A KC Royals Opening Day scrapbook

The most memorable Opening Days in a writer's baseball life.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
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1988: George Bell rocks Bret Saberhagen, makes history

The Royals locked me in as a fan for life when they made their run to the 1985 World Championship. I was only six, and as excited as I was for the return of baseball in 1986, nothing about Opening Day that season lodged in my memory; perhaps I scrubbed the disappointing '86 season from my consciousness. However, 1987 was far better — the Royals finished only two games out of first ... but I don't recall anything of that Opening Day, either.

The first Opening Day I vividly remember is 1988, but not for pleasant reasons. It was a gut shot.

Kansas City opened at then-Royals Stadium against Toronto. Much like the Twins and White Sox in recent years, the Blue Jays were regular Opening Day opponents for the Royals, and a minor rivalry had developed after the 1985 American League Championship Series.

Bret Saberhagen started for KC; unfortunately, 1988 was an even-numbered year and Saberhagen had a reputation for being dominant in odd years, and injury-prone and inconsistent in even years. He finished 14-16 with a 3.80 ERA in 1988, a performance today's Royals would welcome, but it was a down year by his standards and George Bell made sure he got off to a rough start.

Bell became the first player in major league history to hit three home runs on Opening Day, tagging Saberhagen with shots to the left field stands in the second, fourth, and eighth innings. Even so, Saberhagen put up a valiant effort, going eight innings and striking out seven, but Toronto won 5-3.

On the bright side, George Brett gave the Royals an early lead with a two-run homer in the first.