Boston's 85th opener in Fenway Park nearly was snowed out. But grounds crews got Sunday night's one-inch snowfall off the field in time for New York's Phil Niekro, 46, to become the oldest opening-day pitcher ever.

He's also one of the least successful at 0-7.

The Yankees got him a 2-0 lead but he left after four innings, trailing by 5-2. He walked in two runs, including the lead run, and Tony Armas had homered with one on and Dwight Evans with none on. Boston's other outfielder, Jim Rice, homered with two on off New York reliever Joe Cowley.

"You can't ask for anything more than that on an opening day," Boston's starter, Oil Can Boyd, said. "I could feel that the guys knew that Can was going to throw the ball good and were saying, 'Let's go out and get him some runs.' "

He allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings in his first opener. He admitted he was "excited, but not overwhelmingly excited."

The Red Sox are 48-37 in openers at Fenway. Yesterday's drew a capacity crowd of 34,282 despite 48-degree temperatures.