March 31st in baseball history: A-Rod emerges

A coming-out party

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - 20-year old Alex Rodriguez drove in the winning run in the 12th inning as the Seattle Mariners beat the Chicago White Sox in, at the time, the earliest opening day in major league baseball history.

The new regular shortstop was 0 for 5 when he came up in the 12th with the bases loaded. Rodriguez's single off Bill Simas gave the Mariners a 2-1 win.

The player later to become known as "A-Rod" broke in to the big leagues at 18, but 1996 was his first year as a starter and he did not disappoint. His numbers were MVP-like:

.358 Batting average
36 Home runs
123 RBI
.977 Fielding percentage

Rodriguez was second in the MVP voting that year to Juan Gonzalez. He was a sure thing Hall of Famer until admitting to using steroids.

Also in the lineup that day were two other likely Hall of Famers never linked to steroids; Randy Johnson was Seattle's starting pitcher, and Frank Thomas was the White Sox first baseman. Johnson struck out 14 in seven innings of work. Frank Thomas was  2 for 5 with a home run.

Contributing Sources:
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, Washington, April 1, 1996
Where are they now
March 31, 1996 box score
1996 MVP voting/stats

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opening day

Next year at this time consider a story on the Brewers' Ricky Weeks and Carlos Gomez, who each led off the game and season today with solo home runs.  This was the first time in 42 years a team started their season with back to back jacks.  Interestingly, 42 years ago it was Pete Rose and Bobby Tolan starting off the Reds season with back to back HRs (off Don Drysdale).  I just learned Drysdale did not allow another run that game winning 3-2.  Guess who was on hand today in Cinci behind home plate witnessing something that hasn't happened in 42 years?......Pete Rose.  Fans who stayed from beginning to end today got their money's worth as the Reds scored 4 in the 9th  to beat Milwaukee, 7-6, on a two-out 3-run HR by Ramon Hernandez - who had 7 home runs all of last year.  So much for replacing Trevor Hoffman he could have been equally ineffective.