Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Opening Day Flashbacks, 1969

As we are coming upon the beginning of the baseball season, I thought it would be fun to look back at Opening Day for each season since 1966- the Braves' first one in Atlanta. If you're like me, you would like to see Opening Day made into a national holiday. Federal employees get their umpteen days each year for holidays that a lot of us do not get off; all I'm asking for is one special day per calendar year!

After having come off of a .500 season in 1968, the '69 Braves team may not have been picked to finish at the top of their division- but the team found a resurgence in the power department that was so lacking in '68. Leading the way was, of course, Henry Aaron-whose home run totals would match (for the forth time in his career) his uniform number. Another key to the Braves turn around was first baseman Orlando Cepeda, whom the Braves acquired in March from the Cardinals for Joe Torre, as well as a healthy Rico Carty (who missed all of '68) and Clete Boyer (he only had 273 at bats the previous season). Everything fell into place for the Braves in '69, and the team went on to win the West in the newly realigned National League.

Monday April 7, 1968 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium Atlanta, Ga.
Having chased Giants starter Juan Marichal out of the game in the sixth inning, the Braves took a 3-1 lead into the top of the seventh. That lead wouldn't hold, however, as manager Lum Harris decided to sent starter Pat Jarvis back out to the mound in the top of the seventh. Jarvis had thrown a great game to that point (allowing only 2 hits), so perhaps it's easy to second guess Harris. The decision could have cost the Braves the game as Jarvis gave up two hits to the first two batters for the Giants-one of them scoring. Harris then made the call to the pen, and Cecil Upshaw managed to blow the lead by allowing two more hits, a sacrifice, a walk, and a sac
fly before picking off Willie Mays to end the inning. By then, though, the damage had been done, and the Braves found themselves down 4-3. The Giants would maintain their one-run lead until the bottom of the ninth, when Mike Lum (after Sonny Jackson's run-tying triple) would hit a one-out single to win the game for the Braves.

Player of the Game- Sonny Jackson
Jackson, the light-hitting shortstop, drove in two runs on the
day. His first RBI came on a fielder's choice in the second to tie the game at 1. His only hit on the night, the triple, brought home Clete Boyer in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game at four, and put him in place to score the winning run.

Pitcher of the Game- George Stone

Stone, who would start twenty games for the Braves in 1969, fared much better than his cousin (Cecil Upshaw) this night. While pitching the top of the ninth for the Braves, Stone would allow only only hit while striking out two (including Willie Mays) and getting Bobby Bonds out on a flyout to end the Giants inning. In doing so, Stone picked up the first of his thirteen wins on the season.

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