The way Tuffy Rhodes played for the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day 1994 it made you think he was going to become a household name. In America, you were wrong.
Today should have been baseball opening day, and the Chicago Cubs should be playing in Milwaukee to open the season. Unfortunately, there are no games on the slate for today, so we must reminisce about opening days of the past. How about 1994 and the display of power put on by Tuffy Rhodes.
Prior to the 1994 MLB season, Rhodes had seen time in parts of four major league seasons, but never had played more than 44 games in one season. The Cubs gave him the centerfield job and handed him the leadoff spot in the batting order.
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The New York Mets were in town to kick off the season and Dwight Gooden got the call as the starting pitcher. Tuffy Rhodes greeted him with a deep drive to center in the first inning, for the team’s first home run of the year.
Ah, Wrigley Field with no ivy on the walls. What a sight.
The next time up Rhodes hit the ball almost as deep, to left-center for his second home run of the day. Leading off the fifth inning, he did it again.
Three at-bats against Doc, three home runs.
For good measure, Rhodes added a base hit in the ninth to complete his day 4-4 with three home runs. The first time in the game’s long history a National League player had hit three home runs on opening day.
As for the game, the Cubs pitching was terrible and the eight runs the offense scored for them was far from enough. The Mets went on to win 12-8.
As for Rhodes, opening day was pretty much the highlight of his year. He was the regular centerfielder for the season and hit leadoff, but the power he exhibited day one, wasn’t sustainable.
He finished the year with eight home runs and a .234 batting average. Rhodes split the next season between the Chicago Cubs, Boston Red Sox, and Triple-A Pawtucket, and that was it for his American baseball exploits.
We would not hear the last from Tuffy Rhodes however. He signed to play in Japan and went out and hit home runs in gargantuan amounts until he stopped playing in 2009 at the age of 40. Thirteen years in Japan, 464 Japanese home runs!
All those home runs in Japan, yet for Americans, his opening day trifecta may be the most memorable part of Tuffy Rhodes’ legacy.