Oct. 16 is a day others are supposed to give gifts to Bryce Harper. But instead, the birthday boy gave the Phillies and their fans the early present.
Harper launched a first-inning home run to extend Philadelphia’s lead to 2-0, making baseball history as only the fourth player to hit a playoff home run on their birthday. Harper made the day a little more special later by adding an RBI single, scoring Trea Turner in the bottom of the third.
Harper made sure to blow out the candles on his 31st birthday early, counting three fingers before blowing them out as he crossed home plate.
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Before the game, Harper had said he was excited about the chance to play on his birthday.
“A Game 1 win would be awesome,” Harper said. “That’s what you want any time you’re in your own ballpark and doing that. I’ve always wanted to do this, so I’m excited to have the opportunity and the chance to do it.”
Previously, the only three players to have hit playoff home runs on their birthday were Willie Aikens, Evan Longoria and Kolten Wong. Aiken hit two home runs in the Royals’ first game of the 1980 World Series on Oct. 14 — those coming against the Phillies.
Longoria, then with the Rays, hit a home run on Oct. 7 in the 2013 ALDS against the Red Sox. Wong helped out the Cardinals by hitting a homer against the Cubs in the 2015 NLDS.
This was the only time in Harper’s career he has played on his birthday. The Nationals had been stopped in the NLDS during their playoff runs with Harper, and during the Phillies’ 2022 World Series run, the team was off on Oct. 16.