2017-07-20 / Sports

BASEBALL’S BEST

Braves pitcher holds the record
By LAMAR GARRARD
baseball historian

“A lot of people have remembered me just for the grand slams and not that I won 24 games one year. I’m proud of it and very thankful for it, but I was a pitcher and I took pride in it.” – Tony Lee Cloninger, Ex Atlanta Braves pitcher on hitting two grand slams in one game.

On July 3, 1966, Braves manager Bobby Bragan sent a 25-year-old power pitcher from Cherryville, North Carolina, to the mound to face the first place division leaders, the San Francisco Giants. Bragan made a good choice that day because the game was a watershed experience for the Braves who were mired in eighth place in a 10-team division.

This game could not have been any more exciting. The Atlantans got off to a powerful first inning against Giant starter Joe Gibbon who was knocked out of the game after facing just a few batters. With two outs late in the first inning, Dennis Menke walked to bring up Braves pitcher Tony Cloninger. Tony tags one for real over the center field fence with the bases loaded giving him his first grand slam in the game. Relief pitcher Bob Priddy was the pitcher getting hit hard by a fellow pitcher.

In inning number four, Cloninger again with two outs comes up to bat as Menke once again walks to load the bases. This t ime Tony unloads his bases-clearing wallop off the Giants’ relief pitcher, Ray Sadecki.

Better things came in this game for Cloninger as later in the game he delivered an RBI single to have three hits, nine RBIs and two runs scored in five at-bats in the contest. One thing about good timing is that in order to hit a grand slam, the bases must be full, and to accomplish this twice in one game is a chart topper. Cloninger was the first National League player ever to do this and still today is the only pitcher in Major League History to hit two slammers in one game. In 1966 Cloninger batted .234 with five home runs and a .414 slugging percentage.

The Braves racked up 20 hits while Cloninger scattered seven Giants hits pitching a complete game and handing the team of Willie Mays a 17-3 defeat. This game’s rosters featured several future Hall of Fame players and All-Stars. Hank Aaron, Felipe Alou, Rico Carty, and Woody Woodward were some of the Braves. The Giants had Jesus Alou, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Hal Lanier.

The Braves catcher that day was future Hall of Famer Joe Torre. Cloninger later in his coaching career was on four New York Yankee World Championship teams managed by his friend, Joe Torre.

There have been only 13 players to hit two grand slams in a game in major league history. The first was Yankees Tony Lazzeri in 1936. Cartersville Georgia native Rudy York pulled the trigger while batting for the Red Sox against the St. Louis Browns in 1946.

Tony Cloninger should be the poster boy as to why baseball should give up the designated hitter game. Way to go Tony, congratulations on being the only pitcher to hit two bases loaded round trippers in one game in big league history.

Return to top