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So Much For The Youth Movement

There were no walk-off wins for anybody on the day Moises Alou was born, and while father Felipe wasn't in the delivery room in Atlanta, he was a part of baseball history.

July 3, 1966, is famous, not just for the birth of a Met-playing Alou, but for one of the most unlikely great performances of all-time. There were no walk-offs on this date, but this event was neat enough to merit inclusion in this blog.

Felipe and the Braves were in San Francisco, taking on the Giants, right around the same time brother Matty's Pirates were squaring off in a doubleheader with the Mets (the teams would split a pair of one-run games). Perhaps distracted by childbirth issues, Felipe Alou went 0-for-3 from the leadoff spot, but was a close witness to something significant.

The Braves pitcher that day was Tony Cloninger, and if that name rings a bell, it should. Cloninger was a 24-game winner for the Braves the previous season, but no one remembers that, because of what happened on this day. The Mets, in their own way, played a little part.

On June 16, Cloninger entered a contest against the Mets with 4 hits in 33 at-bats for the season. Perhaps he was pitching with some anger, as he'd been denied victory against the Mets on April 17, when his squad blew a 4-2 lead and lost on Ron Swoboda's walk-off walk. He beat them twice prior to that June day, but the third victory would be a lucky charm. Cloninger snapped out of his slump, clubbing two home runs. Felipe added one as well, supporting Cloninger's complete-game effort in a 17-1 win.

Buoyed with a sense of confidence, Cloninger became an offensive machine, with a pair of multi-RBI games in the coming days before this matchup.

The Braves got off to a quick start, a 3-0 lead with two outs in the first, courtesy of a home run by Cloninger's catcher, Joe Torre. The next three hitters reached base, bringing Cloninger to the plate. This would be the luckiest day in the career of the Cherryville, North Carolina native. He crushed a Bob Priddy 3-2 pitch over the centerfield fence for a grand slam.

You could have left the game after the first inning and perhaps Felipe should have gotten on the plane back to Atlanta to meet his newborn son, for his services would not be needed. It was 8-0 by the fourth inning and again Cloninger came up with the bases loaded and two outs, facing future Met Ray Sadecki. Amazingly, Cloninger hit another grand slam, his second of the game. And thus a pitcher became the first player in National League history to hit two grand slams in one game. If you were going to rate pitcher homer-hitting unlikelihoods, this one would even have to outrank Rick Camp's 18th-inning home run against the Mets, 19 years, and 1 day later.

It was a good day for home run hitting. Besides Cloninger and proud father, Alou, Sadecki also homered. Oh, and Hank Aaron hit career home run # 423.

Here's my point though. If you were born the date that this game was being played, you're old. You probably should be retiring, not necessarily being counted on to play left field on bad knees for a pennant contending club. As much as I liked what Moises Alou brought to the table, I'm not really crazy about his being re-signed.

True Mettingers know...The reason we like the Damion Easley re-signing: The 2007 Mets were 29-17 when Easley started, and 59-57 when he didn't.


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