Opening Day is a special day for players, front office and fans. Phillies alumni were asked about their fondest memory of Opening Day, Minor Leagues or Majors.
Jim Bunning (RHP, 1965-67; 1970-71): "Pitching and winning the first game in Veterans Stadium in 1971 and beating my old manger, Gene Mauch, 4-1."
Marty Bystrom (RHP, 1980-84): "Watching Mike Ryan catch a ball dropped from a helicopter hovering above Veterans Stadium."
George Culver (RHP, 1973-74; Minor League pitching instructor, manager, pitching coordinator, 1981-98): "Nothing particularly memorable from opening day in Philly but always remember the excitement of starting a new season."
Darren Daulton (C, 1983; 1985-97): "Well, I know I was hitless when I was in the opening day lineup for the first time in 1986. Did hit a home run in the 1989 opener but we lost in Chicago. And, 10 years after my first season opener, I was in the lineup as the starting leftfielder, something I never foresaw. As far as Vet openers, 1994 when we received our National League championship rings."
Bob Dernier (OF, 1980-83; 1988-89): "No doubt it would be 1989, my last year in the big leagues. Game was in Chicago, as a Phillie, leading off against the Cubs and my old buddy Rick Sutcliffe. It had been 15 years since I had last faced him. That was in 1974 in Kansas City while playing high school ball. He was a senior and I was a junior. He made me look pretty bad and struck me out on three pitches. I had to wait 15 years for my revenge. Well, I lined the first pitch over Sandberg's head for a base hit. After arriving at 1st base, I hollered over at Rick, 'Hey, red-head, the league is hitting 1000% against you.'"
Jim Eisenreich (OF, 1993-96): "1993, my first season with the Phillies. We opened the season in Houston and I was not in the lineup but since my teammate who was going to start overslept, I was inserted in right field. I remember making a catch down the right field line-it was actually a foul ball-but heard some fan comments about not being bad for an 'old guy.' We won the game which was the most important part of the day."
Tommy Greene (RHP, 1990-95): "One of my best memories of opening day happened in 1993 at the Astrodome in Houston. I arrived at the Astrodome early because of the excitement of the season starting and getting ready early for BP. As soon as I got dressed, I went down to the field, which was a hike at the Astrodome. I was by myself out in front of the dugout watching the Astros' BP when Jim Fregosi stuck his head out from the tunnel and said 'Tommy, I need to talk to you upstairs!' First thought in my mind was that I had been sent down or traded but I thought that I had probably one of the best springs of anybody and why would they send me down. All these thoughts were going through my head all the way up the stairs and back to the clubhouse. When I arrived back to the clubhouse I noticed that everyone else had arrived and for some reason everyone was seating in the chairs facing the center of the clubhouse where a chair was placed. Jim then instructed me to sit down in the chair and I looked at everyone and then back at him and said 'I am not going to sit there in that chair because I don't trust anyone in this room and that no one was going to put me in that chair.' I said that because everyone knew April 6th was my birthday. He finally got me to sit down with some encouraging from Lee Thomas and instructed the clubhouse guys to open the main door. A young lady that was dressed as a nurse entered the room, did a dance for me, bent down a whispered in my ear and said, 'Happy Birthday from your family at home!' Everyone got the biggest kick out of that and said I had the best family in the world. I think it really loosened us up and jump started the season. Everyone came down to the field laughing. Best part, we started the season real good."
John Herrnstein (OF-1B, 1962-66): "In 1965, we opened the season in the Astrodome and it was the first regular-season game ever played there. On the field before the game, the Astros honored the nearly 30 astronauts who were in the space program at that time. Before they assembled on the field, many of the astronauts were milling around, and one of them wandered into the dugout where I happened to be the only other person. We chatted together for about 10 or 15 minutes before he said, 'I'd better get out on the field, and by the way, my name is Neil Armstrong and it's been nice talking with you.' At that time, he was an unknown, and had never even been in space. When we returned to Philadelphia after the road trip, I told my wife Barbara about my chance meeting with one of the newer astronauts in training, and asked her to help me remember his name!!"
Kevin Jordan (2B, 1995-2001): "Starting against Randy Johnson in Arizona on opening day in 2000. We only had six hits and I had none! But, I did draw a walk and score a run."
Jim Kaat (LHP, 1976-79): "1965 in Minnesota, my first opening day start. Had to be helicoptered into the stadium because of flooding in Minnesota. Only 16,000 fans were there. Left the game against the Yankees after nine-innings, tied at 3-3. We won in 11, 4-3."
Greg Legg (INF, 1986-87): "On opening day in Albany, NY, AA ball in 1983 during introductions, the crowd made fun of my name using every rhyme possible. I felt like I made 5,000 friends instantly."
Greg Luzinski (OF, 1970-80): "Hitting a home run in the 1980 home opener against the Expos at the Vet. Little did we know at the time what was in store for us that October."
Gary Matthews (OF, 1981-83): "Two stand out...1973 and 1986. In 1973, I was very proud to be in the opening day lineup my rookie year with the San Francisco Giants when we played the Reds at Riverfront Stadium. On the other end of the spectrum, having been in the starting lineup for 13 consecutive years, I was shocked to not see my name in the 1986 opening day lineup with the Cubs. Brian Dayett was penciled in for left field instead of me...in fact, he roomed with me the year before when he was getting a cup of coffee with the team and now he was replacing me in the opening day lineup"!
Mickey Morandini (2B, 1990-97; 2000): "Has to be seeing Mike Ryan catch a ball dropped from a helicopter. I know I couldn't have done that."
Bob Oldis (C, 1962-63; CH, 1964-66): "I was with the Washington Senators for opening day in 1953-54-55-56. The President threw out the first ball each year. We'd fight for the ball and the winner would get the President to autograph it. I never got that honor."
Dan Plesac (LHP, 2002-03): "1987 at County Stadium. During player introductions, my name was called by the PA announcer. I bolted out when I heard my name, tripped on the top step of the dugout and did a face plant right on the warning track gravel. In the process, I scraped up my hands, thrashed my uniform pants and felt like a complete DORK!!!"
Ray Rippelmeyer (CH, 1970-78): "My most memorable opening day was 1962, my first day in the major leagues. I was in Washington, DC, to open the new DC Stadium and President Kennedy threw out the first pitch."
Mike Schmidt (3B, 1972-89): "I have two memorable opening days....1974, a game-winning, walk-off home run off Tug McGraw of the Mets. 10 years later, I remember hitting a home run on my first swing in Atlanta."
Kevin Sefcik (INF/OF, 1995-2000): "It had to be 2000, my last opener with the Phillies. We were in Arizona and faced Randy Johnson. I got to start in right field, the only time I was ever in the starting lineup on opening day. It was an honor to get introduced with the starters. We lost the game and I was hitless in three at-bats."
Kevin Stocker (SS, 1993-97): "My most memorable moment wasn't on opening day but my very first game in the big leagues. We beat the Dodgers in 20 innings at the Vet."
Del Unser (OF, 1973-74; 1979-82; CH, 1985-88): "Playing with the Washington Senators, all the Presidential openers in Washington D.C. in the late 60's. Also, getting our 1980 World Series rings in the 1981 home opener."
Eric Valent (OF, 2001-02): "My most memorable opening day was 2005 when I was with the Mets. I was only part of major league opening days twice in my career, but this one was special because I was in the starting lineup. My final line, 0-3, with a walk. The excitement that goes with the start of a season, either in the minor or majors, is a special moment and something I'll never forget. Opening day remains a special time for me and I look forward to sharing future openers with my kids."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.