If the walls could talk, Kirsch-Rooney Stadium would obviously have a lot to say. From its pre-baseball days as a storage yard for the infamous Higgins landing crafts during World War II to its devastation following Hurricane Katrina, the ballpark has seen its share of triumph and tragedy through the years. The stories, memories, and faces that have crossed the gates are limitless, but some are just legendary.
One such story happened on April 1, 1974—40 years ago today—the day “Hammerin’ Hank” came to Kirsch-Rooney. The ballpark was still a teenager, 17 years young when a Major League exhibition game between the Atlanta Braves and the Baltimore Orioles came to the Crescent City.
At the time, Hank Aaron was making quite a name for himself, but he wasn’t the only famous face in town that day. Notable big-leaguers Dave Johnson, Dusty Baker, and Ivan Murrell each hit homeruns that day off of Cy Young award-winning pitcher Jim Palmer. Norm Miller, Frank Tepedino, and Ralph Garr also appeared in the lineups that day.
Up until designated hitter Hank Aaron’s last at-bat of the day, he had stuck out and walked twice. That all changed in the eighth inning when Hank slammed relief pitcher Bob Reynolds’ 1-1 fastball over the leftfield wall and into the Delgado parking lot. The homerun was even more memorable for game’s near-capacity crowd a mere three days later, when Aaron tied Babe Ruth’s lifetime homerun record (714) during the Braves’ Opening Day game at Cincinnati. Two games later, back home in Atlanta, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record for the most home runs in Major League Baseball history.
It turns out that Kirsch-Rooney Stadium served as a stepping stone to baseball history that week—one of Hank Aaron’s last stops before the record books. He went on to hit 755 career homers and land a well-deserved spot in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.
Today, four decades later and now in its 57th season of operation, Kirsch-Rooney is still hosting the national pastime. With hundreds of games being played between the lines each season, the stadium’s story is still being written, one pitch at a time.
Who knows? We could be watching the next Hammerin’ Hank tonight.
For More information about Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, visit: www.delgadoathletics.com/kirschrooney.