The 1893 National League season, its second straight year with no competing major league, got underway with four games on this date. And the hometown Washington Senators downed their local rivals, the Baltimore Orioles, 7-5 at National Park in a game shortened to 8 innings because of darkness. The game didn't start until 4:30 pm.
This was the first season that the pitching distance had been moved to its present distance of 60' 6" and the batters enjoyed it, rapping out 24 hits, including nine doubles. Nevertheless, both starting pitchers, Jouett Meekin for Washington and Sadie McMahon of Baltimore, would go the distance as was the practice of the time.
Washington was managed by left fielder Jim O'Rourke, who started his major league career in 1872 and would catch one game in 1904 at age 54 for the Giants and eventually end up in the Hall of Fame. Baltimore was led by Ned Hanlon who had led the team to a last place finish in 1892 and would only improve to 8th in 1893, but would soon start the Orioles on a famous romp through baseball's rough and tumble era. Hanlon too would end up in Cooperstown.
Despite being the home team, Washington opted to bat first, an option available at the time. Presumably O'Rourke wanted to take advantage of a clean ball and good light. The strategy paid off as the Senators scored a run to take the lead. The Orioles pushed across three in the third to take a 3-1 lead. But Washington answered with three of their own in the fourth and went back ahead 4-3. A single run in the fifth and two more in the sixth stretched the lead to 7-3, before Baltimore narrowed the gap to 7-5 in the sixth.
Opening Day would be the highlight of the season for the Senators. They would finish in last place with a 40-89 record. From July 1 to the end of the season, Washington went 16-61. The team scored 722 runs, while giving up 1032, easily the highest total in the league.
Baltimore would finish in 8th place at 60-70, 26 1/2 games behind pennant winning Boston. The Orioles had the nucleus of one of the NL's greatest teams starting on Opening Day. John McGraw, who was just 20, would bat leadoff most of the year and play shortstop. He put up an OBP of .454. Future Hall of Famer Joe Kelley played center field and batted .305 with a .401 OBP. Wilbert Robinson started at catcher (he was 30) and he had an OBP of .382 in 95 games. Hanlon would acquire Hughie Jennings in the middle of the year and he would be a starter for the 1894 squad that won the NL pennant.
The NL would have a Washington team until 1899 when the league cut back to 8 teams. Baltimore would stay in the NL until 1899 as well before it was swallowed up by Brooklyn. The Orioles would win three pennants and finish second twice during their NL stint. The Senators never finished better than seventh.
Sources: Washington Post, Baseball-reference, Retrosheet.