These players started the most opening day games for the Detroit Tigers

Al Kaline holds the record for most opening day starts for the Detroit Tigers: 21, including 19 in right field.

Hall of Famer Al Kaline holds the record for most opening day starts for the Detroit Tigers, having made 21, including 19 in right field between 1954 and 1974.

Opening Day is special. Every team and every player starts out with a clean slate. If your team wins that day, you secretly wonder: can we win ’em all? Is this the year? Hope truly springs eternal.

The Detroit Tigers played their first opener back on April 25, 1901, at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull at Bennett Park. That day they squared off in their first American League game against the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that moved to St. Louis the following year to play as the Browns.

The only time the Tigers have ever used the exact same lineup in consecutive years on opening day was in 1915 and 1916, when manager Hughie Jennings started the same nine guys to start the season: catcher Oscar Stanage, first baseman George Burns, second baseman Ralph “Pep” Young, shortstop Donie Bush, third baseman Ossie Vitt, left fielder Bobby Veach, center fielder Ty Cobb, right fielder Wahoo Sam Crawford, and starting pitcher Harry Coveleski. Continuity seemed to work pretty well, the team won 100 games in 1915 (though they finished in second place).

Let’s take a walk around the diamond and see which players have started the most opening games in a Detroit uniform. This list includes every player who has appeared in at least three opening day contests for the Tigers, through 2015 unless otherwise noted.


Bill Freehan … 10
Oscar Stanage … 9
Lance Parrish … 8
Alex Avila … 5
Ivan Rodriguez … 5
Johnny Bassler … 5
Boss Schmidt … 5
Mickey Tettleton … 4
Mickey Cochrane … 4

From 1964 to 1986 the Tigers used only four players at catcher on opening day: Freehan, Duke Sims (once), Milt May (three times), and Lance Parrish. Previously, from 1938 to 1963, a span of 26 seasons, the team trotted out 17 different catchers on opening day… Schmidt and Stanage started every opening day from 1906 to 1918… Current Tiger manager Brad Ausmus started for the Tigers on opening day in 1999 and 2000… Parrish caught Jack Morris seven times on opening day, the team record. Freehan teamed with Mickey Lolich five times, while two other batteries started four openers: Verlander/Avila and Mullin/Schmidt.

First Base

Norm Cash … 12
Cecil Fielder … 7
Hank Greenberg … 7
Lu Blue … 7
Miguel Cabrera … 7 (including 2017)
Rudy York … 6
Tony Clark … 5
Darrell Evans … 4
Jason Thompson … 4

Within a few years Cabrera has a chance to challenge Norm Cash for the top spot… Despite being used at DH as well, Cecil Fielder never started an opener at any other position than first for Detroit… The versatile Dave Bergman made opening day starts at first base and DH for Sparky Anderson.

Second Base

Lou Whitaker … 17
Charlie Gehringer … 13
Dick McAuliffe … 8
Ralph Young … 7
Damion Easley … 6
Frank Bolling … 5
Germany Schaefer … 5
Placido Polanco … 4
Eddie Mayo … 4
Ian Kinsler … 4 (including 2017)

Whitaker made every start in the opener from 1978 to 1994, missing in ’95 (his final year) because Sparky sat him out against a lefthanded starter… McAuliffe started 11 straight openers, including three at shortstop.


Alan Trammell … 16
Donie Bush … 13
Billy Rogell … 7
Harvey Kuenn … 5
Charley O’Leary … 5
Carlos Guillen … 4
Deivi Cruz … 4
Chico Fernandez … 4
Topper Rigney … 4

Trammell missed two openers because of injury later in his career, but in 1980 he was passed over for Mark Wagner… Bush made his starts consecutively from 1909 to 1921. He started 12 opening day games with Ty Cobb, the second most for Tiger teammates, behind Trammell and Whitaker (15).

Third Base

Aurelio Rodriguez … 7
Brandon Inge … 6
Travis Fryman … 6
Don Wert … 6
Pinky Higgins … 6
George Moriarty … 6
George Kell … 5
Bob Jones … 5
Marv Owen … 4
Ossie Vitt … 4
Bill Coughlin … 4
Nicholas Castellanos … 4 (including 2017)

The position the Tigers have had the most trouble filling, third base has often been a weak spot for the franchise. Kell and Fryman stand out as the best all-around players at the position… Nick (sorry…NICHOLAS) Castellanos will make his fourth opening day start at the hot corner in 2017 and stands a good chance of moving well up on this list… Tom Brookens, who seemed to lose his starting third base job every spring during his ten years as a Tiger, only made three opening day starts, in 1982, 1983, and 1988.

Left Field

Bobby Veach … 11
Willie Horton … 8
Larry Herndon … 6
Bobby Higginson … 4
Steve Kemp … 4
Goose Goslin … 4
Bob Fothergill … 4

Horton also made two opening day starts at designated hitter, giving him ten total… Higginson made five in right field for nine total starts in an opener, the sixth most starts in an opener for a Detroit outfielder… Tony Phillips made two starts in left and two at DH.

Center Field

Ty Cobb … 15
Austin Jackson … 5
Chet Lemon … 5
Jim Northrup … 5
Ron LeFlore … 4
Mickey Stanley … 4
Bill Tuttle … 4
Doc Cramer … 4
Barney McCosky … 4

Cobb also made one opening day start in right field. He was in a Tiger uniform for 21 openers, but he missed one because of a contract dispute and wasn’t in the lineup in 1906 when he was a 19-year old prospect. Later, when he was player/manager he didn’t start himself on three occasions… Stanley was an odd man out, despite spending 15 years with the Tigers, he only started on opening day six times: four in center and one each at shortstop and first base… Lemon made three more opening day starts in right field for a total of eight in a Detroit uniform.

Right Field

Al Kaline … 19
Sam Crawford … 12
Harry Heilmann … 11
Magglio Ordonez … 7
Bobby Higginson … 5
Kirk Gibson … 5
Vic Wertz … 5

Kaline also made one opening day start in center field in 1960, and one at DH in 1974, giving him a franchise record 21 starts in openers… Gibson made a total of eight opening day starts, also appearing in center field and at DH… From 1903 to 1929, a span of 27 openers, the Tigers had a future Hall of Famer in right field for their opening game 24 times (Crawford 12, Heilmann 11, and Cobb once)… When the Tigers traded for Rocky Colavito in 1960, they started him in right in the opener, pushing Kaline to center.

Starting Pitcher

Jack Morris … 11
George Mullin … 10
Justin Verlander … 9 (including 2017)
Mickey Lolich … 7
Hal Newhouser … 6
Jim Bunning … 4
Earl Whitehill … 4

Morris made his eleven starts consecutively, from 1980 to 1990… Frank Tanana was the pitcher who got the nod the year after Morris left the team, in 1991… Mullin made five straight starts from 1903-1907, then missed a year when Ed Siever got the nod, then started five consecutive from 1909-1913… Denny McLain only got two opening day assignments, in 1967 and 1969… Felipe Lira (1996) and Hideo Nomo (2000) are the only foreign-born players to start an opener on the mound for the Tigers… Mark Fidrych’s only opening day start came in 1978, when he pitched a five-hit complete game at Tiger Stadium to beat the Blue Jays… Fred Hutchinson is the only pitcher to start an opener for the Tigers and also later manage the club… We have a list of every starting pitcher who made at least three starts on our encyclopedia.

Designated Hitter

Victor Martinez … 6 (including 2017)
Dmitri Young … 3

Others who had more than one start at DH on opening day: Rusty Staub (2), Willie Horton (2), Champ Summers (2), John Wockenfuss (2), Tony Phillips (2), Gary Sheffield (2), and Carlos Guillen (2).