The Braves’ Ten Greatest Games
April 8, 1975: Hank Aaron’s 715th Home Run
The sports world stood still to watch baseball history be made on a Monday spring night in Georgia. Coming into the evening tied on the all-time home run list with Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron was saluted in a pre-game ceremony in front of a rare sellout crowd at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, itself dressed up for the occasion of the imminent record with a chunk of center field painted over with an American flag fit into the shape of a map of the lower 48 states. It was as if the game had been scripted to include Aaron’s 715th homer, and the 40-year-old slugger didn’t disappoint. In his first at-bat, Aaron set a record, but not the record; after reaching via a walk, he scored on Dusty Baker’s double to become the all-time NL leader in runs. Two innings later, Aaron appeared again with Darrell Evans on first—and launched a deep drive that eluded a fence-climbing Bill Buckner in left field and into the Braves’ bullpen, where reliever Tom House earned $15,000 for being the person to snare Aaron’s record ball.
Aaron was congratulated by a swarm of players, family and friends at home plate. After an 11-minute stoppage for an official celebration, the game continued, almost like a NFL exhibition game after all the star players had done their one quarter of duty; Aaron was taken out of the game, the seats emptied and the Braves won, 7-4, thanks to sloppy Dodger pitching (seven walks), sloppy Dodger defense (six errors) and one of the game’s most memorable home runs.
October 14, 1992: Run, Sid, Run!
Down 2-0 going to the bottom of the ninth in Game Seven of the 1992 NLCS against Pittsburgh, the Braves famously fought back with a three-run rally capped by two highly unlikely participants. With one run in and the bases loaded but with two outs, the Braves sent to the plate Francisco Cabrera, an absolute bench player who had logged just ten at-bats for Atlanta in the 1992 season and was making just his second appearance in the NLCS. But amid the focus of 55,000 Braves fans and a national television audience, Cabrera stroked a single to left field that brought David Justice home from third to tie the game; chugging behind him from second was Sid Bream, one of the team’s slowest players, in an attempt to beat out the throw from one Barry Bonds in left. The high-risk gamble paid off; Bream barely beat the slightly off-target throw from Bonds, bedlam ensued and the Braves clinched their second straight NL pennant.
October 28, 1995: And Justice for Atlanta
Despite a record 14 straight divisional titles (excusing the 1994 campaign, when the players’ strike wiped out the postseason), the Braves took it all the way to the championship podium just once in a game full of tension. Tom Glavine shut down an exceptionally potent Cleveland offense that included Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray and Omar Vizquel (among others) on just one hit through eight spectacular innings; the Braves barely made it stand up thanks to a sixth-inning solo home run by David Justice, who had raised the ire of his own fans before the game by stating that if the Braves didn’t win, they would burn the players’ homes down. Closer Mark Wohlers took over for Glavine in the ninth and induced three lazy fly outs to finish the 1-0 classic and give the Braves their first world title in 38 years.
May 25, 1935: The Babe’s Last Flourish of Glory
Let go by the New York Yankees, an aging, overweight and spent Babe Ruth signed on with the Boston Braves at the age of 40 and, after a month of action, clearly showed that he had nothing left. That was, until he came to Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field on a Saturday afternoon in late May.
Ruth homered in the first inning off Pirate starter Red Lucas, greeted reliever Guy Bush with another blast in the third, and saved his mightiest for last when, in the seventh, he rocketed his third homer of the game—and the 714th and last of his storied career—on a drive that cleared the double-decked right-field stands; eyewitnesses among the 10,000 in attendance estimated that the shot sailed 600 feet in the air, the longest ball hit in the 61-year history of Forbes Field. All this, and the sadsack (38-115) Braves still lost, 11-7. After the game, Ruth’s wife desperately tried to convince him to go out in style and quit; after going hitless over the next week, he finally did.
October 10, 1957: Sweet Burdette of Paradise
The Braves’ brief and partially glorious reign in Milwaukee peaked in Game Seven of the 1957 World Series thanks to a sensational effort from starting pitcher Lew Burdette, who mastered the New York Yankees—the team that had traded him to the Braves six years earlier—for the third time in the series. Offensively, the Braves made sure that lightning would not strike twice for Yankee starter Don Larsen, making his first World Series start a year after throwing his legendary perfect game, by pecking away at him with four runs (two unearned thanks to a Tony Kubek error) in the fourth to take an early 4-0 lead. Del Crandall added a solo homer in the eighth, but no insurance was needed for Burdette, who finished the series with three complete game wins, allowing just a single run in the process.
July 4-5, 1985: The Rockets’ Red-Eye Glare
All things considered, this wild 19-inning affair between the Braves and New York Mets on the Fourth of July—which ended well into the Fifth of July—may very well go down as the wildest game ever played in the majors. It included 29 runs, 46 hits, six lead changes, five errors, two ejections, two rain delays totaling over two hours, a player (the Mets’ Keith Hernandez) hitting for the cycle, a long-awaited fireworks display and a torrent of panic from local residents in the wee hours of the morning.
Rain kept the game from getting started for 90 minutes, and when the teams finally got around to playing ball, the grounds were wet and slippery with numerous puddles slowing or even stopping sharply hit baseballs. After the Braves scored four in the eighth to take an 8-7 lead, the Mets tied it up in the ninth and sent the game into extra innings.
The Mets picked up two runs in the 13th inning, but with two outs and a man on in the bottom half of the frame, Terry Harper homered to re-knot it at 10-10. The game continued well past midnight—the Braves had to fulfill their Fourth of July obligations and set off fireworks after the game—and in the 18th, the Mets tallied once to pull ahead. New York thought it had the win in the bag with the Braves down to their final out and closer Rick Camp—forced to hit because no one was left on the bench—at the plate. But with two strikes, Camp incredibly sent one over the fence for the first and only home run of his major league career, tying the game yet again. The Mets took out their frustrations and then some in the 19th by racking up five runs, but the Braves threatened yet again in the bottom half, scoring twice, putting two more on base and sending—you guessed it—Camp back to hit, once more as the tying run. But lightning would not strike twice as Camp struck out, ending the game at 4:00 in the morning.
With only a fraction of the crowd of 44,000 left hanging around, the Braves shot off the fireworks—startling nearby residents out of their sleep and on the phones to police, believing that the neighborhood was being bombed.
August 15, 1914: The Miracle Braves Believe
The Boston Braves, who hadn’t won anything for what seemed an eternity and began the 1914 season as their typical dead selves, came absolutely alive in the season’s second half after being emotionally rallied by manager George Stallings and first-year Braves shortstop (and former Cub) Johnny Evers. This express of success slammed through New York and the first-place Giants in mid-August for a three-game series; after winning the first two games, the Braves’ Lefty Tyler and the Giants’ great Christy Mathewson dueled for nine scoreless innings and into the tenth. There, the Braves finally notched two runs, highlighted by Hank Gowdy’s second triple of the game. The Giants threatened a half-frame later by loading the bases with no one out, but Tyler kept them all from scoring and finished off an impressive sweep with a 2-0 decision. Though the Braves were still 3.5 games out of first place after the series, there was no doubt that the extreme momentum the Braves had forged would be unstoppable; two months later, the Miracle Braves’ mission was complete with a World Series sweep of the Philadelphia Athletics.
October 17, 1991: Smoltz Smothers the Bucs
Down three games to two against the Pirates in the 1991 NLCS and headed onto enemy turf, the Braves won Game Six, 1-0, on a ninth-inning run and continued the shutdown of the Bucs’ offense in Game Seven thanks to a commanding performance by starting pitcher John Smoltz, who scattered six hits and a walk while striking out eight. The Braves set the tone early with three first-inning runs, capped by a Brian Hunter two-run homer off Pittsburgh pitcher John Smiley, who didn’t last the inning and allowed eight runs in just 2.2 innings over two NLCS starts. Smoltz kept the Pirates locked down throughout and earned his second series win, giving the Braves their first NL pennant since 1958 in their worst-to-first campaign.
October 27, 1991: Mo Betters Braves
Ten days after finishing off the Pirates, Smoltz was given another Game Seven assignment, in the World Series at Minnesota—paired up against his boyhood idol, the Twins’ Jack Morris. Smoltz was throwing up zeroes once again, but so was Morris, as they dueled scoreless into the eighth inning. That’s when the Braves looked ready to finally break the ice—except that with the speedy Lonnie Smith on first, he slowed around second on a Terry Pendleton double, buying into a decoy put on by the Twins’ middle infielders. As a result, Smith had to settle for third base with no one out and was left stranded there.
Smoltz was removed in the bottom half of the eighth with one out and the Twins threatening, but the bullpen held the 0-0 game into extra innings—as did Morris, who nailed down his tenth shutout inning in advance of Gene Larkin’s single that scored Dan Gladden for the Twins, ending the Braves’ worst-to-first dream.
May 1, 1920: Can’t Anyone Here Break This Tie!?
The amazing thing about the majors’ longest game by innings, between the Braves and Brooklyn Robins, wasn’t that it lasted 26 innings without a winner. What was amazing—truly, truly amazing—is that both starters, the Braves’ Joe Oeschger and the Robins’ Leon Cadore, pitched all 26 innings.
The Robins took the early lead off Oeschger in the fifth inning, but the Braves tied it up a frame later when Tony Boeckel’s single brought home Walton Cruise, who had tripled off Cadore. But that was all the scoring the Braves Field crowd of 4,500 would see; by the 26th inning, they couldn’t see much of anything as darkness descended and forced the game to be called a tie.
The game might had ended victoriously for Brooklyn in the 17th if not for a spectacular play at the plate by Boston catcher Hank Gowdy. With the bases loaded and one out, Rowdy Elliott hit a comebacker to Oeschger, who forced Zack Wheat at home; Gowdy then threw offline to first baseman Walter Holke, who couldn’t hold onto the ball; seeing that, the Robins’ Ed Konetchy broke for home and Gowdy, taking the return throw from Holke, launched himself from one side of home plate to the other, tagging Konetchy out—with his bare hand.
Atlanta Braves Team History: Year-by year records, statistics and an oral history of the Braves, decade by decade.
The Braves' Ten Greatest Hitters: A list of the ten greatest hitters based on their productivity and efficiency.
The Braves' Ten Greatest Pitchers: A list of the ten greatest pitchers based on their productivity and efficiency.
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