Saturday, February 5, 2011

Opening Day Flashbacks, 1966

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 of the years dating back to 1966-the Braves' first season in Atlanta. If you're like me, you would like to see Opening Day made into a national holiday. Federal employees get their upteen days each year for holidays that alot of us don't get- all I'm asking for is one special day per calendar year!

April 12, 1966 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium - Atlanta, GA
50,671 people were in attendance as the Braves opened the 1966 season at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. This would be the first home
game for the recently transplanted Braves, who had moved from Milwaukee to Atlanta after the 1965 season. The starting pitchers for the game were Bob Veale for the Pirates, and Tony Cloninger for the Braves.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the 5th, when Braves catcher Joe Torre gave the home town team a 1-0 lead with a solo homer. Cloninger held the Bucs scoreless until the top of the eighth, when Pirate catcher Jim Pagliaroni led off the inning with a solo home run of his own, tying the game at 1. The home run didn't phase Cloninger, who would continue shutting down the Pirates until the top of the thirteenth inning. Future Hall of Famer Willie Stargell gave the Pirates the lead in the top of the 13th with a two-run home run. Torre, who homered earlier, would try to bring the Braves back with another homer in the bottom of the thirteenth-but it was a little too late for the boys from the South, as they would lose to Don Schwall and the Pirates 3-2.

Player of the Game: Joe Torre (C) 2-4, 2 runs, 2 Home Runs, 2 RBI, 1 BB If Reggie Jackson is known as "Mr. October", Joe Torre made a case for himself to be known as "Mr. Opening Day." Not only did Joe homer twice on opening day in '66, but he also homered twice in the final Opening Day for the Milwaukee Braves-pulling off the similar feat on April 12, 1965.

Pitcher of the Game: Tony Cloninger

13 IP (!!!), 12 K, 3 BB, 3 Runs (3ER), 10 H
Although he didn't pick up the win, Cloninger gave it a valiant effort. And to us moderns, throwing a thirteen inning complete game is amazing- but his opening day performance probably wasn't even Tony's greatest game in 1966. On July 3rd, in a 17-3 road win vs. San Francisco, Tony hit not one but two grand slams-in the same game!!! On the day, Cloninger ended up going 3-5 with 9 RBI.

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