Tony Cloninger, who threw the first pitch in Atlanta Braves history and hit two grand slams in one game later that inaugural season, died. Cloninger died Tuesday in Denver, North Carolina at the age of 77.
Cloninger was the opening day starter for the Braves on April 12, 1966 after the franchise moved from Milwaukee. At Atlanta Stadium, Cloninger threw all 13 innings in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
Cloninger, a right-hander, played 12 seasons (1961-72), mostly for the Braves in Milwaukee and Atlanta. He recorded a 113-97 record with a 4.07 ERA with 1,120 strikeouts. He also had a career batting average of .192 with 11 home runs and 67 RBIs. Six of his home runs came in 1966.
Cloninger is best known for hitting two grand slams in one game. In a game at San Francisco on July 3, 1966, he became the National League player and only pitcher in history to hit two home runs with the bases load in one game. He drove in nine runs as the Braves defeated the Giants, 17-3, at Candlestick Park. The RBI total still stands as the Braves single-game record.
The Braves issued the following statement on Cloninger’s death: “The Atlanta Braves organization’s heart is heavy with the passing of Tony Cloninger. From throwing the very first pitch for the Atlanta Braves in 1966 to later that year becoming the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in the same game, he was an important chapter in our history. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
After seven seasons with the Braves, Cloninger was traded to Cincinnati and pitched in the World Series in 1970. He finished his career with a season with St. Louis.
Cloninger spent nine seasons with the New York Yankees, beginning in 1992, as a bullpen coach and pitching coach under Joe Torre. He was a part of four World Series championships with the Yankees. He worked as a consultant with Boston since 2002. It was the Red Sox who announced Cloninger’s death on Saturday.
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