featured photo: Chanan Greenblatt

The Yankees have been at the epicenter of the New York professional sports scene for over a century since the days they moved from Baltimore in 1903. From their early days calling Hilltop Park home in Washington Heights, to the present-day cathedral of baseball we know as Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York’s American League team has become the most successful major pro sports franchise in the country.

While the “Bronx Bombers” are known for historic offensive players like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Don Mattingly, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez (to name a few), the Yankees boast some of the best starting pitchers in the history of the game.

As we anticipate the start of a new season on the diamond, here is a look at the best Opening Day starting pitchers in Yankees history:

Whitey Ford (7 NYY Opening Day starts, 2-3 Won-Loss record)

The “Chairman of the Board” is arguably the greatest and most successful starting pitcher in franchise history. A ten-time All-Star, Ford amassed 236 wins over his 16-year career, all in pinstripes. Two of those wins came in one-run, complete game fashion at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day in 1955 and 1957, both against the Washington Senators. A six-time World Series champion, the distinguished lefty was on the bump to begin title campaigns in 1961 and 1962. Edward Charles “Whitey” Ford was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

Ron Guidry (7 starts, 1-2)

“Louisiana Lightning” was a member of two World Series championship teams in 1977 and 1978. Guidry started the ‘78 campaign for the Bombers at Arlington Stadium in Texas and took home the AL Cy Young Award later that year. The southpaw hurler won 170 games over 14 seasons, all as a member of the Yankees. The five-time Gold Glove Award-winner and former captain registered his first Opening Day win on his last try, allowing just two runs and striking out five batters over five innings at home against the Kansas City Royals in 1986.

Mel Stottlemyre (7 starts, 4-3)

A five-time All-Star, Stottlemyre holds the franchise record for most Opening Day wins, including two over the Senators and one each against the California Angels and Cleveland Indians. His first two game one nods resulted in a pair of complete game shutouts. Though the righty had a renowned 11-year playing career in pinstripes between 1964-1974, championship seasons escaped him. However, as the Yankees pitching coach from 1996-2005, Mel played an instrumental role in leading the franchise to four World Series titles.

CC Sabathia (6 starts, 0-3)

Standing with his imposing 6’6” frame on the mound, Sabathia started in six consecutive Opening Days after arriving in the Big Apple as a free agent in 2009. Though the lefty went winless in all six of those starts, he led Major League Baseball in victories in ‘09, guiding the Yankees to their 27th World Series championship. Sabathia led the league in wins again in 2010, made three All-Star game appearances and won 134 games for the Bombers over 11 seasons.

Lefty Gomez (6 starts, 2-3)

Like Sabathia, Gomez started in six consecutive Opening Days for the Yanks, winning his first two in 1932 and 1933. The southpaw spent 13 of his 14 seasons in New York, appearing in seven All-Star games and winning the pitching Triple Crown in 1934 and 1937. Gomez was the day one starter for three of his five World Series championship seasons in the Bronx and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.

Red Ruffing (5 starts, 3-2)

A longtime teammate of Gomez, Ruffing spent 15 of his 22 Major League Baseball seasons as a Yankee, and was an All-Star in six of them. Ruffing’s five Opening Day starts are highlighted by two complete game shutouts in 1939 against the Boston Red Sox and in 1942 against the Senators. The righty starter won 231 games for the franchise, was a member of six World Series Championship teams and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.

Roger Clemens (4 starts, 2-1)

Acquired in an offseason trade before the start of the 1999 season, “Rocket” started for the Yankees on day one in 1999. The right-hander spent six seasons in the Bronx and was a member of two World Series title teams. The 24-year MLB veteran won one of his seven career Cy Young Awards as a Yank in 2001 and represented the franchise in two of his All-Star Game appearances.

Jack Chesbro (4 starts, 3-1)

Last but not least, we end our list with the first pitcher to ever start an Opening Day in franchise history. The Yankees were known as the New York Highlanders from 1903-1912 and Chesbro took the hill for the team’s inaugural game in each of the first four seasons of the franchise’s NYC history. Though Chesbro and company never won a championship at Hilltop Park, the righty won 41 games in 1904, an American League record that exists to this day. “Happy Jack” spent seven of his 11 professional seasons in New York and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1946.


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