On April 26, 1995, baseball returned to Boston. The strike was finally over and there was to be baseball again at Fenway Park. The prior season had been cut short due to the strike in August. In addition, the new season was getting a late start, causing a very long winter for baseball fans. On this day however, baseball was back and the Red Sox were playing host to the Twins to begin a new season.
A New Team
The Red Sox brought a new look team with them following the strike. The Butch Hobson era was mercifully over, as the team finished under .500 all three seasons with him at the helm. In came former Rangers manager Kevin Kennedy to take his place. In the starting lineup on Opening Day, the Sox featured four brand new players. Luis Alicea was the leadoff hitter in his first game with the club. Mark Whiten was in the lineup as was new catcher Mike Macfarlane. The most notable addition to the lineup however was the designated hitter, Jose Canseco. Canseco was coming off a 31 home run season despite the shortened year. He had been acquired from Texas for center fielder Otis Nixon and prospect Luis Ortiz and was expected to add some thump to the lineup alongside Mo Vaughn.
The Season Gets Underway
With Roger Clemens beginning the season on the disabled list, the Red Sox sent Aaron Sele to the mound for the opener. Sele was looked to as the de facto ace after having gone 15-9 with a 3.35 ERA over his first two seasons. He was opposed on the mound by Scott Erickson, despite the fact Erickson had lost 30 games over the past two seasons with an ERA above 5.00.
A Jose Canseco single in his first Red Sox at-bat highlighted a scoreless first inning. Sele cruised through the second with three ground ball outs. In the bottom half, another newcomer (Mark Whiten) started the inning with a base hit. A passed ball advanced him to second and Mike Greenwell promptly drove him across the plate with a single to score the Red Sox first run of the new season.
The Red Sox threatened in the third when John Valentin tripled. However, Jose Canseco popped out to end the inning with a chance to give his new fans something to cheer about. The Sox got two more on base in the fourth yet failed to score. Meanwhile, Aaron Sele was dealing, allowing just the walk to the opening batter of the game through four innings.
Red Sox Take Charge
Sele allowed his first hit leading off the fifth, but retired the next three batters to conclude his day with two baserunners allowed over five shutout innings. In the bottom half of the inning, Luis Alicea got aboard with his first Red Sox base hit. After a Jose Canseco walk, Mo Vaughn hit a line drive to right-center that got down for a hit and scored Alicea. The Red Sox led 2-0 after five.
After prospect Frankie Rodriguez set the Twins down in order on eight pitches, the Red Sox bats went to work. Carl Willis (the future pitching coach of the Red Sox) replaced Mark Guthrie with one out and walked Mike Macfarlane. Tim Naehring bunted him over to second to get a man in scoring position with two outs; then the rally began. The nine-hole hitter, Lee Tinsley, came through with a run scoring single to center. After he stole second, Willis issued back-to-back walks to Luis Alicea and John Valentin. The bases were loaded with the big bats coming up. Jose Canseco lined one into center field to score two and the Sox were ahead 5-0.
With Mo Vaughn due up the Twins went to the left-handed Vince Horsman. That decision did not fare any better than the one to go to Willis. Big Mo doubled off the lefty to score both Valentin and Canseco. A walk to Mark Whiten was followed by another RBI hit for Mike Greenwell and Horsman’s day was over without recording an out. Mo Sanford hit Mike Macfarlane with a pitch to load the bases back up. Tim Naehring then hit a ball that was stopped by Scott Leius, but he had no play to make. The infield hit scored another run and the Sox had a 7 run sixth inning.
Red Sox Win First Game Big Following Strike
The rest of the game was rather uneventful with the Sox having a big lead. The Twins only got one more hit against three different pitchers. Mike Greenwell ended up collecting his fourth hit of the game, finished Opening Day 4-5 with 2 runs batted in. The pairing of Jose Canseco and Mo Vaughn in the middle of the order got off to a good start, with Mo Vaughn driving in three and Canseco bringing home two. They would end up flip-flopping spots in the lineup after just a few games, with Vaughn batting third and Canseco batting cleanup for most of the next two seasons. Baseball was back, and the Red Sox had a 9-0 win to start the season.
Feature picture from WCVB TV