03/22/12 2:00 PM ET
Alumni share fondest memories of Opening Day
By Larry Shenk / Philadelphia Phillies
"Getting my first hit off Ken Holtzman, something I will never forget."
Marty Bystrom (RHP, 1980-84)
"Seeing 'Irish' Mike Ryan catch a ball dropped from a helicopter. Still don't know how he did it."
Steve Carlton (LHP, 1972-86)
"Losing to Tom Seaver at Shea Stadium in a game that took 1 hour, 48 minutes."
Larry Christenson (RHP, 1973-83)
"April 6, 1973, at Shea Stadium in New York, Steve Carlton vs. Tom Seaver. I was 19 years old and the youngest player in the Majors. Willie Mays was in the Mets dugout as a player and at the end of a great career. Seaver struck out eight and beat Carlton in a very close game. I was on the front step as close to home plate as possible and remember the explosive fastballs from each of them on a cool, dark night lit by the lights at Shea. I was scheduled to pitch in Game 2 against [Jerry] Koosman on Saturday night but got rained out. They held me back until a game against the Mets, Friday, April 13. I won my debut, pitching a complete game."
Jim Eisenreich (OF, 1993-96)
"My first Opening Day was 1982 with the Twins in the first regular-season game ever played in the Metrodome. Some 30-plus family member and friends were there. I grew up an hour north of Minneapolis so it was a very special day in many ways, even though I was hitless in three at-bats."
Terry Francona (MGR, 1997-2000)
"While with the Reds, hitting a home run in 1987 off Floyd Youmans of the Expos, my former team."
Jim Fregosi (MGR, 1991-96)
"Hitting a home run on Opening Day off Milwaukee's Marty Patton."
Dallas Green (RHP, 1960-64; 1967; MGR 1979-81)
"There are two special memories: my first opener as the Phillies manager in 1980 and then receiving our World Series rings the following year."
Tommy Greene (RHP, 1990-95)
"Being in the bullpen in San Francisco. All the relievers were cramped in the little box in left field, reminded me of a chicken coop."
Kevin Gross (RHP, 1983-88)
"My first full year with the Phillies. As a rookie, it was just a great feeling to be part of a team with such great veteran players."
Terry Harmon (INF, 1967; 1969-77)
"Getting a hit in my very first at-bat in the Major Leagues. That was quite a thrill."
Dave Hollins (3B, 1990-95; 2002)
"I was pinch-hitting against the Cubs and hit a scorcher up the middle that looked like a sure hit but [Ryne] Sandberg made an unbelievable diving stop and nailed me at first base."
Ricky Jordan (1B, 1988-94)
"Being in the starting lineup for the 1989 opener at the Vet and hearing the loud cheers for me."
Jim Kaat (LHP, 1976-79)
"Seeing President Eisenhower throw out the ceremonial first ball ... he threw it from his box into a crowd of us and coach Clyde McCullough caught it. That's one great memory. Another was in 1965 when I had to be helicoptered into Met Stadium in Bloomington because of floods in the area. Wound up pitching nine innings against the Yankees, a game we won in 10 innings, 5-4.
Frank Lucchesi (MGR, 1970-72)
"Well, I have two great memories from Opening Day and both were with the Phillies. 1970 at Connie Mack Stadium, after 21 years in the Minor Leagues, I was finally in the Major Leagues as a manager. Very emotional day. Then, 1971, the first game ever played in Veterans Stadium. Both hold a very special place in my heart."
Greg Luzinski (OF, 1970-80)
"1972, a nervous rookie in Chicago, in front of my family. Hit a home run off Fergie Jenkins and we won, 4-2."
Tim McCarver (C 1970-72; 1975-80)
"My very first Opening Day with the Cardinals was not a fond memory. ... I was on the bench."
Mickey Morandini (2B, 1990-97; 2000)
"Has to be Mike Ryan catching a ball dropped from a helicopter at the Vet."
Bruce Ruffin (LHP, 1986-91)
"Being there for the first Opening Day in Coors Field."
Dick Ruthven (RHP, 1973-75; 1978-83)
"As a nervous rookie, throwing strikes on my first two pitches is something I remember the most."
Ryne Sandberg (1981)
"I made the Cubs Opening Day lineup at third base in Cincinnati. Going to home plate and seeing Johnny Bench behind the plate was a thrill."
Mike Schmidt (3B, 1972-89)
"First game of the 1974 season, I hit a game-winning, two-run home run with one out in the last of the ninth inning to beat the Mets and Tug McGraw, 5-4. Later, Tug became a teammate and a very good friend. We shared a lot of rides to the Vet from our suburban Philly homes."
Kevin Stocker (SS, 1993-97)
"Opening in Colorado in a snowstorm. Wearing two pair of batting gloves for warmth. Perhaps not my fondest but certainly the most memorable."
Kent Tekulve (RHP, 1985-88)
"The size of the crowd, the excitement and optimistic attitude about what the season could bring."
Del Unser (OF, 1973-74; 1979-82; CH, 1985-88)
"Has to be my first hit, a line-drive single to left in my third at-bat."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.