout baseball asked Cleveland if they could use Oliva as their DH during their playoff run but they said no. Maybe they didn't want to risk his injury by having him hit during such a crucial period of the season?
In any case, this is what happened on that memorable day in 1979: First, Oliva stepped into the batter's box with the score tied 1-1. Then, after some perfunctory batting practice, he was given the green light by Joe Gordon, who was pitching for the Angels.
Hoyt Wilhelm, a Hall of Fame pitcher, hit a home run in his debut at-bat. In his major league career, he never hit another home run. In his career, Gene Lamont hit four home homers. Three of them were hit by pitchers for whom he played: Wilhelm, Hoyt "The King" Taylor and Mel Wright.
The fourth homer was hit by Willie Mays. It was an inside the parker off Ralph Branca of the New York Yankees on May 29, 1955. The blast came during a playoff game against the Boston Red Sox. Mays got all the way to first base before being caught by outfielder Carl Furillo who threw him out at third base while playing possum - like a baseball player would do - to get the batter to stop running.
Mays' teammates thought that he had kept going and they went into their usual pregame dance but manager Joe McCarthy ordered them back into the locker room because he didn't want to give the Red Sox any advantage by having his players run around the bases. The Yankees lost this one 4-3 but Mays had great fun hitting this home run.
The National League plays its inaugural game, with the Red Stockings defeating the Athletics 6 to 5. The first assist is attributed to Davy Force. The first hit and single were credited to Jim O'Rourke. The first run was scored by Tim McGinley. The first double is ascribed to Levi Meyerle. The first home run is hit by Dan Brouthers.
The first player to play in both leagues is John Ward, who appears in a single game for the Federalists on May 20, 1807. He is said to have been the first player to bat right-handed and pitch left-handed.
Ward is also called the "Father of Baseball" because of his role in popularizing the sport. In 1871, he published an account of baseball's origins, which has become a classic book on the history of the sport.
He was born in New York City on April 26, 1769. His parents were immigrants from Britain; his father was a blacksmith and carpenter by trade. Young Ward showed an interest in playing baseball as a child. When he was 11 years old, his family moved to Morristown, where his father opened a shop that sold sporting goods, including balls made out of leather stuffed with cotton yarn and hardened with animal fat.
In January 1786, when John Ward was 14 years old, his father died.
Ernie Koy and Heinie Mueller became the first to accomplish the feat in the same game, for the Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, in the first inning of Opening Day in 1938. The next day, April Fools' Day, no one else got a hit.
Mueller's double was the first hit allowed by Dodgers pitcher Carl Erskine, who completed the 1-for-1 outing. Erskine went on to win his first game as a major league ballplayer with an ERA of 0.00 (three pitchers had done this before him).
The next time someone reached base safely in an Opening Day game was four years later on Monday, April 2, 1942. This time, it was Yankees second baseman Joe DiMaggio who did it, leading off against Red Ruffing with a single up the middle. It was also the first time that anyone had two hits in an Opening Day game (more on this later).
Through 2018 season, here are the top 10 all-time leaders in hits in Opening Day games:
1. Barry Bonds - 24
2. Ruth - 23
3. Jackson - 22
4. Cobb - 21