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3 HRs on Opening Day? Only 4 have done it

Davidson is latest to achieve feat, joining Bell, Rhodes, Young
MLB.com @MannyOnMLB and @mattkellyMLB

When it comes to three-homer games, fans tend to remember the ones that happened at the end of the season. Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval all come to mind for their tater trios in World Series play.

But it may surprise you to learn that only four players have enjoyed a three-homer game on Opening Day. The list, in fact, only consisted of three players before Thursday's Opening Day of the 2018 season, proving it can be just as difficult to enjoy a career day in frosty April as it is under the bright lights of the postseason.

When it comes to three-homer games, fans tend to remember the ones that happened at the end of the season. Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval all come to mind for their tater trios in World Series play.

But it may surprise you to learn that only four players have enjoyed a three-homer game on Opening Day. The list, in fact, only consisted of three players before Thursday's Opening Day of the 2018 season, proving it can be just as difficult to enjoy a career day in frosty April as it is under the bright lights of the postseason.

Below are the stories of those three players who homered not once, not twice, but three times on Opening Day to get their seasons off to a very strong start.

Matt Davidson, White Sox vs. Royals on March 29, 2018

Davidson belted solo homers in the fourth and fifth innings, then swatted a three-run shot in the eighth inning in Chicago's 14-7 victory over Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium. His first homer left the bat with an exit velocity of 115.1 mph according to Statcast™, and traveled a projected 435 feet. It landed just in front of the fountains in left-center field.

The second homer left the bat at 114 mph and traveled a projected 426 feet, this time into the fountains in left. The third homer had an exit velocity of 113.9 mph, a 376-foot liner over the left-field wall. Each home run was hit off a different pitcher: the first came off a 91-mph fastball from left-hander Danny Duffy, the second on an 86-mph slider from right-hander Blaine Boyer, and the third on an 85-mph slider from left-hander Brian Flynn.

With the prodigious power display, Davidson became the first player with three 110-plus-mph home runs in the same game since Statcast™ began tracking in 2015. The average exit velocity on the trio of dingers was 114.3 mph, and the total projected distance was a combined 1,237 feet.

Davidson's power surge to begin the season didn't come out of nowhere. He hit 26 homers while slashing .220/.260/.452 in 118 games as a rookie for the White Sox in 2017.

Video: TOR@KC: George Bell's three homers on Opening Day

George Bell, Blue Jays vs. Royals on April 4, 1988

Bell, the reigning American League MVP coming off a 47-homer season, was penciled in as the designated hitter in Kansas City. That was manager Jimy Williams' decision to move Bell out of the outfield for 1988, and one Bell vehemently and publicly disagreed with throughout Spring Training. So on Opening Day, Toronto's new DH unleashed his frustration and belted three dingers off Royals ace Bret Saberhagen -- a two-time Cy Young Award winner who couldn't get anything past Bell that afternoon.

"He hit two fastballs and a curve," Saberhagen's catcher, Mike MacFarlane, told The Toronto Star after the game. "The first one was a fastball up and in and he tomahawked it. The second was breaking ball down and away, and he golfed it with one arm. The third was a fastball in and he turned on it."

Bell did indeed drive in four of the Blue Jays' runs in a 5-3 victory, and he followed up with a 5-for-5 performance in Game No. 2. It was about everything a Toronto fan could ask from Bell as an MVP encore.

"This guy [Bell] won the game by himself," teammate Tom Henke raved after the Opening Day win. "The guy is amazing."

Video: NYM@CHC: Rhodes blasts three homers against the Mets

Tuffy Rhodes, Cubs vs. Mets on April 4, 1994

Four hits -- including three homers against Dwight Gooden -- in four at-bats.

Yeah, that's the kind of start Rhodes got off to in a career day at Wrigley Field. Rhodes is perhaps known better for the 464 home runs he hit in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league, and the three taters he blasted on Opening Day 1994 represented nearly a quarter of the total home runs (13) he would finish with in the Major Leagues.

"The Mets did not know much about Karl [Tuffy] Rhodes when he came to the plate this afternoon at Wrigley Field, the first Chicago batter of the season," wrote Jennifer Frey in her recap for The New York Times. "They knew he had hit a lot of home runs in the minor leagues last year, had bounced around a bit before that and had played a bunch of games with the Astros over four years in the Houston organization.

"Obviously, though, they did not know how to get him out."

Rhodes had hit 30 home runs in Triple-A the season before, but his reputation coming up the ranks had been as a speed threat. That reputation changed on the North Side of Chicago -- if only for a few days -- after Rhodes' huge opener.

"I'm not a home run hitter," the Cubs' new slugger told reporters afterward. "I'm just here to hit line drives and get on base."

Rhodes hit another three home runs that April, but that's where the power surge concluded. The outfielder finished 1994 with eight homers and a .387 slugging percentage over 95 games, and played just one more big league season before making a name for himself overseas.

"The only way it would have been better would have been if we had won the game," said Rhodes' manager, Tom Trebelhorn. Yes, the Cubs got three homers from Tuffy Rhodes and somehow still lost that Opening Day contest, 12-8, to the Mets.

Video: KC@DET: Young hits three homers in Tigers home opener

Dmitri Young, Tigers vs. Royals on April 4, 2005

"That's the best Opening Day I've ever seen anyone have."

That was the praise given to Young by none other than Mr. Tiger himself, Hall of Famer Al Kaline, after Detroit's slugger smacked three homers and reached base in all five trips to the plate in an 11-2 win at Comerica Park. Tigers fans who had seen their club languish in the American League Central cellar for years were more than happy to give Young a rousing ovation after dinger No. 3.

"I've had a curtain call before, but not like this," said Young. "This is incredible."

Young did not hit a single homer in Spring Training, evidently saving his power for the first game that counted. He retrieved the third home run ball and sent it to his mother in California, and told the press that he hit one homer for each of his three children. Young had proclaimed a month before the season that his team was "the Tigers, not the kittens," and perhaps his big day was a small turning point. While Detroit finished the 2005 season 20 games below .500, they would pull together an astonishing 24-game turnaround the following season en route to the AL pennant.

But the Detroit faithful stood by their team even during the tough times. A record crowd of 44,105 were in attendance for Opening Day 2005, when Young enjoyed "one of those unconscious days," in his words.

"That was a great day," said Royals manager Tony Pena said. "Good for him. Bad for us."

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

Chicago White Sox, Matt Davidson