50th anniversary: Hank Aaron’s walk-off grand slam

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.

Day-versaries

2,000 days since former pitcher and pitching coach Vern Ruhle dies.

4,000 days since the Twins trade outfielder (and former All-Star) Matt Lawton to the Mets for control pitching specialist Rick Reed.

4,000 days since the Pirates trade talented but injury prone pitcher Jason Schmidt to the Giants.

4,000 days since the Padres trade starting pitcher Sterling Hitchcock to the Yankees.

6,000 days since Hall of Fame outfielder Dave Winfield retires.

7,000 days since George Brett gets his 300th home run. In the same game, which is Royals versus Indians, Cleveland outfielder Albert Belle charges the mound, beginning a big brawl. He’ll get a three-game suspension for that

7,000 days since Paul Molitor enjoys his greatest game ever according to WPA. He’s 2-for-5 with a double, home run, and four RBIs as his Blue Jays top the Tigers, 6-5. Molitor has a WPA of 1.000.

8,000 days since Tino Martinez makes his big league debut.

9,000 days since the Dodgers sign amateur free agent pitcher Pedro Astacio.

20,000 days since the Yankees force a Game Seven in the 1957 World Series by defeating the Milwaukee Braves in Game Six, 3-2.

Anniversaries

1844 George Zettlein, star pitcher of the 1870s, is born.

1884 Sam Kimber of Brooklyn hits into the rare walk-off triple play in a game against St. Louis.

1888 Mickey Welch, a 300-game winner, allows his only walk-off home run. Paul Hines, one of the best batters of his generation, hits it.

1892 Alexander Cartwright, in Cooperstown as the inventor of baseball, dies at age 92.

1894 John Clarkson, arguably the best pitcher of the 1880s, plays in his last game.

1897 Kid Nichols, a 300-game winner and probably the best pitcher of the 1890s, hits an inside-the-park home run off his leading rival, Cy Young.

1897 Tom McCreery of Louisville hits three home runs in one game.

1899 It’s the big league debut for Hall of Fame pitcher Jack Chesbro.

1900 Noodles Hahn tosses a no-hitter: CIN 4, PHI 0. Hahn is one of the pitchers who had Hall of Fame talent but not Hall of Fame durability. The Phillies would lead the league in hits that year making this the eighth most impressive no-hitter ever. A half-century would pass until another pitcher no-hit a league’s top hit team.

1901 Cy Young wins his 300th game, a 7-3 victory for Boston over the A’s. He’s the seventh man to do so. Pud Galvin, Kid Nichols, John Clarkson, Old Hoss Radbourn, Mickey Welch, and Tim Keefe precede him to the club (though not necessarily in that order).

1904 George Mullin, who will pitch 382.1 IP this year for the Tigers, surrenders his only home run of the season. It’s an inside the park homer by Buck Freeman.

1907 Hall of Famer Roger Bresnahan returns to the diamond 24 days after a nasty beaning. As it happens, the first pitcher he faces is the same man who beaned him: Andy Coakle.

1911 A’s hurler Harry Krause needs to work on his pick-off move, as Ty Cobb steals second, third, and home on him on consecutive pitches.

1912 Connie Mack manages his 2,000th game as a skipper. He has a 1,130-833 record.

1913 Ty Cobb plays second base for the Tigers and makes three errors in five chances. The Detroit Free Press says he’s “the worst second baseman living or dead.”

1917 The Phillies select Johnny Evers off waivers from the Braves.

1919 Controversial starting pitcher Carl Mays says he’ll never pitcher for the Boston Red Sox again. He says, “I have pitched the best ball of my life, but I am not wining” and blames the team for his troubles.

1922 Cleveland gets 20 hits against Boston—all of them singles. It’s the most all-singles AL game since (at least) 1919. Cleveland wins, 11-7.

1923 Babe Ruth reaches base for the 50th consecutive game, his personal best.

1927 In a match-up of Hall of Famers, George Sisler gets the better of Red Ruffing, clocking a three-run walk-off home run.

1928 It may very well be baseball’s biggest battery ever when the Giants have 260-pound Garland Buckeye working with 250-pound catcher Shanty Hogan.

1929 The Tigers win a wild one, 13-12 over the Red Sox. Detroit scores four runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it. Boston hurler Red Ruffing goes 4-for-4 with a career-high five RBIs.

1931 An overflow crowd causes the day’s Cub-Cardinal game to have 23 doubles. They’re roped off in a special section of the field and any ball hit into them is a ground-rule double. The Cards win 17-13. That’s actually only half of a doubleheader, and there are 10 more doubles in the other game.

1931 Hall of Fame shortstop Travis Jackson goes 5-for-5, for his only five-hit game. All his hits are singles.

1932 Lefty Grove allows 18 hits, the most he ever surrenders in a nine inning game. His line: 9 IP, 18 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 7 K.

1938 Odell Hale hits for the cycle.

1938 First baseman Ron Fairly is born.

1940 Bob Feller has the highest Game Score of his career, 96, when he tosses his fourth career one-hitter. He will toss a record 12 one-hitters in his overall career.

1945 Detroit’s Hal Newhouser tosses his 14th straight Quality Start, a streak obviously aided by the weak caliber of competition in the summer of 1945. His line in that time: 11-3, 13 CG, 126 IP, 101 H, 21 R, 19 ER, 35 BB, 83 K, 1.36 ERA.

1945 Tommy Holmes’ hitting streak ends at 37 games, as the Cubs hold him hitless.

1946 Johnny Sain almost tosses a perfect game for the Braves against the Reds. It falls short when a Grady Hatton pop-up eludes three defenders behind third base.

1947 Pee Wee Reese is picked off base in an original way. When teammate Carl Furillo loses his bat in a swing, base runner Reese decides to pick it up and hand it back. He forgot to call time.

1949 Baseball owners approve installing warning tracks in stadiums. That’s mighty considerate of them.

1951 Allie Reynolds tosses a no-hitter, one of two he’ll have on the year: NYY 1, CLE 0.

1951 The best known WPA stint for a reliever, at least in the period for which we have WPA info. Boston’s Ellis Kinder pitches 10 innings of five-hit shutout ball from the eighth through 17th frames for a 1.419 WPA. It still might not be the most impressive pitching performance of the day, as White Sox hurler Saul Rogovin tosses a 17-inning complete game. However, Kinder leads Boston to a 3-2 (17) win over the White Sox. There is a record crowd at Comiskey Park for this day’s doubleheader.

1952 Pee Wee Reese enjoys his only 5-for-5 game. He has two doubles and three singles.

1953 Eddie Mathews smashes the first of eight career grand slams. He’ll get number two just 15 days later.

1954 The Major League Baseball Players Association forms in Cleveland with representatives from all 16 teams are there. J. Norman Lewis, its first head, says it isn’t a union as it collects no dues.

1955 The AL blow a 5-0 lead in All-Star Game, and NL wins 6-5 (12).

1956 Mario Soto, Reds ace in the early 1980s, is born.

1957 There’s a new home run king of all time and his name is Robin Roberts. The Phillies workhorse allows three homers, Nos. 278-280, to pass Murry Dickson as king of the gopher ball. Roberts keeps the title for over a half-century until Jamie Moyer passes him.

One of the homers Roberts allows is to Cubs star Ernie Banks. According to WPA, it’s the most valuable home run of Banks’ career: 0.537. It’s a two-run shot with the Cubs trailing 2-1 in the top of the eighth. In all, Banks has his best WPA game ever: 0.695 WPA by going 3-for-4 in Chicago’s 5-2 in.

1959 Commissioner Frick requests NBC stop using 80-inch lenses in an outfield TV camera that lets them show the catcher’s signals to the pitcher in a Boston-New York game.

1963 Sandy Koufax tosses his third consecutive complete game shutout. In that span, opponents have only nine hits and two walks against him, while fanning 26 times.

1964 Hank Aaron records his 2,000th hit. It takes him 1,593 games to do it.

1964 Billy Williams hits the second of his five career walk-off homers. However, this is his only ninth inning walk-off. All the others come in extra innings.

1966 With on-field temperatures reaching 113 degrees, the NL beats the AL, 2-1 (10).

1966 The Yankees sign amateur free agent Ed Figueroa, who will be briefly be a star pitcher in the 1970s.

1968 Don Drysdale issues four intentional walks in only 6.1 IP, as the Braves beat the Dodgers, 7-0.

1968 The White Sox fire manager Eddie Stanky and tab Al Lopez to replace him.

1968 The Giants trade veteran reliever Lindy McDaniel to the Yankees for what’s left of former Red Sox ace pitcher Bill Monbouquette.

1970 The Tigers have three sacrifice bunts in one inning in a 7-3 win over Baltimore. I assume there was a Baltimore error somewhere along the way.

1970 Gaylord Perry allows three triples in a five-inning outing.

1972 Bob Gibson hits a home run and tosses a complete game shutout. This is the sixth and final time he combines those achievements, which I believe is the record. Cardinals 7, Braves 0.

1973 Big league debut: Dave Parker.

1975 Gary Carter has the first of his eventual 28 multi-home-run games.

1977 Dick Williams and Chuck Tanner manage against each other for the 100th time. They’ll face each other over 200 times in their career, the most by any manager pairing in the last 35 years.

1977 It’s the big league debut for Terry Puhl, one of the best-hitting Canadians in baseball history.

1977 Cubs relief ace Bruce Sutter allows a game-winning home run to Steve Henderson, and then after the game admits his arm is bothering him. Bleeding will be found in his arm, so yeah—it’s bothering him. With their star closer injured and ineffective, the 1977 Cubs – who will begin the year 61-41, will end up 81-81.

1979 Disco Demolition Night: the White Sox forfeit the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers when fans riot in between games destruction of music.

1982 Major leaguer Tom Gorzelanny is born.

1984 Bobby Cox manages his 1,000th game. He has a 483-515 record at this point.

1984 Ryne Sandberg hits the only walk-off home run of his career. Cubs 3, Dodgers 2 (10).

1984 Chris Chambliss joins the 2,000 hit club.

1985 The A’s sign free agent Tommy John.

1987 In one game, Cecil Cooper and Ron Cey both play their last game, and Walt Weiss appears in his first big-league contest. That’s the most impressive combination of retirements in debuts in one random midseason game.

1987 Pat Corrales manages his last game. The Indians will fire him and no one else ever hires him in that capacity.

1988 Terry Steinbach 2, NL All-Stars 1. Steinbach, the starting catcher for the AL in the game and player much maligned before the contest for not deserving the nod, hits a solo homer and an RBI-sacrifice fly to provide the AL with both its runs.

1989 Longtime Yankee pitcher Ron Guidry retires.

1990 Barry Bonds launches his 100th home run.

1990 Melido Perez tosses a shortened game no-hitter, something his brother Pascual did two years earlier. In this one: CWS 8, NYY 0 (6).

1992 Rafael Palmeiro, he of 38 career triples, hits a triple for the second consecutive game.

1992 Jeff Blauser gets three home runs in one game.

1994 The NL’s honorary captain in the All-Star game is former Negro League great Buck Leonard. The NL wins, 8-7 in 10 innings.

1996 The Rockies come back from a 9-2 deficit at the seventh inning stretch to defeat the Padres 13-12. Yes, the game is in Denver.

1996 Suffering from an incurable eye condition, Kirby Puckett announces his retirement, effective immediately.

1997 Francisco Cordova and Ricardo Rincon combine for a 10-inning no-hitter: PIT 3, HOU 0 (10). Cordova pitches the first nine innings in the Pirates’ first non-Opening Day sellout in 20 years.

1997 Roger Clemens, now a Blue Jay, returns to Fenway Park and fans 16 batters in 3-1 Toronto win.

1997 The Cubs sign amateur free agent Carlos Zambrano.

1998 Ken Caminiti belts three home runs in one game.

2000 The Reds trade Denny Neagle to the Yankees in a six-player deal.

2001 Big league debut: Brad Wilkerson.

2003 Albert Pujols hits his first career walk-off home run. STL 9, SDP 7 (11).

2003 Marquis Grissom gets his 2,000th career hit.

2006 Tampa Bay makes a nice trade. They get Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot from Houston for Aubrey Huff and cash.

2008 Mark Grudzielanek gets his 2,000th hit. Who saw that one coming five or 10 years previously?

2008 Derek Jeter belts his 200th home run.

2008 Bobby Murcer dies.

2011 The Mets trade closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers for cash and a pair of players to be named later.

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Comments

  1. Steve I said...

    1897-Kid Nichols might have been better than Cy Young in the 1890’s (he won 30 more games, and his ERA was about .07 better), but BSN was .616 without him, while CLV/STL were only .500 without Young.

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