TRIVIA WINNER: Congrats to Johnny Phillips of Killen, AL, who correctly identified Chuck Hinton as the player Cleveland got in return for Bob Chance and Woody Held in a trade with Washington. The Prize: Starbucks Gift Card.
TRIVIA QUESTION: How many times did Hank Aaron lay down a sacrifice bunt in his major league career of 23 seasons?
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: Chuck Hinton was the player in the deal with sent Bob Chance and Woody Held to Washington.
Don Sutton and Hank Aaron, a pair of Hall of Famers and two of the best of all time, both passed away recently. The sadness of the moment brought to mind the time the two first met. And the question of who would win that first contest, or would it be a draw?
For Henry Aaron he would still be years away from challenging Babe Ruth for the all-time home run title. He was coming off a typical Aaron season. His 32 home runs was a little low but his .318 BA was right up there with his best averages. Eight times in his career the Hammer would hit at least 40 homers in a single season, three times he banged 44. He would do it again in 1966.
Sutton would break even in his rookie campaign at 12-12 but with a 2.99 ERA and 209 K's in 225 innings, he would prove he was in the big leagues to stay. This story however is about what would work out to be an even break.
The very first time Aaron came to bat he welcomed Sutton to the big leagues with a double. The next time he got Hamerin' Hank to fly out followed in a third at bat with a strike out. However, leading off the ninth and with Sutton pitching a shutout leading 4-0, Aaron was not going to let this youngster say he kept the Braves down.
Aaron took Sutton deep to left center field for a solo home run, making it 4-1. The blast must have shaken Sutton because two batters later he hit journeyman Lee Thomas. He did settle down and got the final outs to complete a 5-hitter, but no shutout.
Sutton would face just 34 batters in the game and allowed two of those five hits to no. 44. The Hammer was not to be denied and while his teammates may have been over-matched that night, Aaron wasn't. Both men won in their first meeting and both could claim a solid game. In the final analysis the Dodgers would win the pennant followed by losing in a four game sweep to Baltimore. The Braves finished in fifth place, 10 games back but eight games over .500.
Aaron would lead the NL in home runs with the 44 and the big leagues in RBI with 127. It wasn't until four years later that Sutton would be better than a .500 pitcher, but when he did, it was nine years in a row and 14 out of 15 seasons. He would end up with 324 wins in the modern era which was pretty amazing. Aaron did break Ruth's record in 1974 and finished with 755 home runs and an all-time record of 2297 RBI and 6856 Total Bases. A total of 38 times he led the league in a positive category at the plate. Ironically, Sutton would close his career as a broadcaster for the Atlanta Braves.
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