Facing Bucs sparks memories for Francona

Manager grew up near Pittsburgh, appreciates city

Facing Bucs sparks memories for Francona

PITTSBURGH -- Before 10 years as a Major League player and 13 managerial seasons, Terry Francona recalls spending Opening Day in the seats of old Three Rivers Stadium.

"My mom would let me out on Opening Day when I was old enough drive," Francona said while sitting in the away dugout of PNC Park.

A native of New Brighton, Pa. -- just 30 miles outside Pittsburgh -- Francona followed the Pirates closely as a teenager.

To this day, the 56-year-old enjoys seeing the franchise have success -- even though that feeling dissipates as he manages the Indians for their three-game series against the Pirates.

"For the next three days, I hope they stink," Francona said. "Other than that, I'm thrilled, and I'm really proud."

As a youngster, Francona remembers listening to former Pirates radio broadcaster Bob Prince call games, chronicling the likes of Willie Stargell and Manny Sanguillen.

That made things a little surreal for Francona when he broke into the league as a player in 1981 and met Stargell.

In Francona's playing career, Chuck Tanner, Pittsburgh's manager from 1977 to 1985, hosted him at Three Rivers every winter. Francona said Tanner would let him take batting practice in the cages.

Tanner would even have a gift for the then-first baseman and outfielder.

"He'd always have a pair of black spikes with gold on them," Francona said with a laugh. "Those are memories."

That doesn't mean Francona will manage differently in his quasi-homecoming. Some of those feelings he had as a teenager will still surface after the series, though.

"We have to win," Francona said, "but it doesn't mean you're any less fond of the city or the people."

John McGonigal is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.