Tony Lee Cloninger
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 210 lb.
- High School Rock Springs High School
- Debut June 15, 1961
- Final Game July 22, 1972
- Born August 13, 1940 in Lincoln County, NC USA
Tony Cloninger pitched a dozen years in the majors, most notably for the Milwaukee Braves. Despite hitting just .192 during his career, he is well remembered for some feats with the bat during the 1966 campaign.
Cloninger was signed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958 and made his pro debut that summer. The following year, while playing for the Cedar Rapids Braves in the Three-I League, he had one of the worst stretches of any pitcher to eventually become a successful major leaguer. Over a ten-game span with the team, he went 0-9 with a 9.59 ERA, allowing 58 walks in only 46 innings.
Despite his early struggles, Cloninger reached the majors with Milwaukee in 1961. In 1964, he led the Braves staff with 19 wins, and the following year, he was 24-11 but got no votes for the Cy Young Award because Sandy Koufax, who won 26 games, was the unanimous winner of the award.
The Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, and Cloninger tied Ken Johnson for the team lead with 14 victories. However, he is perhaps most famous for his feats with the bat that summer. On June 16th, against the New York Mets, he clubbed a pair of home runs in a game. Several weeks later, on July 3rd, he hit two grand slams in one game versus the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park, as the Braves won 17-3. He became the first National Leaguer to accomplish that feat, and also the only pitcher. As of 2009, only twelve other big leaguers have done the same. He also had an RBI single in the game, for a total of nine runs batted in. Overall, during a six-game stretch from June 16th to July 3rd, he had 4 homers and 18 RBI.
Cloninger later played for the Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. With the Reds, he made two appearances in the 1970 World Series, taking the loss in Game 3 as his team fell to the Baltimore Orioles in five games. He ended his career in the Atlanta chain, pitching for the Richmond Braves in 1972.
Cloninger was a member of the New York Yankees coaching staff from 1992 to 2001. He also worked as the pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox from 2002 to 2003, when he was diagnosed with cancer and was forced to take a leave of absence. After he recovered, he served as a scout in the Class A Carolina League in 2005. As of 2011 he was a player development consultant for the Red Sox.
Cloninger's grandson, Erich Cloninger, played professionally in 2003 and 2004.
- 15 Win Seasons: 2 (1964 & 1965)
- 20 Win Seasons: 1 (1965)
- 200 Innings Pitched Seasons: 3 (1964-1966)
- 200 Strikeouts Seasons: 1 (1965)