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MLB Opening Day: Looking back at 100 years of baseball history

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Knuckleball pitcher Hoyt Wilhelm is pictured while he was a member of the New York Giants.

Baseball Hall of Fame

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1952

Top hitter: Stan Musial (St.L. Cardinals), .336 avg.

Top slugger: Ralph Kiner (Pittsburgh Pirates) and Hank Sauer (Chicago Cubs), 37 HRs

Top pitcher: Robin Roberts (Philadelphia Phillies), 28 wins

NL MVP: Hank Sauer, Chicago Cubs, OF

AL MVP: Bobby Shantz, Philadelphia A’s, P

World Series: New York Yankees defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers, 4-3.

The Braves played their last game in Boston before moving to Milwaukee.

Hoyt Wilhelm began his Hall of Fame pitching career, at age 28, in a most unlikely manner – by hitting a home run in his first at bat for the New York Giants. It would be the only home run he would ever hit in 1,069 games. A masterful knuckleballer, he gained a reputation as a premier relief pitcher who remained effective long after most players retired, as he eventually did at age 49.

Ted Williams played only six games before heading off to active duty as a  Marine Corps pilot in the Korean War. Before leaving, however, he hit a two-run homer that propelled the Red Sox to a 5-3 victory on “Ted Williams Day” at Fenway Park. The mayor of Boston and governor of Massachusetts attended the game, at which a sendoff ceremony concluded with everybody in the ballpark holding hands and singing “Auld Lang Syne.” Williams capped his return to baseball in 1953 by hitting an eighth-inning homer in his first game.

Satchel Paige, who began his professional career in the Negro Leagues in the mid 1920s and saw mostly bullpen duty until finally gaining entry into the major leagues in 1948, was handed a starting assignment in 1952 for the St. Louis Browns against Detroit that wound up a pitching classic. The 45-year-old Paige outdueled the Tigers’ starter, Virgil Trucks, in 12 innings, with both hurlers going the distance in St. Louis’s 1-0 victory.

Roger Hornsby, who was one of the greatest hitters of all time, made a return to managing in the majors after an absence of 16 years (he had been the player-manager of the St. Louis Cardinals during the team’s first championship in 1926). But the return was short-lived because St. Louis Browns owner Bill Veeck fired him on June 9 over a disagreement. The players were so pleased to see Hornsby go that they reportedly presented Veeck with a trophy as a thank you. Hornsby completed the year in Cincinnati and managed one more season with the Reds in 1953, before ending his managing career with a mark of 701-812.

On May 21, the Brooklyn Dodgers set a first-inning scoring record unsurpassed except once in 1894. The Dodgers sent 19 straight batters to the plate before Cincinnati was able to retire anyone en route to scoring 15 runs. Three batters at the top of the order had three turns each at the plate.

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