Friday, March 18, 2011

Opening Day Flashbacks, 1974

Entering the 1974 season, Braves legend Henry Aaron was one home run short of tying Babe Ruth's record for career home runs. With Aaron standing on 713, and wanting him to break the record at home, Braves management decided they were going to sit Hammerin' Hank for the opening three-game series in Cincinnati. Bowie Kuhn, major league baseball commissioner at the time, objected to the decision and ordered Braves manager Eddie Mathews to play Aaron in two of the Braves three games in the Queen City.

April 4, 1974 Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati, Ohio
With a full-house of 52,124 people in attendance, the 1974 National League opener got off to a bang as two of the first three Braves hitters reached base off of Red's starter Jack Billingham. Then, with the count 3 and 1 and on his first swing of the season, Aaron tied the hallowed record-giving the Braves a 3-0 lead. Billingham, who endured a tornado in his town the night before the game, was no stranger to Aaron- having given up home runs number 528, 636, 641, and 709 to the soon-to-be Home Run King. The Braves took a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning, when Phil Niekro would come into relieve starter Carl Morton after Morton walked lead off hitter Pete Rose. After Dan Driessen singled to right, Tony Perez hit a three-run homer-cutting Atlanta's lead to 6-5. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and still trailing 6-5, pinch-hitter George Foster singled to left to keep the Reds alive, and would then score the tying run when Pete Rose doubled to center. Rose would double again with two-outs, this time in the bottom of the eleventh, and would score the winning run from second on a wild pitch by losing pitcher Buzz Capra.

Player of the Game-Hank Aaron
With all due respect to Rose, who went 3-5 with 3 runs, 2 doubles, a walk,and an RBI- the man of the hour (and of the night) was Hammerin' Hank. Aaron, who homered on the next to last game of the 1973 season to put him one short of Ruth, had to endure an off-season as the recipient of hate-mail, death threats, and a fear of whether or not he would be alive by the time Opening Day 1974 arrived. Of course, four days later, during the Braves home opener, nearly 54,000 people would witness the record fall-as Aaron would homer off of Dodgers' starter Al Downing in the bottom of the fourth.

Pitcher of the Game-Clay Carroll
Clay Carroll, who began his career with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964,
pitched 1.2 shutout innings in picking up the victory. It would be the first of twelve wins on the season (versus only five losses) for the Reds reliever.
The following season would be his last in Cincinnati, who
would trade him to the White Sox following the 1975 season.

No comments:

Post a Comment