Spahn’s 300th, 52 years ago tonight

On Aug. 11, 1961, 40,775 Milwaukee fans watched 40-year-old Warren Spahn become the first, and last, pitcher of the modern era to win 300 games as a Brave, defeating the Cubs 2-1. All but 7 of his 363 wins came in a Braves uniform.

Spahn entered that game vs. the Little Bears 11-12 with an ERA near 3.50. He would go on to win 10 of his next 11 starts en route to his 12th season with 20 or more wins. He would top 20 victories 13 times, matching Christy Mathewson’s MLB record. The last came in 1963, the same year the 42-year-old southpaw combined with Juan Marichal in what is widely recognized as the greatest masterpiece ever twirled. The WWII hero’s 201st pitch was hit out of the park by Willie Mays, breaking a scoreless tie in the 16th. Five days later, Spahn shut out the Colt 45s, who at the time were playing outdoors. In Houston. In the middle of July.

But I digress, which is easy to do when discussing Spahn, easily Buffalo’s greatest export. It goes without saying that Spahn went the distance for win Number 300, one of 382 starts he completed over his 21-year career. No surprise, either, that the unassuming lefty drove in the first of 2 runs scored by Milwaukee that night. Spahn hit .194 with 35 homers — an NL record for pitchers, and 1961 was his best at the plate: .223-4-15.

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11 Comments on Spahn’s 300th, 52 years ago tonight

  1. pepefreeus // August 11, 2013 at 11:30 pm //

    It was very common for him to sport a mark like that, then kick it into another gear around that time of the year. If you look at his game logs at BB Reference, it’s a common pattern for him.

    There is extant film of the final out of that game. They play it on MLB Networks Top 10 Braves Moments from time to time. Bad Henry handles the final out and Spahn, after shaking hands with a few infielders, turns and gallop out toward right field, meeting Aaron about halfway in between to get the ball from him. It’s a great moment between two absolute immortals, who both look, just for a few seconds, like a couple of happy kids.

  2. roadrunner48 // August 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm //

    I’ll have to go watch that.

    Aaron and Spahn were not friends.

  3. pepefreeus // August 12, 2013 at 4:45 pm //

    I know. That made it all the cooler, to me.

    They respected each other. Just a little too much of a gulf of understanding for them to fully bridge.

  4. pepefreeus // August 12, 2013 at 4:53 pm //

  5. roadrunner48 // August 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm //

    That was cool, Pepe. Thanks.

  6. pepefreeus // August 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm //

    I went to YouTube looking for the 20 second or so snippet from the catch onwards. Finding that whole thing was a wonderful surprise. Almost all of that great stuff was new to me.

  7. Spahn and Aaron might not have been friends — Spahn pretty much came back from the war no longer caring about whether he pissed people off, and Aaron was always reserved — but Bad Henry traveled to Tulsa for Spahnnie’s funeral a few years back.

  8. pepe,
    Pretty cool footage, and in color no less. Lots of Hall-of-Famers mentioned in that vid: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Eddie Mathews, Joe Torre (in all likelihood), and of course, Aaron and Spahn. And even my distant cousin Frank Bolling!

  9. pepefreeus // August 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm //

    That’s cool. I have several of his cards.

    If you read “I Had A Hammer” and “Henry Aaron: The Last Hero”, Aaron didn’t really bristle at Spahn’s attitudes like he did Adcock’s. I think Hank was just privately frustrated that a guy of Warren’s obvious intelligence seemed to have such little grasp of where he was coming from.

    Still, it’s pretty clear that they had a lot of respect for each other and even some affection, not that either of them would be called cuddly.

  10. My guess is that a guy from upstate New York like Spahn didn’t really grasp the reality of the Jim Crow South because he’d never encountered it. (Yes, it was present in parts of Oklahoma, the state where Spahn wound up living as an adult, but it was most pronounced it the counties near the Arkansas border, probably not so much where Spahn lived.) I figure Aaron, who wasn’t exactly chatty anyway, was at a loss to explain something so irrational to him.

    Adcock, on the other hand, was a good ol’ boy from Louisiana, and understand it all right, he was just too much of a good ol’ boy to much care, and that’s what pissed Aaron off.

  11. pepefreeus // August 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm //

    According to Bryant’s book, Adcock was pretty aggressive in his disdain for Aaron for a long time. Years later he sought Henry out and apologized to him for his behavior. Like most of the guys from that era who acted that way, he eventually woke up to reality and joined the modern world.

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