Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers poses at Ebbets Field...

Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers poses at Ebbets Field in the Brooklyn before the start of the 1947 MLB season. Credit: AP

Every major-league debut is monumental for somebody. Once in a great while, a single major-league debut is monumental for just about everybody.

Making it into an American or National League game is life-changer for a ballplayer, proving he has realized a dream and giving him a chance to etch his name into the sport’s memory book. On that score, Jackie Robinson was just like everyone else when he first appeared for the Brooklyn Dodgers 75 years ago this month.

But the score of his debut goes much further, and is still going. By breaking the unwritten yet rigid “Whites Only” policy in the big leagues, he made baseball an entirely new world. With his debut, followed three months later by Larry Doby’s arrival with Cleveland that integrated the American League, he opened the door for some of the greatest players the sport would ever see: Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Derek Jeter.

More important, the first major league game by a Black player changed American society at large. Not that it overhauled the culture overnight. It was eight long years later that Rosa Parks took her stand for civil rights on a bus. Yet Robinson, grandson of slaves and son of a sharecropper, turned a weighty page when he took his position at first base at Ebbets Field on April 15, 1947.

As former President Barack Obama tweeted on the anniversary of the late Hall of Famer’s birth last year: “When Jackie Robinson faced down slurs, spiked cleats and pitches thrown at his head—and stole home anyway, he didn’t just change baseball. He changed the world and paved the way for others, including me.”

In honor of that memorable first appearance, and mindful that every first showing of a player or rule or custom is a watershed, we present this year’s topic for our annual Baseball 101 feature: Debuts.

What better way to celebrate the opening of a seemingly endangered season than to focus on beginnings? This is Newsday’s annual seminar on baseball, looking at the sport through one particular lens and using 101 examples. This spring, we present 101 memorable (or forgettable) debuts over the years.

This time, the course comes with a slight disclaimer or virtual asterisk. Because Major League Baseball last year decided to officially count all statistics from Negro League games, April 15, 1947 no longer technically qualifies at Robinson’s debut. … But that is more semantics than reality. There is no question about the significance of his first game.

If anything, it is hard to believe it has been 25 years since the landmark 50th anniversary of his debut. In the middle of the Dodgers-Mets game at Shea Stadium April 15, 1997, President Bill Clinton took part in a ceremony in which baseball commissioner Bud Selig retired Robinson’s No. 42 in perpetuity throughout the sport.

From our current context, it is hard to believe that local newspapers did not treat the event as such a big deal. In 2022, the phrase “made history” is issued almost daily to describe events big and small. Back then, not so much. In the Daily News game story on April 16, 1947, the first mention of true history came merely in the 11th paragraph: “In his debut, Jackie Robinson, the majors’ most-discussed rookie, fielded flawlessly at first base but went hitless in three official trips to the plate.” The “Sports of the Times” column on page one of The New York Times began the ninth paragraph this way: “The debut of Jackie Robinson was quite uneventful…”

In their defense, the writers had covered the epochal nature of the event in spring training, when Robinson was officially promoted to the major league roster. In a way, the low-key reports were a compliment. Robinson wrote in his autobiography that his favorite all-time headline was, “JACKIE JUST ANOTHER GUY.”

Truth is, anyone who makes the major leagues has the right to feel special. Every debut is filled with potential, and is worth noticing and remembering.

The Baseball 101 list

You’ve got to start someplace. For a baseball player, or a non-playing baseball personality or a tradition, a debut is an unforgettable milestone.

The “first” can be a portent or an aberration. It can be groundbreaking or historically insignificant. Either way, it is always a special occasion for somebody. With that in mind, here is our Baseball 101 course for this year. In no particular order, other than the first two, here are 101 Noteworthy Debuts:

From left, Brooklyn Dodgers third baseman John Jorgensen, shortstop Pee...

From left, Brooklyn Dodgers third baseman John Jorgensen, shortstop Pee Wee Reese, second baseman Ed Stanky, and first baseman Jackie Robinson pose before Robinson debuted against the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn on April 15, 1947. Credit: AP

1. Seventy-five years ago, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made the most impactful start in baseball history. It no longer is technically a “debut” because Major League Baseball has in retrospect classified Negro Leagues games as part of the major league canon. He had played professionally in that league in 1945. Still, that afternoon in Brooklyn provided something undeniably new for the sport and the nation.

The seismic shift began six days earlier, when the Brooklyn Dodgers announced in a one-line statement that Robinson had been promoted to the big-league roster. That meant he would be the first African-American to play in the National or American League. In the first inning on April 15, he took his position at first base, fully aware of what he was getting into and what it represented.

"I did a miserable job,” he said, assessing the moment 25 years later in his autobiography, “I Never Had it Made.”

That is, he did not judge himself on a curve. He did not give himself a pass for dealing with unprecedented pressure. He graded himself as a ballplayer, and on this day, he went 0-for-3 and left in the ninth inning for a defensive replacement. “There was an overflow crowd at Ebbets Field,” he wrote. “If they expected any miracles out of Robinson, they were sadly disappointed.”

The miracle was in what grew out of that afternoon: Robinson’s Rookie of the Year award, his Hall of Fame career, his dignity, life and legacy in a world that would be different from that day forward.

1-A. An official biography on the Hall of Fame website begins, “Perhaps no one is more remembered for being second than Larry Doby.” He was no runner-up, though. Doby  sometimes has been overlooked by history, but he had a singularly great career. He followed Robinson into the established major leagues on July 5, 1947, when he debuted with Cleveland. Like Robinson, he withstood indignities and harassment to reach stardom.

Cleveland's Larry Doby in 1952.

Cleveland's Larry Doby in 1952. Credit: AP/David Durochik

Doby grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, and went to Long Island University on a basketball scholarship. A seven-time All-Star, he became the first African-American to lead either league in home runs (32 in 1952). He had five 100-RBI seasons and eight 20-home run seasons. In 1978, the White Sox made him the American League’s second Black manager (following Frank Robinson). He was elected to the Hall of Fame 20 years later.

Doby integrated the American Basketball League in 1948, averaging 15 points for the Paterson Panthers. He spent the decade of the 1980s as an executive with the New Jersey Nets.   

3. Mets manager Buck Showalter is 3-1 in his first games as manager of the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Rangers and Orioles.

4. Tampa Bay’s Shane McClanahan became the first pitcher to make his big-league debut in the postseason when he opened the ninth inning of a Division Series game against the Yankees on Oct. 5, 2020. One year later, on Oct. 30, 2021, Atlanta's Dylan Lee became the first pitcher to make his first major league start in the World Series. In Game 4 against Houston he recorded only one out and left with the bases loaded. 

5. Bumpus Jones of the Reds pitched a no-hitter against the Pirates in his first major-league game on Oct. 15, 1892.  Ted Breitenstein (1891), Bobo Holloman (1953) and Tyler Gilbert (2021) each threw a no-hitter in his first start, but all three had previously pitched in relief.

6. The 60-feet, 6-inches distance from the pitching rubber to home plate premiered in 1893, having been moved back five feet.

7. Juan Marichal of the Giants no-hit the Phillies through 7 2/3 innings and finished with a one-hit shutout (with 12 strikeouts and only one walk) in his debut on July 19, 1960.

8. Team-owned planes became a reality on Jan. 4, 1957, when the Los Angeles-bound Brooklyn Dodgers purchased a Convair 440.

Derek Jeter warms up before making his MLB debut with...

Derek Jeter warms up before making his MLB debut with the Yankees in Seattle on May 29, 1995. Credit: AP/Gary Stewart

9. Derek Jeter went 0-for-5 in his first game on May 29, 1995, at Seattle. He got his first two hits the next night.

10. Starting pitcher Mariano Rivera allowed five runs and eight hits in 3 1/3 innings during his first game, a 10-0 Yankees loss at California on May 23, 1995.

11. Mets phenom Nolan Ryan notched the first three of his record 5,714 strikeouts in his debut on Sept. 11, 1966 — 27 years and 11 days before his final appearance.

12. Only 5,005 people were at Shea Stadium on Thursday afternoon, April 13, 1967, to see newcomer Tom Seaver strike out eight in 5 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the Pirates.

13. Jerry Koosman made his debut (2 2/3 scoreless, hitless relief innings) in the game following Seaver’s premiere.

14. Lou Gehrig first appeared on a major league field on June 15, 1923, as a ninth-inning replacement for first baseman Wally Pipp with the Yankees ahead 10-0.

15. Orioles rookie Cal Ripken Jr., pinch running for Ken Singleton, scored the winning run in the 12th inning on Aug. 10, 1981.

16. Satchel Paige was 42 when he finally was invited into the established major leagues, throwing two scoreless innings for the title-bound Indians on July 9, 1948.

17. Former Dodgers prospect Roberto Clemente broke in for the Pirates against Brooklyn on April 17, 1955, going 1-for-4.

18. Mickey Mantle, 19, played rightfield and wore No. 6 in his debut on April 17, 1951, at Yankee Stadium, going 1-for-4 with an RBI.

19. Bob Sheppard began serving as the Yankees’ public address announcer on April 17, 1951 — Mantle’s first day — and held the position for 56 years.

20. Dave DeBusschere’s debut as a pitcher for the White Sox occurred on April 22, 1962 — nearly six months before his premiere with the Detroit Pistons. He threw a scoreless, hitless inning.

Michael Jordan during Chicago White Sox workouts at Ed Smith...

Michael Jordan during Chicago White Sox workouts at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. Credit: AP/Tom DiPace

21. Michael Jordan went 2-for-5 for the White Sox in an exhibition game against the Cubs on April 7, 1994. He made his official professional baseball debut with the Double-A Birmingham Barons the next day, going 0-for-3 in front of 10,359 fans and 130 media members.

22. The Baseball Hall of Fame opened on June 12, 1939. The eleven living members of the first class (including Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner) were present.

23. The Giants were 7-14 when Willie Mays joined them in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park on May 25, 1951. He went 0-for-5 en route to becoming the  National League  Rookie of the Year and helping the Giants  to win the pennant.

24. The first known performance of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the major leagues was in Game 4 of the 1934 World Series, according to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

25. Sandy Koufax, 19, debuted in the fifth inning of the Dodgers’ 8-2 loss in Milwaukee on June 24, 1955. He relieved Johnny Podres, who went on to win World Series Game 7.

26. Babe Ruth, 19, pitched seven innings for the win as the Red Sox beat the Cleveland Naps, 4-3, on July 11, 1914. He went 0-for-2 at the plate.

Shohei Ohtani bats against the Athletics on March 29, 2018...

Shohei Ohtani bats against the Athletics on March 29, 2018 in Oakland. Credit: Ben Margot/AP

27. Shohei Ohtani went 1-for-5 in his first appearance in the major leagues on March 29, 2018.

28. Ohtani threw six innings (three runs, three hits) and earned the win against the Athletics in his American pitching debut on April 1, 2018.

29. Colombia native Luis Castro, who broke in with the Philadelphia Athletics on April 23, 1902, is credited with being the first Latino player in the major leagues.

30. Adalberto Mondesi of the Royals made his debut in Game 3 of the 2015 World Series at Citi Field, nearly eight months before his first regular-season game.

31. Rockies shortstop Trevor Story became the first to hit two home runs in an Opening Day debut on April 4, 2016.

32. Vin Scully announced his first Dodgers game on April 18, 1950 (a 9-1 loss to the Phillies at Shibe Park). He kept the job for 66 years.

33. Fenway Park officially opened on April 20, 1912, but the excitement was muted because the Titanic had sunk five days earlier.

34. Wrigley Field was known as Weeghman Park when it opened for a Federal League game on April 23, 1914. It was renamed Cubs Park in 1920 and then Wrigley Field in 1926.

35. Bob Keating pitched one major league game on Aug. 27, 1887, and allowed 11 earned runs and 16 hits. He later became an inventor and came up with the rubber home plate,  still the standard today.

36. Masanori Murakami became the first Japanese-born player in the major leagues on Sept. 1, 1964. He pitched a scoreless inning against the Mets at Shea Stadium and then appeared on Kiner’s Korner.

37.The Astrodome hosted the first indoor baseball game, an Astros exhibition game against the Yankees on April 9, 1965. Mickey Mantle hit the first home run.

38. In his first major league game on April 14, 1967, Billy Rohr of the Red Sox had a no-hitter through 8 2/3 innings when Elston Howard of the Yankees broke it up with a single. (Howard, later traded, played for Boston in the 1967 World Series; Rohr did not.)

39. George Brett was preparing a barbecue lunch with Triple-A teammates when he was promoted to the Royals on Aug. 2,1973. He boarded a flight from Omaha to Chicago and started that night against the White Sox, getting his first hit in a win that put Kansas City in first place.

40. John Lindsey spent 16 years in the minor leagues before finally appearing for the Dodgers on Sept. 8, 2010.

41. Reggie Jackson debuted for the Kansas City A’s on June 9, 1967 — a year and two days after he was chosen second overall in the draft (one place behind the Mets’ Steve Chilcott).

42. Rod Carew went 2-for-4 in his first game on Opening Day for the Twins in 1967.

43. When Johnny Bench first appeared for the Reds on Aug. 28, 1967, he became the fourth future Hall of Famer to debut that season (following Rod Carew, Tom Seaver and Reggie Jackson).

44. Ted Williams was one of 10 future Hall of Famers on the field during his first game on April  20, 1939. The others were Red Sox teammates Jimmie Foxx, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr and Lefty Grove and Yankees Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Joe Gordon and Red Ruffing.

45. David Clyde, the first overall pick in the 1973 draft, went directly from a Texas high school to the Rangers. He allowed one hit and struck out eight in his five-inning debut on June 27 before a sellout crowd of 35,698.

46. Stephen Strasburg’s first major league game, on June 8, 2010, was called by Sports Illustrated “the most hyped pitching debut the game has ever seen.” The Nationals righthander struck out 14 Pirates and walked none in front of 40,315 fans and a national TV audience.

47. Milwaukee leftfielder Hank Aaron went 0-for-5 in the Reds’ traditional Opening Day on April 13, 1954.

48. Barry Bonds, playing centerfield and batting leadoff for the Pirates, went 0-for-5 on May 30, 1986.

49. Newcomer Jacob deGrom allowed one run and four hits in a 1-0 loss to the Yankees on May 15, 2014.

The Mets' Matt Harvey pitches in the first inning of his...

The Mets' Matt Harvey pitches in the first inning of his major league debut at the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 26, 2012. Credit: AP

50. Matt Harvey set a Mets record for strikeouts in a debut with 14, beating the Diamondbacks, 3-1, on July 27, 2012.

51. Steven Matz became the first Met — pitcher or otherwise — to drive in four runs in his debut on June 28, 2015. He also earned the win (two runs in 7 2/3 innings).

52. Aaron Judge launched a 446-foot home run into Monument Park in his first big-league at-bat on Aug. 13, 2016 — one day after Alex Rodriguez’s final game.

53. Tyler Austin followed Judge’s blast with a home run of his own. Judge and Austin became the first teammates ever to homer in their respective first at-bats.

54. Rays infielder Wander Franco, the consensus top prospect in baseball, was called up last June 22 and went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs that night.

55. Strat-O-Matic Baseball, the popular board game produced by a Long Island company, was first released in 1961.

56. A crowd of 52,613 saw the Yankees beat the Twins, 11-4, in the opening of the refurbished Yankee Stadium on April 15, 1976.

57. Max Scherzer struck out seven in 4 1/3 perfect relief innings for the Diamondbacks in his first appearance on April 29, 2008.

58. The San Diego Chicken, originally a promotional gimmick for radio station KGB-FM, first appeared at a Padres game in 1974.

59. Live organ music was first played at a major league game on April 26, 1941. Ray Nelson performed at Wrigley Field (he was forced to stop when the radio broadcast began because of concerns over copyright infringement).

In the first major league night game ever played, the...

In the first major league night game ever played, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Philadelphia Phillies at Crosley Field on May 24, 1935. Credit: AP

60. Night baseball debuted on May 24, 1935, at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field. President Franklin D. Roosevelt flipped a ceremonial switch in the White House.

61. David Ortiz began his Hall of Fame career by pinch hitting (0-for-1) with the Twins at Wrigley Field on Sept. 2, 1997.

62. Gil Hodges began his Hall of Fame career as a 19-year-old third baseman for the Dodgers in their 1943 season finale.

63. New Hall of Famer Minnie Minoso walked as a pinch-hitter in his debut for the defending champion Indians April 19, 1949.

64. Jim Kaat, a 2022 Hall of Fame inductee, took the loss in his first game on Aug. 2, 1959, for the Washington Senators.

65. Tony Oliva, another 2022 Hall of Fame inductee, struck out as a pinch hitter with the Twins on Sept. 9, 1962.

66. Willie McCovey didn’t reach the big leagues until the Giants’ 101st game of the 1959 season, but he went 4-for-4 that day and ultimately was named NL Rookie of the Year.

67. At his first news conference as Yankees majority owner on Jan. 3, 1973, George Steinbrenner said, “We plan absentee ownership. I’ll stick to building ships.”

68. Rickey Henderson of the Athletics doubled in his first major-league at-bat, then singled his next time up and achieved the first of his record 1,406 stolen bases on June 24, 1979.

69. Bridgehampton’s Carl Yastrzemski broke in for the Red Sox, playing leftfield and batting fifth (0-for-5) on Opening Day 1961.

70. Fellow Long Islander and Hall of Famer Craig Biggio (Kings Park) caught a combined shutout by the Astros’ Jim Deshaies and Larry Andersen in his debut on June 26, 1988.

71. Cavan Biggio, Craig’s son, was the Blue Jays’ starting second baseman in his debut on May 14, 2019.

72. Mike Yastrzemski, Carl’s grandson, started in leftfield for the Giants in his debut on May 15, 2019.

73. Al Jurisich of the Cardinals held the Reds scoreless for 12 2/3 innings before allowing a walk-off home run in his debut on April 26, 1944.

74. Ichiro Suzuki went 2-for-5 on April 2, 2001, taking his first step toward becoming the AL Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player that season.

75. Daniel Ponce de Leon of the Cardinals, called up to make a spot start because the team was playing its sixth game in five days, took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on July 23, 2018.

76. The All-Star Game premiered on July 6, 1933, at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The American League won, 4-2, as Babe Ruth hit a two-run homer.

77. Joe DiMaggio went 3-for-6 in his debut, a 14-5 Yankees win over the Browns on May 3, 1936.

78. Harry Hisner of the Red Sox pitched in only one game, on Sept. 30, 1951, and gave up DiMaggio’s final regular-season hit.

79. Years after he went 4-for-4 in his first game (July 27, 1912), Casey Stengel recalled, “The writers promptly decided they had seen the new Ty Cobb. It took me only a few days to correct that impression.”

80. In his debut on Sept. 5, 2019, Brian Moran of the Marlins achieved his first major-league strikeout. The batter was his brother, Colin, of the Pirates.

81. Karl Spooner of the Dodgers struck out 15 Giants, setting a record for a debut, on Sept. 22, 1954.

82. J.R. Richard of the Astros tied Spooner’s record, also against the Giants, on Sept. 5, 1971. Willie Mays appeared in both games, not striking out against Spooner but fanning three times against Richard.

83. Dodgers pitcher Elmer Sexauer was ejected from a big league game before he ever appeared in one. According to “Carl Erskine’s Tales from the Dodgers Dugout,” a player protested umpire Jocko Conlan’s call by throwing a towel onto the field. Conlan demanded that someone be held responsible. Dodgers manager Burt Shotton, wary about losing a star player, pointed to Sexauer, who got the heave-ho. The kid did pitch the next day, on Sept. 6, 1948.

84. Elston Howard became the Yankees’ first African-American player on April 14, 1955. Eight years later, he would become the American League’s first African-American Most Valuable Player.

85. Mel Stottlemyre began his Yankees career with a complete-game win over the White Sox on Aug. 12, 1964. (Mickey Mantle hit a homer from each side of the plate, including a 511-foot blast over the centerfield screen.)

86. Cecil Travis, 19, of the Washington Senators got five hits in his debut on May 16, 1933. No one has  matched that feat.

87. Three years after Tommy John surgery, Nick Kingham finally reached the majors with the  Pirates on April 29, 2018, and took a perfect game into the seventh. He allowed no earned runs and struck out nine Cardinals.

88. Dwight Gooden, 19, struck out five in five innings and earned the victory in his first game on April 7, 1984.

89. Bert Campaneris arrived from the minors two hours before the Athletics’ game on July 22, 1964, then homered (against Jim Kaat) in his first at-bat and added another home run, a single and a stolen base.

90. Luis Tiant, called up by the Indians and matched against Whitey Ford, pitched a four-hit, 11-strikeout shutout at Yankee Stadium on July 19, 1964.

91. The designated hitter rule premiered on April 6, 1973. Ron Blomberg of the Yankees walked to force in a first-inning run against Boston’s Luis Tiant.

92. A band led by John Philip Sousa played during the opening of Yankee Stadium on April 18, 1923. Babe Ruth hit the first home run and Bob Shawkey got the 4-1 win over the Red Sox before 74,200.

93. Workers were busy until game time, painting the outfield fence for the opening of Shea Stadium on April 17, 1964. The Mets lost to the Pirates, 4-3, but drew 50,312, which was nearly four times the crowd at the Yankees’ opener the previous day.

94. The 1916 Indians were the first to wear uniform numbers, but did so only temporarily. The Yankees did it for good in 1929.

95. The first Tommy John surgery was performed by Dr. Frank Jobe in September 1974 on . . . Tommy John.

96. Long before his name became synonymous with pitching, 23-year-old Cy Young worked his first game for the National League’s Cleveland Spiders on Aug. 6, 1890.

97. At 15, Reds pitcher Joe Nuxhall became the youngest player ever to appear in a major league game on June 10, 1944.

98. Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro set a record for RBIs in a debut with six on May 7, 2010.

99. Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia entered in the second inning as an injury replacement on Aug. 7, 2010. He became the 28th major-leaguer to homer in his first at-bat, then added another home run, double and a single.

100. Jason Jennings of the Rockies pitched a complete-game shutout and hit a home run against the Mets on Aug. 23, 2001.

101. Archibald Wright “Moonlight’’ Graham had his debut and finale on the same day: June 29, 1905. He played two innings in rightfield for the New York Giants during an 11-1 win in Brooklyn and was on deck when his team made the final out in the top of the ninth. He was returned to the minors the next day and never played another big-league game. His story leaped from obscurity to immortality when he was used as a character in the novel “Shoeless Joe” and the movie “Field of Dreams.”

YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED

FOR OUR BEST OFFER ONLY 25¢ for 5 months

Unlimited Digital Access.

cancel anytime.