1974 Atlanta Braves season

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1974 Atlanta Braves
Major League affiliations
Location
Results
Record 88–74 (.543)
Divisional place 3rd
Other information
Owner(s) William Bartholomay
General manager(s) Eddie Robinson
Manager(s) Eddie Mathews, Clyde King
Local television WTCG
Local radio WSB
(Ernie Johnson, Milo Hamilton)
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The 1974 Atlanta Braves season was the ninth season in Atlanta along with the 104th season as a franchise overall. The team finished third in the National League West with a record of 88–74, 14 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. During the season, Braves outfielder Hank Aaron became the all-time career leader in home runs, surpassing Babe Ruth.

Offseason

Waiting for a new home run king

At the end of the 1973 season, Aaron had finished one home run short of the record. He hit home run number 713 on September 29, 1973, and with one day remaining in the season, many expected him to tie the record. But in his final game that year, playing against the Houston Astros (led by manager Leo Durocher, who had once roomed with Babe Ruth), he was unable to hit one out of the park.[1]

Over the winter, Aaron received many death threats and a large assortment of hate mail. Many did not want to see a black man break Ruth's nearly sacrosanct home run record.[2] Lewis Grizzard, then editor of the Atlanta Journal, prepared for the massive coverage of the home run record. Secretly though, he quietly had an obituary written, scared that Aaron might be murdered.[3]

Sports Illustrated pointedly summarized the racist vitriol that Aaron was forced to endure:

"Is this to be the year in which Aaron, at the age of thirty-nine, takes a moon walk above one of the most hallowed individual records in American sport...? Or will it be remembered as the season in which Aaron, the most dignified of athletes, was besieged with hate mail and trapped by the cobwebs and goblins that lurk in baseball's attic?"[4]

Babe Ruth's widow, Claire Hodgson, even denounced the racism and declared that her husband would have enthusiastically cheered Aaron's attempt at the record.[5]

Notable transactions

Regular season

Hank Aaron's 715th

The fence over which Hank Aaron hit the home run still exists outside of Turner Field

As the 1974 season began, the Braves opened the season on the road with a three-game series against the Cincinnati Reds. Braves management wanted him to break the record in Atlanta, so the plan was to have Aaron sit for said games against the Reds. Baseball Commissioner Bowie Kuhn ruled that he had to play two games in the first series. He played two out of three, tying Babe Ruth's record in his very first at bat off Reds pitcher Jack Billingham, but failed to hit another home run in the series.[8]

The team returned to Atlanta for a series with the Los Angeles Dodgers. On April 8, 1974, a crowd of 53,775 people showed up for the game — a Braves attendance record. Sammy Davis, Jr. was in attendance, and Pearl Bailey, sang the national anthem in Broadway soul. Atlanta's black mayor, Maynard Jackson, and Governor Jimmy Carter attended the game.[9]

Dodgers pitcher Al Downing had walked Aaron leading off the second inning to the accompaniment of continuous booing by the fans. Aaron then scored on a Dodger error, and the run broke Willie Mays' all-time National League record for runs scored with 2,063.[9] In the 4th inning, Aaron hit career home run number 715 off Downing. Although Dodgers outfielder Bill Buckner nearly went over the outfield wall trying to catch it, the ball landed in the Braves bullpen, where relief pitcher Tom House caught it. Two white college students sprinted onto the field and jogged alongside Aaron as he circled the base paths. As the fans cheered wildly, Aaron's mother ran onto the field as well.

Season standings

NL West W L Pct. GB Home Road
Los Angeles Dodgers 102 60 0.630 52–29 50–31
Cincinnati Reds 98 64 0.605 4 50–31 48–33
Atlanta Braves 88 74 0.543 14 46–35 42–39
Houston Astros 81 81 0.500 21 46–35 35–46
San Francisco Giants 72 90 0.444 30 37–44 35–46
San Diego Padres 60 102 0.370 42 36–45 24–57


Record vs. opponents

1974 National League Records

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]
Team ATL CHC CIN HOU LAD MON NYM PHI PIT SD SF STL
Atlanta 4–8 7–11–1 6–12 8–10 9–3 8–4 8–4 4–8 17–1 8–10 9–3
Chicago 8–4 5–7 4–8 2–10 5–13 8–10 8–10 9–9 6–6 6–6 5–13
Cincinnati 11–7–1 7–5 14–4 6–12 6–6 9–3 8–4 8–4 12–6 11–7 6–6
Houston 12–6 8–4 4–14 5–13 6–6 6–6 6–6 5–7 7–11 10–8 8–4
Los Angeles 10–8 10–2 12–6 13–5 8–4 5–7 6–6 4–8 16–2 12–6 6–6
Montreal 3–9 13–5 6–6 6–6 4–8 9–9 11–7 9–9 6–6 4–8 8–9
New York 4–8 10–8 3–9 6–6 7–5 9–9 7–11 7–11 6–6 6–6 6–12
Philadelphia 4-8 10–8 4–8 6–6 6–6 7–11 11–7 10–8 5–7 8–4 9–9
Pittsburgh 8–4 9–9 4–8 7–5 8–4 9–9 11–7 8–10 9–3 8–4 7–11
San Diego 1–17 6–6 6–12 7–11 2–16 6–6 6–6 7–5 3–9 11–7 5–7
San Francisco 10–8 6–6 7–11 8–10 6–12 8–4 6–6 4–8 4–8 7–11 6–6
St. Louis 3–9 13–5 6–6 4–8 6–6 9–8 12–6 9–9 11–7 7–5 6–6


Opening Day starters

Notable transactions

Managerial turnover

While the crowning of Aaron as baseball's all-time home run king made 1974 an exceptional season for the Braves, the strong performance of the team on the field also marked the campaign. The Braves' 88–74 (.543) record was an 11​12 game improvement over 1973, and resulted in a third-place finish in the NL West.

But a mid-season slump cost manager Eddie Mathews—for years Aaron's fellow-superstar with the Milwaukee Braves of the 1950s—his job on July 21 during the All-Star break with the club at 50–49 (and 14 games out of first place). Special assistant to the general manager Clyde King, 50, former manager of the San Francisco Giants, assumed the managerial reins July 24.

King's hiring aroused some controversy when Aaron noted that he had been bypassed as a managerial candidate; he would have become baseball's first African-American manager had he been named to the post. He would have taken the Braves' job, Aaron said, "simply because there are no black managers in baseball."[12] Braves' owner William Bartholomay responded by claiming he had had no inkling that Aaron was interested in managing in the Major Leagues.[12]

As events turned out, however, the Braves responded to King, winning 38 of their final 63 games (.603) and King was rehired for the 1975 season. Frank Robinson became MLB's first black manager when he was hired by the Cleveland Indians on October 3, 1974. Aaron was traded to the American League Milwaukee Brewers on November 2, 1974; he finished his active career in the Junior Circuit with two years as a designated hitter before returning to the Braves as a front-office executive. Meanwhile, Mathews finished his managerial career with a 149–161 (.481) record over all or parts of three seasons.

Roster

1974 Atlanta Braves
Roster
Pitchers Catchers

Infielders

Outfielders Manager

Coaches

Player stats

Batting

Starters by position

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
3B Darrell Evans 160 571 137 .240 25 79
LF Hank Aaron 112 340 91 .268 20 69
CF Dusty Baker 149 574 147 .256 20 69

Other batters

Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Vic Correll 73 202 48 .238 4 29
Leo Foster 72 112 22 .196 1 5
Jack Pierce 6 9 1 .111 0 0

Pitching

Starting pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Buzz Capra 39 217 16 8 2.28 137

Other pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Lew Krausse 29 66.2 4 3 4.18 27

Relief pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G W L SV ERA SO
Tom House 56 6 2 11 1.93 64
Danny Frisella 36 3 4 6 5.18 27
Jack Aker 17 0 1 0 3.78 7
Mike Beard 6 0 0 0 2.89 7
Jamie Easterly 3 0 0 0 16.88 0

Awards and honors

All-Stars

1974 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

Farm system

Level Team League Manager
AAA Richmond Braves International League Clint Courtney
AA Savannah Braves Southern League Tommie Aaron
A Greenwood Braves Western Carolinas League Gary Geiger
Rookie Kingsport Braves Appalachian League Hoyt Wilhelm

Notes

  1. ^ Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p. 179, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  2. ^ Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p.64, ISBN 0-06-072290-8
  3. ^ Grizzard, Lewis, "If I Ever Get Back to Georgia, I'm Gonna Nail My Feet to the Ground", p. 239-40
  4. ^ Leggett, William. "A Tortured Road to 715." Sports Illustrated, p. 28, May 28, 1973.
  5. ^ Hank Aaron and the Home Run that changed America, Tom Stanton, p. 25
  6. ^ Mike Davey page at Baseball Reference
  7. ^ "Buzz Capra page at Baseball Reference". Baseball-Reference.com. Archived from the original on August 7, 2008. Retrieved September 6, 2008. 
  8. ^ New Georgia Encyclopedia, "Hank Aaron"
  9. ^ a b "CNN/SI – Baseball MLB – 715: Hank Aaron's Glorious Ordeal – Monday April 05, 1999 01:26 PM". CNN. April 5, 1999. Retrieved September 7, 2007. 
  10. ^ Dale Murphy page at Baseball Reference
  11. ^ Dave Campbell page at Baseball Reference
  12. ^ a b The Associated Press, July 24, 1974

References

  • Johnson, Lloyd; Wolff, Miles, eds. (1997). The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (2nd ed.). Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America. ISBN 978-0-9637189-8-3. 
  • 1974 Atlanta Braves team page at Baseball Reference
  • 1974 Atlanta Braves team page at www.baseball-almanac.com
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