Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Opening Day Flashbacks, 1972

The beginning of the 1972 season saw the first week and a half of the schedule wiped out due to the players strike-it was the first time in major league history that games would be cancelled due to a players strike. League officials decided that the games would not be made up, and as a result of the strike there was an uneven number of games that each team lost. Unfortunately for Red Sox fans, the uneven schedule resulted in the Detroit Tigers winning the AL east by 1/2 game.
For the Braves, the '72 season began on April 15th in San Diego against the Padres. Tied at two going into the bottom of the sixth, Atlanta starter Phil Niekro faced seven hitters in the inning and wouldn't escape, allowing four runs to score before being removed from the game with two outs in the sixth. Jim Nash and Steve Barber shut the Padres down for the final 2.1 innings, and the Braves scored one in the seventh and two in the eighth to make it close, only to come up short at the end of the game.

Player of the Game- Derrel Thomas
Thomas, the first overall pick in the January 1969 amateur draft, perhaps never lived up to the expectations of a number one pick, but he did have a 15 year MLB career. Known for his versatility and his speed, Thomas' 1972 season debut saw him go 3-4 with a run scored, an RBI, and a stolen base. It was Thomas who would play a key part in the Padres big sixth inning. After shortstop Enzo Hernandez doubled to lead off the bottom of the sixth, Thomas moved him to third on a bunt single. Once on first, Thomas drew a throw to first from Niekro. First baseman Hank Aaron (who replaced Orlando Cepeda earlier) made an error on the play, however, and Hernandez would score. Thomas then stole second and would score two batters later on Jerry Morales' single to left.

Pitcher of the Game- Clay Kirby
Kirby lost 20 games as a rookie in 1969 and would spend eight season in the majors, compiling a 75-104 record (for a .419 winning %) along with a 3.84 ERA. For all the promise that Kirby showed at times, control problems would plague him his entire career. Four times he finished in the top 5 for both wild pitches and base on balls, and he had a career WHIP of 1.384 (which would have been much higher if not for his 1971 season). Kirby is perhaps best known as the pitcher who in 1970 had a no-hitter through eight, but was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the eighth and then saw a possible shared no-hitter lost in the ninth when reliever Jack Baldschun gave up a lead off single to Bud Harrelson.

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