History notes that Atlanta Braves reliever Tom House caught Hank Aaron’s record-breaking 715th home run.
Buzz Capra said the ball should have been his.
The date was April 8, 1974, and Aaron had caught Babe Ruth for the all-time home run leader with his 714th homer four days earlier in Cincinnati. It was the bottom of the fourth inning at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium against the Dodgers and Aaron would come to the plate second, behind Darrell Evans.
Capra and House, both relievers at the time, jockeyed with the other pitchers in the left field bullpen, spreading out behind the outfield fence. Evans reached first on an error and Aaron stepped to the plate.
“It was crazy,’’ said Capra. “From the beginning of the game, fans were dropping stuff on us from above and Tom and I knew most of Hank’s homers went to left.
“But I swear this on my father’s grave that right before Hank came to the plate, I had something dumped on me and asked Tom if we could switch spots. We did and, of course, Hank hits the ball over and Tom catches it. I could have gone over Tom’s back to catch but if you ever see the tape of the home run, you will see me running right behind Tom.’’
The game was stopped and House brought the ball on the field to Aaron. At the time, the Magnavox television company had signed a $1 million, five-year deal with Aaron, under which the company would to send the ball and bat on a promotional tour around the country. The ball is now in Cooperstown, N.Y., at the Hall of Fame.
“I think Tom got a stereo for catching the ball,’’ said Capra.
Capra, however, did get to pitch in the game, coming on in the seventh inning for starter Ron Reed. He threw three scoreless innings, striking out six in a 7-4 win.
“I was called into the game and that was a really good Dodgers team,’’ he said. “The cool thing is that not only was I on the Braves when Aaron hit his 714th and 715th home run, but I also pitched in both.’’
In the game in Cincinnati, Capra, in his first appearance in a Braves uniform, was called on in the 11th inning and recorded two outs before giving up the game-winning hit in a 7-6 loss. But he went on to have an All-Star season, going 16-8 with a 2.28 ERA, the lowest in the majors for a starter.
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