As America recovered from its Bicentennial hangover, Hank Aaron clubbed a home run in the Brewers-Angels game on July 20, 1976. It was not, in any way, a cause for ceremony. It was, however, highly significant.
Aaron’s solo smash off the Angels’ Dick Drago was his last home run, though nobody knew it at the time. Hammerin’ Hank followed George Scott’s solo home run, one of 18 blasts that Scott swatted in 1976. Jerry Augustine got the win for the Brewers—his first in more than a month—scattering five Angel hits in seven innings. It capped a streak of five consecutive losses for Augustine, who had a 9-12 record, 3.30 Earned Run Average, and WHIP of 1.299.
Aaron, Scott, et al. belted 12 hits against the Angels; Von Joshua, Tim Johnson, Darrell Porter, and Robin Yount scored the other Brewer runs. Johnson, the Brewer second baseman, had an outstanding 3-for-3 day. In the eighth inning, relief pitcher Danny Frisella replaced Augustine.
When Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record on April 8, 1974 by hitting his 715th home run, every dinger afterward became, simply, icing on top of frosting. His round-tripper in the Brewers’ 6-2 victory over the boys from Anaheim was his 755th home run; Aaron hit 10 home runs, batted .229, and racked up 62 hits in a rather uneventful 1976 season for the Brewers—a 66-96 record garnered 6th place in the American League East.
At age 42, Aaron retired after the 1976 season with outstanding career statistics:
- 3,771 hits
- 2,174 runs scored
- 13,941 plate appearances
- .305 batting average
- 2,287 RBI (major league record)
- Led the major leagues in RBI four times
Henry Louis Aaron clocked his first major league home run on April 23, 1954. Throughout the next two decades and change, Aaron faced the pitching gods of Major League Baseball—Don Sutton, Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Steve Carlton, Fergie Jenkins, Don Gullett, Roy Face, Don Drysdale, Nolan Ryan, Vida Blue, Sandy Koufax, Robin Roberts. When he went yard, it was the definition of power against power. Tom Seaver’s page on the Baseball Hall of Fame web site recalls Aaron’s statement of Seaver being “the toughest pitcher I’ve ever faced.”
Aaron’s last home run occurred during the year that the Yankees reached the World Series for the first time since 1964; Chicago Cubs outfielder Rick Monday snatched an American flag from two trespassers about to burn it in the Dodger Stadium outfield; the Chicago White Sox played in shorts for one game; Ted Turner became the sole owner of the Atlanta Braves; the second incarnation of Yankee Stadium débuted after two years of renovations; Philadelphia Phillies third baseball Mike Schmidt knocked four home runs in a game against the Cubs; original Houston Astros owner Judge Roy Hofheinz sold the team that began its life as the Colt .45s; Dodgers manager Walter Alston resigned after 23 years at the helm in Ebbets Field and Chavez Ravine; and the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays began selecting players for the following year’s American League expansion.
A version of this article appeared on www.thesportspost.com on July 20, 2016.
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