Saturday, August 30, 2014



"715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715! 715!"

(April 8, 1974)

The 1974 baseball season was all about Hank Aaron besting Babe Ruth's career home run record of 714. Hank had been a model of home run consistency throughout his career. He never had a 60 home run season like Ruth. Never even had a 50 home run season like Mantle or Mays. But he did have eight 40 home run seasons and fifteen 30 home run seasons on his way to the record.

Of course, the drama of his reaching 714 really began heating up during the '73 season when Hank hit 40 to reach 713. We had to wait the entire off-season for him to begin the chase again. One problem was the first series of the season was at Cincinnati and everyone in Atlanta wanted him to break the record at home. The Braves wanted to limit Aaron's playing time the series with the Reds, but the commissioner forced the Braves to play him in two of the games in the "best interest of baseball." Aaron's first at-bat of the season was a three-run homer off of Jack Billingham on April 4th to tie the record. He get another hit in that game and had the next day off. In the final game in Cincy on April 7th, Aaron went hitless, so he was stuck on 714 and coming to Atlanta.

There was a big media gathering at Atlanta Stadium on April 8th in anticipation of the home run. The game was actually televised in Atlanta! The first home game televised locally. So everything was set up. But what if Hank didn't hit a home run that night? But it was all ready. It just had to be. It really seemed like the night.

In Aaron's first at-bat, he faced the Dodgers Al Downing and drew a walk (boo!). He came up again against Downing in the fourth and got a pitch to hit and didn't disappoint. He lined the ball over the left field fence despite the efforts of the Dodger's left fielder Bill Buckner to haul it in. The ball landed in the bullpen and Braves reliever Tom House presented the ball back to Aaron. As baseball memories go, it's certainly at the top of the heap for me.

The picture at the top of this page was taken by my brother Randy Cox, who was covering the game for The Valley Times News in Lanett, Alabama.

This season was the last for Hank Aaron in a Braves uniform. Truly the end of an era.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014




(June 13, 1973)

I seriously doubt that any other fan would rate this as their favorite all-time game, but I remember at the time that this game seemed magical to me. The Braves just kept on scoring! And against the tough Pirates and former World Series heroes Dock Ellis and Steve Blass!

Braves pitcher Ron Reed gave up a three-run homer to the Pirates' Rich Hebner in the fourth whic gave the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Then the Brave deluge started. Darrell Evans hit a grand slam in the fourth. Marty Perez and Reed knocked in runs that same inning! But it didn't stop there. Ace pinch hitter Frank "The Brooklyn Basher" Tepedino came in during the middle of the game and knocked a pair of two run singles and Reed ended up with four RBI's as well. 

When the smoke cleared, the Braves had won 18-3. I remember listening to every pitch on the radio and wondering why all games couldn't be like that.

(August 5, 1973)

The Atlanta Braves had only one no-hitter pitched during the seventies (though Ron Schueler and Andy Messersmith came close) and appropriately it was hurled by the ace of the staff, Knuckleballer Phil Niekro. It also came against the one team that the Braves seemed to beat on a regular basis in the 70's, the Padres.

The game itself was never in doubt, which included a home run by catcher Paul Casanova and another two RBI's from the Brooklyn Basher, aka Frank Tepedino. 

Niekro only struck out four and walked only three, which wasn't too many in either category for a knuckleball pitcher who had his pitches really knuckling. But his defense came through for him, including a no-hitter saving play from reserve second baseman and Vietnam vet Chuck Goggin.

I remember listening to this game on the radio while my cousin was visiting during that summer and we became most excited as the later innings progressed. 

The Braves wouldn't pitch another no-hitter until 1991.

(September 8, 1973) 

When Hank Aaron was approaching Babe Ruth's home run record late in 1973, every home run seemed to be of historic importance. Here's a list:
700: July 21 off Ken Brett of Philadelphia
701: July 31 off Pedro Borbon of Cincinnati
702: August 16 off Jack Aker of Chicago
703: August 17 off Steve Renko of Montreal
704: August 18 off Steve Rogers of Montreal
705: August 22 off Reggie Cleveland of St. Louis
706: August 28 off Milt Pappas of Chicago
707: September 3 off Vincent Romo of San Diego
708: September 3 off Clay Kirby of San Diego
709: September 8 off Jack Billingham of Cincinnati
710: September 10 off Don Carrithers of San Francisco
711: September 17 off Randy Jones of San Diego
712: September 22 off Dave Roberts of Houston
713: September 29 off Jerry Reuss of Houston

A couple of them that stand out include number 700, where lucky fan Robert Winborne received 700 gold coins and a picture with Hank for his trouble.

Also of note was mumber 709 because I was at that game and included a rare ninth inning victory over the Big Red Machine. Aaron's home run was also his 36th for the season, but it was Dave Johnson's 39th in the bottom of the ninth that won the game. Joe Niekro was the winning pitcher, one of only five career wins for Phil's brother as a Brave.

Number 713 off Jerry Reuss put Hank within one of the Babe with one game left in the season. 

In his final game of the season, Hank had three hits, but they were all singles. 714 would have to wait until 1974. 

 (September 26, 1973) 

As someone who collected baseball cards, read Baseball Digest and Sports Illustrated during 1973, I was very interested in baseball records. Of course, Hank Aaron going after the all-time Home Run record was paramount, but there was another interesting home run record the Braves set in 1973. This marked the first time that three teammates hit 40 or more homers in the same season. Of course, Aaron was one and finished the year with 40. Darrell Evans hit 41 that year, the first time he had even exceeded 20 in one season. He would go on to have ten twenty-plus home run seasons on his way to 414 for his career. The odd duck of this trio was Dave Johnson, who hit more than both of them that year with 43. Though previously an all-star second baseman with Baltimore, he had never hit more than 18 home runs in a single season and never would again. I'm not sure what was sprinkled on top of Davey's Fruit Loops during the summer of '73, but it made for some great memories.

1973 was a strange year in the National league. The three best team were in the N. L. West (Reds, Dodgers and Giants) and the N. L. East struggled to have any team finish over .500. The Braves finished nine games under .500, which was good enough to finish only ahead of the Padres in the West. If they had been in the East, who knows? Braves vs. Reds in the playoffs? Dare to dream.

Sunday, August 10, 2014




(June 10. 1972)
June 11, 1972 Atlanta Journal
I still remember and have the headline for this game that Hank Aaron hit a grand slam to move into second on the all-time home run list ahead of Willie Mays. The Braves won the game 15-3. But I still remember the headline and the phrase "Weird Night in Philly." But I couldn't remember what was so weird about it, so I looked at the article by Ron Hudspeth.

Let's see: Paul Revere and the Raiders played before the game. A little weird, but not too weird.
$2000 were thrown onto the turf at Veteran's stadium and the sight of a nun scrambling for money caught Hudspeth as being a little weird. I admit that's a bit weird.

Earl Williams homers and doubles on the weird night in Philly.

Hank Aaron's home run struck Hudspeth as being weird because he had been in such a batting slump. It may have seemed weird at the time, but in retrospect, I would never call Aaron hitting a home run as weird. Tommie Aaron hitting a home run would be weird-not Hank.

Hudspeth also mentions that Phillie Don Money is not related to the money that the nun scrambled for.
He also says that the Phillies scored one of their runs when Mike Lum fell on the seat of this pants when trying to throw home to get Tim McCarver. He mentioned McCarver "could have scored in a covered wagon."

Note: I miss Ron Hudspeth.



(July 25, 1972)

The first all-star game I remember watching was the 1971 game where the American League defeated the National League 6-4 at Tiger Stadium and included the participation of twenty-one (by my unofficial count) future hall of famers. The '71 game was also different in that the American League won for the first time in eight years.

The 1972 game was a big deal for a young Braves fan because it was at Atlanta-Fulton County stadium. The collection of talent for this game wasn't too bad either. The National League had bigger than life sluggers (Willie Mays, Johnny Bench, Willie Stargell) going against the American League larger than life sluggers (Reggie Jackson, Brooks Robinson, Dick Allen) and featured Bob Gibson starting for the National League against Jim Palmer for the National League. Rod Carew knocked in a run in the third to give the A. L a 1-0 lead.

But the big moment of the game for Braves fans happened in the bottom of the sixth when Hank Aaron blasted a two-run homer off Gaylord Perry (who Hank also hit his 600th career home run off of) to give the National League a 2-1 lead. The American League took a 3-2 lead when Cookie Rojas homered off of Bill Stoneman (a rather odd All-Star combination). The National League tied the game off of Wilbur Wood in the 9th and Joe Morgan hit a memorable game winning double to score Nate Colbert off of Dave McNally in the 10th to win the game. The National League didn't lose an all-star game for another ten years.

The only All-Star game ever played in Atlanta Stadium was a good one.


More from 1972: Newspaper clippings

During 1971 and 1972, I kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from the Atlanta Journal and Atlanta Constitution sports pages. Looking back at the yellowing clippings today, I find that some of the articles I still remember. Remember when the Braves thought about moving Hank Aaron to third base? (I can't either)

Remember the proposed Mike Lum for Ken Holtzman trade? How would that have affected the upcoming Oakland A's dynasty? Another article on this page has the Braves voting in favor of changing baseball's playoffs to have a wild-card team. And this was 1971!

How about the Rico Carty for Rick Wise trade? How about reports from the farm team where I didn't know what a farm team was until I read a particular article about it in 1972. I remember the articles about the Braves being "Jinxed." (I think he was just in a batting slump, but you know how superstitious these players are.

Jesse Outlar and Furman Bisher were the chief sports writers for the Sports pages those days as well as Ron Hudspeth and Baldy the cartoonist whose most memorable caricature below depicts Hank Aaron moving ahead of Willie Mays on the all-time home run list.

And then there were the pictures... 

(I always like this one of Ralph Garr running to first base while Pirate Bob Johnson writhes in agony.)

And the promos...

Channel 2 sporadically televised some road Braves game with announcers Milo Hamilton and Ernie Johnson.
(And hey! The Orioles traded Frank Robinson, but he'll always be an Oriole to me.)

 And the little newspaper box that promoted the games with the screaming Indian.

And if the Braves won the previous night, the next days Atlanta Constitution would have a smiling Indian. If they lost the night before, the Indian would be crying. I couldn't find a picture of this in my scrapbook or on the Internet, so I'll just finish this post with the most famous crying American Indian of the 70's.