December 5, 2013
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Thursday, July 12, 2012
50 years ago today, Hank Aaron, among other things, had one of the greatest moments in his career, belting perhaps the most clutch of his 755 career home runs. And not only was it a clutch shot, but Aaron’s blast helped brother Tommie Aaron and him jointly make a bit of baseball history.
On July 12, 1962 the Milwaukee Braves hosted the St. Louis Cardinals in County Stadium, and it began with a thud for the home team. Starting pitcher Bob Hendley didn’t even survive the first innings, as the Cardinals bounced on him for three runs and the early lead.
From that point on, St. Louis just put it on cruise control, as they led throughout. Occasionally the Braves would rally to tighten the difference, but St. Louis would just score another run or two to preserve their lead.
Entering the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals had a 6-3 advantage, and were en route to a seemingly mundane and forgettable midsummer victory. But if that were what happened, you probably wouldn’t be reading about it 50 years later, now would you?
Cardinals' star pitcher Larry Jackson, aiming for a complete game victory, started things well for himself in the ninth by striking out Frank Bolling to leadoff the inning. Milwaukee was just two outs from dismal defeat—and with the pitcher’s slot in the order due up.
Well, you can’t have the pitcher bat in a situation like this, so Milwaukee sent up a rookie to pinch-hit: Tommie Aaron, the kid brother of superstar Hank. Though never the talent of his brother, Tommie Aaron was about to have his moment, launching a pinch-hit home run to make the game 6-4.
Immediately afterwards, shortstop Roy McMillan singled to put the tying run at the plate. That was it for Larry Jackson, as the team called on relief ace Lindy McDaniel to put out the fire.
Normally McDaniel was a good man to call on from the bullpen. Normally. Today wouldn’t be normal. He allowed a single, and then walked a batter to load the bases. Now the tying run was in scoring position and the winning run on first. And the cleanup hitter was coming up.
And you can guess who the Braves cleanup hitter would be, right?
Yeah, it was Hank Aaron. And 50 years ago today, for the first and only time in his career, he connected for that coolest of all home runs: a walk-off grand slam. Going by WPA, it was the third most clutch swing of Aaron’s career with a WPA of 0.674. Milwaukee won, 8-6, thanks for a five-run ninth in which the Aaron brothers drove in all the runs on a pair of homers.
It wasn’t the first time in history two brothers homered in the same inning, but it was damn rare. It hadn’t happened since the brothers Waner—Paul and Lloyd did it for the Pirates way back in 1938.
Tommie Aaron would never hit another pinch-hit homer, but a month later he would hit a walk-off home run of his own. In his 13 career homers, Tommie would nail two walk-offs, the second coming in 1970. Hank Aaron would have nine walk-offs, among his many homers. But he never again ended a game quite the way he did on July 12, 1962.
Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things.
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