1969: Braves Win Battle of Niekros

September 26, 1969, Atlanta: Braves 10, Padres 4 (box score)

The Padres jumped to an early lead against knuckleballer Phil Niekro in this one. Jose Arcia reached first on an error by shortstop Gil Garrido to start the game. After the next two batters were retired (and Niekro should have been out of the inning), things got interesting.

Al Ferrara and Nate Colbert both walked to load the bases. Ivan Murrell singled them home to put San Diego up, 2-0, with Colbert advancing only to second. A passed ball moved him and Ferrara into scoring position, but Cannizzaro popped to short for the final out.

The Padres added a run the next inning on a leadoff home run by Tommie Dean (!), the second of a big-league career that saw him hit .180/.240/.242 over nearly 600 plate appearances. They threatened to score more, but after Roberto Pena singled with two out and advanced to third on two passed balls, Ollie Brown popped to short to end the threat.

In the third, holding a 3-0 advantage, the younger Niekro saw his game unravel. His older brother led off with a single to center. After two more singles loaded the bases, Hank Aaron popped out to first. Rico Carty then walked, forcing home the elder Niekro. With the bases still loaded, Orlando Cepeda cranked his 22nd homer of the season to give the Braves a 5-3 lead.

Exit Joe Niekro, enter Frank Reberger. The next batter, Clete Boyer, hit a solo home run to make the score 6-3. Eventually (but not before Phil Niekro had collected his second hit of the inning) Reberger retired the side, but the game was over.

Aaron knocked his 44th home run of the year in the fourth off Mike Corkins. Atlanta added two more runs the following inning and another in the seventh. Ferrara homered for the Padres in the eighth to make the final score 10-4. As in, over and out. Done. Goodbye. That’s all folks…

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