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August 1, 1976: The last day Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson played in the field

Posted by Andy on February 21, 2011

A read named Joe sent in this gem a while back. In an interesting coincidence, two of the greatest players of their generation, Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson, both played their final game in the field on August 1, 1976.

What's more amazing is that it happened in the same game.

Here are Robinson's games from his final playing season of 1976, from August 1st onward:

Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BOP aLI WPA RE24 Pos
Aug 1 CLE @ MIL W,4-3 GS-7 3 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .241 .364 .407 .771 5 .71 -0.030 -0.35 LF
Aug 12 CLE TEX W,5-4 9-GF 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .255 .373 .418 .791 5 5.91 0.173 0.00 PH
Aug 13 CLE TEX L,1-2 CG 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .237 .352 .390 .742 3 1.71 0.033 0.09 DH
Aug 14 CLE TEX L,3-4 5-GF(10) 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .226 .338 .371 .709 3 3.07 -0.331 -1.58 PH
Aug 23 CLE KCR W,4-3 9-GF 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .222 .333 .365 .698 5 5.91 -0.175 -0.77 PH
Aug 31 CLE @ CHW W,4-2 10-GF(10) 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .222 .333 .365 .698 4 0.000 0.00 PR
Sep 4 (2) CLE BOS W,4-0 GS-7 3 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .212 .321 .348 .669 5 .92 -0.101 -1.38 DH
Sep 18 (2) CLE BAL L,2-3 8-8 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 .224 .329 .358 .687 9 4.03 0.152 1.00 PH
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2011.

He didn't play much after August 1, and always as a DH, pinch-hitter or a pinch-runner, and he never stayed in the game on defense. Keep in mind he was also the manager of the Indians that year.

Here is the final run of games from Aaron's career:

Date Tm Opp Rslt Inngs PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO ROE BA OBP SLG OPS BOP aLI WPA RE24 Pos
Aug 1 MIL CLE L,3-4 8-GF(10) 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 .242 .322 .396 .718 4 5.91 0.103 0.70 PH LF
Aug 2 MIL BAL W,7-1 CG 4 2 2 1 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 .245 .324 .402 .726 4 1.70 0.131 1.36 DH
Aug 7 MIL @ BOS L,0-3 CG 4 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .246 .327 .401 .728 4 1.10 0.006 0.04 DH
Aug 10 MIL @ OAK L,1-2 CG 4 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .242 .322 .394 .716 4 1.71 -0.192 -1.24 DH
Aug 23 MIL @ TEX W,6-2 GS-7 4 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 .243 .325 .393 .718 4 .47 0.008 0.43 DH
Aug 24 MIL @ TEX W,1-0 CG(10) 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 .240 .324 .388 .712 4 1.06 -0.064 -0.25 DH
Aug 27 MIL CHW L,2-5 GS-8 4 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 .240 .323 .386 .709 4 .74 -0.039 -0.04 DH
Sep 9 MIL @ NYY L,2-4 CG 4 4 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 .240 .322 .388 .710 4 1.23 0.071 0.98 DH
Sep 15 MIL BOS L,1-2 CG 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 .237 .321 .383 .704 4 1.52 -0.094 -0.38 DH
Sep 16 MIL BOS L,3-4 CG 4 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 .234 .320 .379 .698 4 .87 -0.052 -0.55 DH
Sep 17 MIL NYY L,3-5 CG(11) 5 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 .230 .314 .372 .686 4 1.25 -0.159 -0.92 DH
Sep 20 MIL NYY W,4-2 GS-8 4 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 .228 .317 .369 .685 4 .75 -0.014 0.29 DH
Sep 22 MIL @ BOS L,3-6 8-8 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 .227 .316 .367 .683 9 2.70 0.151 1.16 PH
Sep 29 MIL @ BAL W,6-3 CG 4 4 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .228 .315 .369 .684 4 .73 0.017 0.01 DH
Oct 3 MIL DET L,2-5 GS-6 3 3 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 .229 .315 .369 .684 4 1.31 0.003 0.52 DH
MIL 308 271 22 62 8 0 10 35 35 38 .229 .315 .369 .684
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/20/2011.

Like Robinson, he appeared only as a DH or pinch-hitter after August 1.

In a weird way, this reminds me of how Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on the same day (Independence Day, no less.) Aaron and Robinson finished their careers just shortly after the United Stated bicentennial. And there's your Presidents Day tie-in...

This entry was posted on Monday, February 21st, 2011 at 7:04 am and is filed under Gamelogs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

20 Responses to “August 1, 1976: The last day Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson played in the field”

  1. Spartan Bill Says:

    August 31---How slow was Rico Carty if Frank Robinson was a PR for him on his 41st birthday?

  2. joe baseball Says:

    Frank was one of my favorite non-Red Sox players when I was a kid and this game I always found interesting. After Aaron tied Ruth in Runs on Sept 29, I was hoping he would pinchrun for a guy on third with no outs and get to pass Ruth in Runs but it never happened. Rickey Henderson pinchran 17 times with the Red Sox when he was 43. How many others 41 and over pinchran?

  3. Not just among the best players of their generation, but after Ruth, the two best right fielders ever.

  4. Frank Clingenpeel Says:

    I remember thinking that Robinson was just a "flash in the pan" when he uncorked all of those home runs as a rookie; and how I bought that "old Thirty" line when the Redlegs traded him for Pappas and a couple of semi-warm bodies in '65. But I was somewhat gratified when he became baseball's first black manager; to me, naming him {or Aaron, for that matter} was far less an exercise in tokenism than it would have been to pick Banks or Mays {the other two main competitors for that honor.

  5. [...] Old Pinch Runners Posted by Raphy on February 21, 2011 « August 1, 1976: The last day Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson played in the field [...]

  6. And it appears that neither had any home runs left at that point.

  7. Something else that is pretty cool. In 21 MLB Seasons, not once did Frank Robinson post an OPS+ that was less than 100. What's the record for most seasons without an OPS+ below the league average? Most consecutive?

  8. @7 - Stan Musial did it 22 consecutive years (1941 - 1963 minus 1945 missed due to WW2)

  9. @7,@8
    Barry Bonds also did it for 22 consecutive years (with no war interruption).

    Cap Anson did it for the first 26 years of his career, but blew it with only a 93 in his 27th season at age 45.

  10. @ 7 and @9 - Ty Cobb did it from 1906 - 1928 (23 consecutive).

  11. I imagine they're probably aren't too many funny stories about Frank Robinson, but I actually have one.

    I've met Mr. Robinson just once, (same with Aaron).

    It was in 2007, in the press box at Scottsdale Stadium during the Arizona Fall League Championship game.

    I grew up in the sixties and saw Robinson play many times during the prime of his career, and remember the many stories said about him that he wasn't much of a talker and scowled more than smiled.

    The atmosphere in the press box was pretty relaxed, it was the final day of work for us, and instead of paying attention to BP or the press notes, we spent our time exchanging phone numbers and email addresses because most guys were heading out afterwards.

    People come in and out of the press area frequently, when the door opens almost no one turns to see who it is.

    We're all hanging out, attacking the catered lunch, which, if you've ever had press box food I don't have to tell you how big a deal that is.

    The door opens and our boss, comes in, normally enough to scurry everybody, but, not today. He was followed by Roland Hemond, then Mike Port, then.....Frank Robinson.

    You could have heard a pin drop.

    As if his status as a Hall of Famer isn't intimidating enough, he's also a VIP with MLB, which means he could have fired the whole press corp with a wave of his hand.

    He walked around shaking hands and talking, and I found him to be the opposite of what his reputation was (big surprise). But what we all wanted to do was ask for an autograph.

    Problem was, we're working media and can't ask, it even says "No Autographs" printed right on our press badges.

    Screw that.

    Somebody finally asked him, and, lacking anything worthy of him signing, I had him sign my press badge.

    Right below where it says no autographs.

  12. #11 - Chuck. Thanks for posting a great story!

  13. DoubleDiamond Says:

    But they were not in the game at the same time!

    When the bottom of the 7th began, "Tommy Smith replaces Frank Robinson playing LF batting 5th".

    It wasn't until the bottom of the 8th when, "Hank Aaron pinch hits for Mike Hegan (RF) batting 4th".

    And then when the top of the 9th began, "Hank Aaron moves from PH to LF" and "Sixto Lezcano moves from LF to RF".

    A footnote here - I remember that the Indians had a prospect named Tommy Smith in the mid-1970s. I thought he had never made it to the majors, period. But he did have small amounts of service with Cleveland each year from 1973-1976. After being picked by the Mariners in the expansion draft, he got in a few games with them in 1977.

    Smith was born on Sunday, August 1, 1948, so this was his 28th birthday. Maybe manager Robinson let him play for his birthday. More likely, it was as a defensive replacement in a game that Cleveland led. (While Cleveland blew that lead before winning in the 10th inning, no balls hit to left field contributed to the runs that the Brewers scored.)

    Lefty-righty may have also figured in the move, or at least the decision that Robinson's defensive replacement would be Tommy Smith, if multiple outfielders were available. The righthanded-hitting Robinson started against lefthander Jerry Augustine. Smith was a lefthanded batter. When he was inserted into the game, righthander Pete Broberg had replaced Jerry Augustine.

    Lefty-righty is also likely why Aaron pinch hit when he did. The lefthanded hitting Hegan started against righthander Jackie Brown. I noticed that lefthander Dave LaRoche replaced Brown in the 8th inning, the inning in which Aaron pinch hit. But LaRoche faced only one batter, George Scott, in the position before Hegan. After LaRoche hit Scott with the bases loaded to force in a run, righthander Tom Buskey took over. I'm guessing that Aaron was announced to hit for Hegan against LaRoche before Buskey came into the game. Aaron walked with the bases loaded to force in another run, which was the tying run.

    Incidentally, Tommy Smith scored the winning run for the Indians in the top of the 10th, after leading off the inning with a base hit.

  14. This theme got me to wondering how Aaron and Robinson did against one another during their prime. Their NL careers overlapped for a 10-year stretch, 1956-65. Aaron played 197 games against the Reds; Robinson played 200 games against the Braves. (I didn't bother to filter out games that one player sat out.)

    -- Aaron had 44 HRs, 132 RBI and 145 Runs in 197 games and 766 AB against the Reds from 1956-65. Henry added 46 doubles, 8 triples, 22 SB, and 78 walks (15 IBB). He batted .322 (247-766) and slugged .576. The Braves went 104-93, including 27-12 when Henry homered (though just 3-2 when he homered twice).

    -- Robinson had 50 HRs, 136 RBI and 135 Runs in 200 games and 741 AB vs. the Braves from 1956-65. Frank added 43 doubles, 6 triples, 14 SB and 101 walks (18 IBB). He batted .291 (216-741) and slugged .568. The Reds went 95-105, including 27-18 when Frank hit a HR (3-2 when he hit a pair).

    So, the head-to-head competition was fairly close, but Henry came out on top. Overall, their performances during this period weren't as close as I had thought. Robinson was outstanding, of course, with a combined 149 OPS+, slash line of .303/.389/.554, and 61.5 WAR (55.6 oWAR). But Henry was clearly superior: 163 OPS+, slash line of .324/.382/.579, and 81.9 WAR (73.3 oWAR).

    (So which one is Jefferson, and which one Adams?)

  15. @ 11 Thank your for sharing that story, made me smile. Class act, and who can blame you guys for wanting his autograph?

  16. Somewhat along the same lines is this game, opening day of the '39 season.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA193904200.shtml

    This was the only time Lou Gehrig and Ted Williams played in the same game.

    Red Ruffing shut out Lefty Grove 2-0. Williams got his first career hit, a double, and struck out twice. Gehrig, already slowed by ALS, went 0 for 4, and hit into two double plays (ouch).

  17. Frank Robinson also played in another HOFer's final game - Stan Musial, final game of the '63 season.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/SLN/SLN196309290.shtml

    Musial went 2 for 3, singling home Curt Flood for the game's first run in the 6th, and then being lifted for a pinch runner.

    Robinson had a more forgettable day - going 0 for 6 in a 14-inning affair. Can't imagine Robinson had many other (or any other?) 0 for 6 games.

    Ernie Broglio got his 18th win in relief, while Joey Jay suffered his 18th loss.

  18. I'm not really sure it's all that amazing, Andy. : -)

    It's not as if they even appeared in their final games together that day. They both played moving forward, simply just not in the field.

    Not quite as amazing as Jefferson and Adams kicking the bucket on the same day, Indepence Day, no less!

  19. Not only did Jefferson and Adams die on the same Independence Day, but it was July 4, 1826, exactly the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence!

  20. DoubleDiamond Says:

    I got curious as to whether any players made their Major League debuts on August 1, 1976. Since it was neither April nor September, I didn't expect to find anyone, but I did find two. Both were teammates on an eventual division winning team, so the team may have been trying to shake things up for the stretch by promoting two players from the minors.

    The players were Ruppert Jones and Tom Bruno, and the team was the Kansas City Royals. Jones was the DH and went 1 for 4 with a walk, an RBI, a run scored, and a caught stealing. The RBI was on a fielders choice groundout. The caught stealing occurred after he reached on that fielders choice. The single led to his run scored. The walk did not figure in anything else significant.

    Bruno pitched 3 and 2/3 innings in relief of starter Andy Hassler. The Royals lost the game, 8-4, and Hassler, who lasted only 2 and 1/3 innings, was the losing pitcher. His record fell to 0-7. (I must confess, as a young adult female fan in the 1970s, I thought that Hassler was one of the best-looking players at the time, but he never won many games, so that somewhat ruined my opinion of him! Also, his previous six losses had been for the Angels, before going to Kansas City a few weeks earlier.) Getting back to Tom Bruno, he gave up 5 hits and one earned run, with one walk and two strikeouts.