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A look at MLB's most memorable homecomings

@DKramer_
April 2, 2019

More often than not, homecomings in baseball elicit applause, evoke memories of yesteryear and generally establish a positive atmosphere. Relationships between fans and players, who might have become separated due to trades, free agency or other extenuating circumstances, are rekindled, often for the good. Here is a look at a

More often than not, homecomings in baseball elicit applause, evoke memories of yesteryear and generally establish a positive atmosphere. Relationships between fans and players, who might have become separated due to trades, free agency or other extenuating circumstances, are rekindled, often for the good.

Here is a look at a few notable homecomings of recent and distant memory -- the good, bad and in between -- as well as a highly anticipated homecoming early in the 2019 season.

Bryce Harper, April 2, 2019
Stats: 3-5, HR, 2 2B, 3 RBIs, 2 K's

Harper put on a show for the hometown Phillies fans at Citizens Bank Park during Opening Weekend, crushing a pair of big home runs in Philadelphia's sweep of the Braves. Then the $330 million man returned to where it all began as a 19-year-old in 2012. Harper spent the first seven seasons of his career in Washington, winning the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year Award and the '15 NL MVP Award along the way, before signing his record-breaking free-agent contract to play in Philadelphia for the next 13 years.

Harper was greeted with boos as he came to the plate and when he trotted out to the field during the Nationals' half innings. Harper struck out in his first two at-bats against Max Scherzer. But he broke through in the fifth, knocking a double. Then in the sixth inning, Harper laced a two-out double to left field off Matt Grace to plate Jean Segura, tacking on the final of four Phillies runs in the inning. But the real reintroduction to D.C. came in the top of the eighth, when he hit a two-run home run to extend the Phillies' lead. The 458-foot homer was his fifth longest tracked by Statcast (since 2015) and makes him the first player this season with three home runs with at least a 110 mph exit velocity.

And yes, Harper did his bow in the outfield -- which has become a signature already in Philadelphia -- at a road park for the first time.

Justin Verlander, September 10, 2018
Stats: 7 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 10 K's, 1 BB

Verlander, perhaps the greatest pitcher in Detroit's rich franchise history, returned to Comerica Park 13 months after making his final start in a Tigers uniform, and was warmly welcomed to a video tribute on the scoreboard and a standing ovation as he took the mound. Verlander spent 13 seasons in Detroit, led the Tigers to a pair of American League pennants and won the AL Cy Young Award and MVP Award in 2011, when he won the Triple Crown by leading the league in wins (24), strikeouts (250) and ERA (2.40).

"Walking in from the bullpen, I'm usually pretty focused and in my zone," Verlander said. "They started playing the tribute video and I couldn't help but stop and look at it and just take a minute and just be out there with the fans and appreciate some moments that we shared together the last 13 years."

In his return, Verlander struck out 10 over seven innings, leading the Astros to a 3-2 win. More >

Andrew McCutchen, May 11, 2018
Stats: 1-for-5, 1 2B

Just four months after being traded to the Giants, McCutchen reeturned to PNC Park to a wildly positive reception in front of a packed house of more than 34,000. As he stepped to the plate, Cutch was greeted to a video tribute and a roaring ovation, at which point he tipped his helmet while Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli stood in front of the plate to let his former teammate bask in the moment. The entire Pirates outfield -- Sean Rodriguez, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco -- clapped along with the fans.

"Today might have been cooler than my debut, honestly," opposing pitcher Jameson Taillon said. "That reception and just seeing him up there was really cool. I've never been a part of something like that, so I didn't really know when it was time to step on the mound. I'm glad Cervelli knew what to do."

That night, McCutchen went 1-for-5 with two strikeouts as the Pirates ran away to an 11-2 win. More >

Chase Utley, August 16, 2016
Stats: 2-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBIs, 1 BB

Utley hit a solo homer and a grand slam for a 2016-high five RBIs in his first game back at Citizens Bank Park after spending parts of 13 seasons with the Phillies and helping them to back-to-back National League pennants in 2008-09, including a World Series title in '08. Nearly every player in both dugouts clapped for Utley as he was introduced by longtime Phillies PA announcer Dan Baker, and fans demanded a curtain call after each of his home runs. More >

Ken Griffey Jr., June 22, 2007
Stats: 1-for-5, 1 R

Because of scheduling quirks in Interleague Play, Griffey didn't formally return to Seattle to face his former team until he was in his eighth season with the Reds in 2007. During a special pregame ceremony, the Kid was greeted by Mariners brass and given a framed piece of memorabilia encapsulating some of his most memorable moments with the team he played 13 seasons for. At the plate, Griffey went just 1-for-5 with three strikeouts, but the Reds ran away to a 16-1 win.

"I had to take a couple of deep breaths during the ovations," Griffey said, per the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "It was touching, but I didn't want to start crying so I could go home and have my kids say, 'Daddy, you [were] a punk.'"

Mike Piazza, August 8, 2006
Stats: 1-for-4

Piazza didn't start his career with the Mets -- he was drafted and developed by the Dodgers -- but he was perhaps best remembered for his time in Queens, having gone into the Hall of Fame with the Mets in 2016. When he returned to Shea Stadium in '06 with the Padres, he was greeted warmly, and he tipped his helmet to acknowledge the crowd during his first at-bat. Piazza that night went 1-for-4 with a strikeout as the Mets won, 3-2. The next night was more memorable, as Piazza clubbed two homers.

Jim Thome, May 1, 2006
Stats: 1-for-5, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB

Thome left the Tribe after the '02 season and signed a six-year, $85 million contract with the Phillies, but he didn't return to Cleveland until the '06 campaign when he was a member of the White Sox, who acquired the eventual Hall of Famer in a trade. Thome was "lustily booed" by the Cleveland faithful in his first game back, according to The New York Times, as the White Sox won, 8-6, and Thome went 1-for-5.

Tom Glavine, May 24, 2003
Stats: 3 1/3 IP, 6 R, 8 H, 0 K's, 2 BB

Glavine's decision to part with the Braves for a contract that included more dollars and years from the Mets left many fans in Atlanta angry. He was greeted with a rumble of boos during warmups in his first start back, though fans did give him an ovation just before first pitch. It was perhaps the one bright spot in an otherwise rough afternoon for Glavine, as the Braves pounced on him for six earned runs on eight hits, forcing the Mets to go to the bullpen in the fourth inning.

Tim Raines, June 10, 1998
Stats: 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB

Raines left Montreal after the '93 season to sign with the White Sox in free agency, and because of Interleague Play, he didn't return to Olympic Stadium until June 1998, when he was with the Yankees. That afternoon, Raines batted sixth and went 1-for-3 with an RBI.

Bret Saberhagen, May 8, 1998
Stats: 6 IP, 3 R, 7 H, 3 K's, 0 BB

Saberhagen led the Red Sox to a 14-3 win over the Royals in his return to Kansas City more than six years after he left. For the Royals, Saberhagen played parts of eight seasons and won two AL Cy Young Awards.

Roger Clemens, July 12, 1997
Stats: 8 IP, 1 R, 4 H, 16 K's, 0 BB

Clemens had made 190 starts at Fenway Park from 1984-96 as a member of the Red Sox, but on a warm night in 1997, in his first season with the Blue Jays, the Rocket pitched there for the first time in a visiting uniform. Clemens went on to strike out 16, which set a Blue Jays record at the time. As he departed following his 114th pitch at the end of the eighth inning, Clemens received a standing ovation from a crowd that had booed him earlier that afternoon.

"It was a special day. It was a beautiful day" Clemens said, per The New York Times. "It was a typical summer-in-Boston day."

Barry Bonds, April 9, 1993
Stats: 2-for-4, 1 3B, 1 2B, 3 R, 1 RBI

Bonds, whose Pirates tenure was at times had rift, wasn't greeted very warmly in his return to Three Rivers Stadium after signing with the Giants the offseason prior. According to the Times, former teammate Andy Van Slyke likened Bonds' return to former President George Bush returning during the Bill Clinton era. Bonds was loudly booed as he took the field, and he finished the night with a double and triple as the Giants fell, 6-5.

Greg Maddux, April 5, 1993
Stats: 8 1/3 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 4 K's, 3 BB

The Mad Dog had no overlap between starts at Wrigley Field from his last outing with the Cubs and first with the Braves, whom he had joined the offseason prior via a blockbuster free-agent signing. Atlanta opened the '93 season in Chicago, and Maddux was its prized new possession, making the first impression of what wound up being an NL Cy Young Award-winning season. That day at Wrigley, where boos rained down on Maddux, the Hall of Famer didn't allow a runner past second base.

Wade Boggs, May 21, 1993
Stats: 4-for-4, 1 BB

Boggs had known his 11-year run with the Red Sox was coming to an end after the '92 season, and despite a less-than-clean departure, he was received well in his return to Fenway Park the following May with the Yankees. Boggs, who tipped his helmet to the cheering crowd during his first at-bat, went 4-for-4 that afternoon, helping toward his career .369 average at Fenway, which remains the highest among any player who had at least 100 at-bats there.

Darryl Strawberry, May 7, 1991
Stats: 1-for-4, 1 HR, 2 RBIs, 1 BB

From 1983-90, the span of Strawberry's stint with the Mets, no Mets player hit more homers at Shea Stadium than the 123 clubbed by the eight-time All-Star and the former Mets' No. 1 overall Draft pick. And when Strawberry returned the following season after signing a five-year deal with the Dodgers, he did so in trademark fashion, slamming a two-run homer over the left-center-field wall in the sixth inning that ended Frank Viola's shutout.

"It was nice to be back in that atmosphere -- cheers, boos," Strawberry said, per the Times. "It's the way they are. I feel no bitterness toward them. A lot of people in the course of the night said a lot of nice things."

Vida Blue, June 21, 1982
Stats: 7 IP, 4 R, 4 H, 5 K's, 6 BB

Blue took the loss in his return to Oakland giving up four earned runs on four hits and six walks over seven innings. It had been five years since he had pitched at the Coliseum, a venue in which he established himself as one of the most dominant left-handers of his era. Over parts of nine seasons with the A's, Blue won the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards, both in 1971, and helped the club to three World Series titles.

Rollie Fingers, May 9, 1981
Stats: 2/3 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 1 K, 0 BB

Fingers was a four-time All-Star with the A's, but he put together his best season in '81, his first with the Brewers. That year, the eventual Hall of Famer won the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards while posting a career-best 1.04 ERA. Yet his campaign wouldn't be remembered for his return to the Coliseum, where he was credited with his first blown save of the season.

Don Sutton, April 11, 1981
Stats: 4 IP, 6 R, 8 H, 3 K's, 3 BB

A stalwart in the Dodgers' rotation who was the bridge of sorts in the post-Sandy Koufax era, Sutton signed with the Astros after 15 seasons in Los Angeles, yet wound up making his first start with his new team in familiar confines at Dodger Stadium -- and he received a rude welcome back, as the Dodgers pegged Sutton for six earned runs.

Rod Carew, April 17, 1979
Stats: 1-for-4

After establishing himself as a Hall of Fame candidate over 12 seasons with the Twins -- during each of which he was named an All-Star -- Carew was shipped to Anaheim just two months ahead of the '79 season. Due to scheduling, he wound up facing his former teammates six times in the Angels' first 13 games, going 9-for-21. In his first game back in Minnesota, Carew batted third and went 1-for-4 as the Halos won, 6-0.

Reggie Jackson, July 5, 1976
Stats: 1-for-2, 2 BB

Well before he became Mr. October, Jackson put together nine seasons with the A's that ended with the league's onset of free agency. One week before Opening Day in '76, Jackson was traded by A's owner Charlie Finley to the Orioles, and Jackson refused to play at first due to disagreements over his salary. Jackson eventually suited up in the 17th game of the year, and later returned to Oakland for a four-game series that July, going 5-for-12 with six walks. It would be the Hall of Famer's lone season in Baltimore, as Jackson signed with the Yankees that November.

Eddie Collins, June 17, 1915
Stats: 3-for-3, 2 2B, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 2 SB

After the A's lost to the "Miracle Braves" in the 1914 World Series, the club sold Collins, the reigning AL MVP Award winner to the White Sox, ending (or putting on hold) an iconic career that included three championships and four AL pennants over the previous five seasons. He returned to Shibe Park for the first time the following June and went 3-for-3, though the South Siders fell to the A's, 3-0.

Collins went on to win a World Series with Chicago in 1917 and stayed with the club for a productive 12 seasons, even serving as a player-manager toward the end of his tenure. After he was released in 1926, Collins reunited with the A's and capped his career in '39 as part of the Hall of Fame's first induction ceremony.

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.