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01 Feb

August 2nd, 1973 (by Rusty S.)

On Thursday, August 2, 1973, my family and I were joined by 9,401 of our closest friends to watch the Atlanta Braves lose to the Cincinnati Reds, 17-2. The Reds scored four in the 3rd off Roric Harrison, then nine in the 4th to bust it open, with six coming off Jim Panther, in relief of Harrison. Hank Aaron failed to hit his 702nd career home run that night, but Johnny Bench homered for Cincinnati, and Bobby Tolan stole home. Don Gullett pitched a complete game 4-hitter, because, 1973.

I don’t remember any of that. After all, it was almost 40 years ago, and I was 9 years old at the time. But, you can look it up, and now more than ever.

What I do remember is this: my 7 year old brother’s only moments of pleasure were the “Beep-Beeps” played over the PA before at bats by the original Road Runner, Ralph Garr. My mom was disappointed when Johnny Bench came out of the game early. And as the runs piled up, my dad and uncle began to become less and less interested in Atlanta or Cincinnati, and more and more interested in Milwaukee or St. Louis. After the 7th or 8th, (it was also probably about that inning) someone decided that we should abandon the game and get some autographs.

A friendly usher pointed us to where we should wait, and after some time, a dark sedan came out of the tunnel and nosed free of the small crowd. It made a right turn before the exit, and headed into an empty piece of parking lot. Then it came to a stop, and most of the small crowd ran to it. We didn’t know exactly what was going on, but my 25 year old aunt decided we needed to get up there, so I ran with her. After waiting in a short line, I found myself face to face with Hank Aaron, who reached through the open window to sign my program with my aunt’s red felt tip pen.

I knew Hank Aaron was a big deal, and I was completely satisfied as we walked back to the tunnel’s opening. But, my aunt had the fever now, and we managed to get autographs also from Ralph Garr and Dusty Baker. The entire starting outfield was now signed, and a good night’s work concluded.

When I think about Hank Aaron now, I think about that night. I think about everything I know now about what he went through while he was approaching 715. I think about how close he was to the exit, with nothing standing in his way. I think about 17-2. And when I see “justhank,” I think: that’s damn right.

Today, the program sits in the top drawer of my nightstand. It’s lucky for me that the autographs were on the last page, because the cover is long gone. The scorecard has the record of one of my dice baseball games on it, because, teenager. And, no, you can’t have it.

49 Responses to “August 2nd, 1973 (by Rusty S.)”

  1. 1
    cliff Says:

    Rusty S.,

    Remarkable.

    I too wish that just and good man many more good years. For him, because he deserves them. But for us and particularly for those younger than us.

    His birthday is I am almost sure, next Tuesday (one day after mine). Happy Birthday, Bad Henry.

  2. 2
    Smitty Says:

    Great story.

  3. 3
    mhr Says:

    Outstanding. Let me add to the chorus of others who have admired the way that everyone is pitching in to keep this place vibrant. Thanks y’all.

  4. 4
    bmac44 Says:

    Extremely well written. A very enjoyable story about my favorite player. Thank you.

  5. 5
    Bethany Says:

    What a lovely story, thanks Rusty!

    This is a really cool interactive chart about HOF voting.

    http://cscheid.net/static/mlb-hall-of-fame-voting/#state=state%5Bshown_histograms%5D%5B%5D=-1&state%5Bshown_histograms%5D%5B%5D=2&state%5Bshown_histograms%5D%5B%5D=14&state%5Bshown_histograms%5D%5B%5D=12&state%5Bshown_histograms%5D%5B%5D=4&state%5Bshown_histograms%5D%5B%5D=11&state%5Bshown_histograms%5D%5B%5D=18

  6. 6
    zig Says:

    Thank you…. Thank you for that. No matter how bad the team was, Aaron was freakin’ majestic.

    Some genuine hombres in the OF that year, weren’t they?

    Baker, Garr, Aaron…. Compare with: JUpton, BUpton, Heyward… Keeping in mind Hank was 39 that year–though I see he did hit 40 HR in 120 games!

  7. 7
    John Adcox Says:

    Rusty, well said. You made me smile this morning. I appreciate that.

  8. 8
    Sam Hutcheson Says:

    Keeping in mind Hank was 39 that year–though I see he did hit 40 HR in 120 games!

    I’ve been told that late career power spikes are really suspicious.

  9. 9
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    Well, he was using PEDs.

  10. 10
    zig Says:

    @8,9: Blasphemy! I decree here and now that our man gets a free pass.

    But, seriously, I’d forgotten about that ’73 outfield. Man…. If only we’d pitched a little.

  11. 11
    Johnny Says:

    I forget the year but I got to see the Reds play the Braves during that time frame. We went with my little brother’s Dixie Youth team for a tournament in Atlanta. Hank pinch hit that game. The Reds won. Great story Rusty.

  12. 12
    justhank Says:

    I’ve always thought that there was a moment in Hank’s record-setting homerun trot that spoke absolute volumes about many things.

    As we all know now, Aaron had received many hateful and threatening messages as he approached Ruth’s record. (How he dealt with that as well as he did is a story in itself.)

    So when it finally happened, I imagine his mind was inundated with so many conflicting emotions that it was probably hard to put one foot in front of the other.

    Then, as he approaches third, two young white guys appear out of nowhere and are reaching for him at full speed.

    To the young men, this was a great, great moment. All they saw was that an Atlanta Brave had broken the greatest record of all time. There was nothing in their hearts but celebration.

    To Hank, well, Lord knows what went through his mind, but I swear it looks like his heart and mind ran the gamut of all the hate and love there was in the world. In just the steps it took to round third base.

    There is just so much to celebrate about Hank Aaron. I just hope baseball doesn’t wait until he passes to do so.

  13. 13
    Smitty Says:

    @12

    ESPN did a story on those guys a few years ago. I think they were Tech students and were arrested. They said it was totally worth it.

    Edit(!): Here it is:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/news/story?id=5504664

  14. 14
    PaulV Says:

    @5 You need to warn us when there is math involved

  15. 15
    Hap Says:

    I still have my Dusty Baker bat from a game back then. It was bat night at the ballpark (back when they gave away real baseball bats) and my little league team went to the game. I actually used that bat for a couple of years playing little league so it’s a little beat up but I still cherish it. It has Dusty Baker’s “autograph” stamped into it and after I got that bat he became a favorite player of mine. The year the D-backs were added to the league I got to actually speak with him at a Spring training game in Arizona and it felt like everything had come full circle for me. Great times.

  16. 16
    JonathanF Says:

    Very nice Rusty. I’d tell wistful stories if I could just write wistfully.

    @13. Those two guys were sitting next to me. We’re all cheering the homerun and I look to my right and the two guys sitting next to me are gone. I look back at the field and see them heading for 44. I was 18, and with my family and my father wanted those guys shot, not arrested, as a lesson to me. Of course, the real other story was how cold that night was. It really wasn’t that cold, but the temp had dropped about 20 degrees that day and nobody was dressed for it. I remember the flak Atlanta fans took for the stadium emptying out by about 3 innings after he hit 715, but it was frickin’ freezing. That’s still the only game I ever left before the eighth.

  17. 17
    joelk Says:

    Rusty S. thank you for that story! As a young 13 year old in 1973 from central PA, I took a lot of crap from my friends who where all Pirate fans about how bad the Braves where and why I would want to be a Braves fan. It was because of Hank and what a class act he was!

  18. 18
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    @16

    That is so freaking awesome, JonathanF. Good lord.

  19. 19
    Marc Schneider Says:

    I saw Hank Aaron hit his 498th and 499th home runs in person in 1968. It would have been 500 if he hadn’t lost a home run in 1962 for stepping out of the batter’s box. That’s always frustrated me.

    Re Hank and race-growing up in Chattanooga in the 60s/70s, most of my friends (probably most of the white people in school) were racist to some degree or another. When I was in junior high, the song “If I Had a Hammer” was popular although not the politics in Chattanooga. One friend of mine and I would sing “If I Had a Hammer” about Hank Aaron. At the same time, he would use racist language about other black people. My friend obviously wasn’t the sharpest tack in the package, but it was pretty typical at the time. I’m sure Aaron realized that lots of white people liked him as long as he hit home runs but otherwise he was just another-you know.

  20. 20
    Mark Grogan Says:

    My buddy and I were going to head down to the stadium that night. One of us (me?) said Hank was unlikely to hit one the first game back in town from the Cincy series. We went to see Soylent Green instead. We did go on Lifebuoy night though.

  21. 21
    Parish Says:

    I saw Hank hit his record setting homerun.

    Of course, it was somewhere in the 720′s. I was five and what I really remember were the fireworks from that night.

  22. 22
    spike Says:

    @19, plus ca change. plus c’est la meme chose.

  23. 23
    Rusty S. Says:

    Thanks to everyone for the kind words. I’m glad I could eat some innings before pitchers and catchers report.

    It’s fun to look through these old boxscores. I found it hilarious that Gullett was left in for 9 innings in a 17 – 2 win. I wonder how Braves Journal would react if Medlen were allowed to throw a 17 – 2 complete game.

  24. 24
    c. shorter Says:

    Only slightly better than if Kimbrel were brought in to get in some work.

  25. 25
    kc Says:

    @23. Thanks for sharing the story. Wonderful. Answering your question, I would say there is no point to leave him in the game past the seventh inning.

  26. 26
    Josh Says:

    This is great. I’d love to have more of these in the off-season, especially one on Earl Williams. I can’t imagine someone being converted into a catcher today.

  27. 27
    ububba Says:

    Greetings from Oahu…

    Nice work, Rusty.

    The main thing I remember about April 8, 1974, aside from being so excited about #715, was that I somehow rolled around in a gigantic antpile that afternoon. Bad Henry got some relief & I got antbites.

  28. 28
    Parish Says:

    Ububba,

    I had the fam at Oahu last year. It was kinda cool to be at Pearl Harbor on Independence Day.

    Spent a few days at Waikiki and about 10 on the North Shore.

  29. 29
    Smitty Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S6KPtpGn9E

    The Hammer!

  30. 30
    csg Says:

    Should the Braves offer Lohse a 2 yr deal? Sure would be nice to have an extra starter and give Teheran more time to work on his secondary pitches. Maholm could become trade bait for Teheran or Beachy when either one is ready.

  31. 31
    PaulV Says:

    @30 There may be better uses of the money.

  32. 32
    csg Says:

    Depends on the cost, but a 200 IP, 120 Era+ would be a nice adddition.

  33. 33
    Rusty S. Says:

    Here’s a quiz. Identify players A, B, and C from these 2012 stats.

    A: 169 AB, 21 R, 2 HR, 13 RBI, 2 SB
    B: 167 AB, 18 R, 0 HR, 9 RBI, 1 SB
    C: 166 AB, 17 R, 3 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB

  34. 34
    fm Says:

    He’s got a point…

    @fakedanuggla
    “2009: Garret Anderson, Nate McLouth, Jeff Francoeur. 2013: Justin Upton, B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward. Obama wasn’t lying about change.”

  35. 35
    Spike Says:

    Lohse had a fine season but I am far from convinced it’s sanguine to expect a repeat. Way off his norms.

  36. 36
    justhank Says:

    Thanks for the link, Smitty.

  37. 37
    Mikemc Says:

    I just saw that Earl Williams passed away- Cancer. I remember seeing him in one of his first games (in Philadelphia). He was playing 3rd base, and I recall he hit two homers.
    His mother was a professor at a college in NJ. At the end of the game he stayed on the field and was talking with her (I assumed it was his mother).
    He got off to a great start with the bat. I’ve often wondered why it didn’t work out for him.

  38. 38
    JonathanF Says:

    Why it didn’t work out, sorta: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/02/sports/baseball/earl-williams-baseball-star-dies-at-64.html?hpw&_r=0

  39. 39
    Mark Grogan Says:

    Rusty, those are your Atlanta Braves shortstops, 2012.

  40. 40
    Rusty S. Says:

    @39 – You are correct. Pastornicky, Janish, and Simmons. I noticed this today, and I thought it was interesting to have 3 shortstops end up with essentially the same number of at bats.

  41. 41
    ububba Says:

    I’ll never forget a HR I saw Earl Williams hit (on TV) his second year in the bigs. It went into the upper deck at The Vet, a prodigious blast repeated only a time or two.

    On his next AB, Phils’ manager Frank Lucchesi, who was not long for the job, came out of the dugout & made a big deal out of having the umps check Williams’ bat, as if it had metal in it or something.

    Braves announcer Milo Hamilton was incredulous: “I don’t know what he thinks they’re going to find in it, except maybe some wood.”

    #28
    North Shore, baby—surf, mai-tais & a legion of Jeff Spicolis.

  42. 42
    Smitty Says:

    While I like the idea of another starter, I don’t think Lohse is the guy.

    It is probably time to see what you have in Tehran or trade him.

  43. 43
    Kevin Lee Says:

    First Fearless Prediction:

    49ers 35, Ravens 31

    Boldest prediction ever:

    Alex Smith leads the winning drive!

  44. 44
    JonathanF Says:

    Very sad. Not only did I watch my college hockey team lose, but one of the other team’s best players, #10, had C. Jones on the back of his shirt. (At least his name is Connor.)

  45. 45
    td Says:

    I don’t know if you guys saw this and I don’t know how to do the link correctly, but this was hilarious to me.

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/jimmy-kimmel-asks-did-you-watch-the-super-bowl-before-it-airs-hilarity-ensues/

  46. 46
    Josh Says:

    Thanks for the NYT link on Williams. As a white guy, I can’t imagine what it was like to be a black athlete, even through the late 70s. It’s kind of like black QBs in the NFL until the late 80s. I don’t think baseball people really believed black athletes had much of a brain. Another reason Frank Robinson was so important.

  47. 47
    ububba Says:

    I’ll go Baltimore 27 San Fran 24.

  48. 48
    sansho1 Says:

    Terrific remembrance, Rusty. And JonathanF is an eyewitness to history! That is truly amazing.

    My first baseball memory is of #715. My dad and uncle were there, and my dad still tells the story about Uncle Bill deciding at the end of the third inning that he had time to go get a beer, but Ron Reed retired the Dodgers too quickly in the top of the fourth and Bill ended up still in the concourse for the big event.

    @21

    I saw one of those, too. I’ve pored over Aaron’s 1974 game logs on Retrosheet to try and figure out which one it might have been, but to no avail.

  49. 49
    Alex Remington (Another Alex R.) Says:

    New thread.

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