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An unforgettable game

Sandy Koufax vs Denny Lemaster - August 9th, 1966

posted - June 16th, 2020

admission ticket
One ticket for August 9th, 1966

My family lived in Monroe, NC from the time I was 5 until I was 15. In the middle of my 9th grade I learned we would be moving. I recall being pleased. There was no need to let moss grow under my feet. It was time to move on, see new sights, and have new experiences. We moved to Griffin, Ga. the birthplace of Doc Holliday, a dentist to be feared.

I can't say I missed anyone or suffered from not having friends. We moved into an apartment and I was lucky. I was lucky because the apartments had a pool, I could walk through the woods to a city golf course, and the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966.

As a child I was interested in throwing balls, kicking balls, catching balls, hitting balls and shooting hoops. I spent hours upon hours alone or with a few other kids in the neighborhood imagining 9th inning home runs, last second shots, or long last minute touch downs to win the game. It was a happy but misspent youth.

I was a baseball fan and remember Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 world series. I can't remember if I watched the game on our little black and white tv, or just heard of it at the time. A few months shy of 7, I didn't need to be told the game was historic. I read books about baseball. I read children's books about Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and others. I watched baseball with Dizzy Dean. In those days watching on tv was like being at the game. If you got up and left the room you could miss the great catch or the long ball. There was no instant replay and I think little or no tape to see later. By nine I probably knew the game as well as many adult fans.

I had been a Dodgers fan, but when the 1966 season started I began to listen to the Braves games on the radio. I was listening on July 3rd when Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams in one game.

Our family went to our first major league game, a double header against the NY Mets on Sunday, April 24th. I was 16 and drove from Griffin to Atlanta Stadium. Over 40,000 people paid to be there and parking was strained. We were sent to park under the state archive building. This became memorable. As I drove down the ramp entering the underground parking, I went from bright sun to darkness. My parents had a moment of terror. I think I came close to a wall but recovered and all was well.

The Dodgers were scheduled to be in Atlanta for 3 games in early August. When it was obvious that Sandy Koufax would be pitching on the 9th, I asked my father to buy tickets for the game.

On August the 8th, my father went to Atlanta Stadium and bought tickets. That night when dad got home we looked at the tickets and I was a happy baseball fan. That night I listened to the Braves vs the Dodgers in the first of the 3 game series. It was more exciting knowing I would be watching Koufax the next night. The Braves came to bat in the bottom of the 9th, 3 runs down. They scored 4 runs to give Phil Niekro the win. I celebrated and asked to see tomorrow's tickets once more. Then I noticed the tickets were for August 8th, the game we had just listened to on the radio. My world was destroyed, or so I thought at the time. I'm ashamed to report I was not a good son at that moment. My father insisted he told the person selling the tickets he wanted tickets for Tuesday the 9th.

My father promised to go back to the stadium Tuesday and get tickets for that night, August 9th. I'm sure I spent an anxious day waiting for my father to come home. When he did, he had tickets for that night to see Koufax and the Dodgers. He said the ticket seller sold the wrong tickets to many people. The error was corrected and we went to the game.

When looking over my scrapbook and thinking about this game, I found this excellent post from 2018.

Over 52,000 people attended this game. When the game started I remember there were people standing behind the chain link outfield fence.

In my scrapbook I have a ticket for that game along with articles I clipped from the Atlanta Journal. The ticket is for the field level behind home plate. I don't think that is where we had seats. My memory is of sitting behind the visitor's dugout along the 3rd base line. I remember a 2 hour rain delay. After the rain delay the crowd had thinned but the Atlanta Journal estimated the crowd was still around 40,000. At some point after the game resumed, I believe I walked over to the area behind home plate to see the Koufax curve ball break. I must have picked up a discarded ticket while there and failed to keep our tickets.

August 9th was the first game for Billy Hitchcock as the new Braves manager. Much of the sports page on August 10th was about the change of managers. Furman Bisher's column concentrated on the firing of Bobby Bragan.

Denny Lemaster had a no hitter going into the top of the 8th inning when he gave up a home run that tied the game 1-1.

The game ended in the bottom of the ninth with a home run by Eddie Matthews. It seemed as if the crowd became one being, leaping and screaming as the ball cleared the fence. It was unforgettable.

Koufax had allowed four hits and Lemaster three.

After a total of 15 years with the Boston Braves, Milwaukee Braves, and Atlanta Braves, Eddie Matthews was traded the next January. Due to extreme pain and concern he might lose the use of his arm, Koufax announced his retirement in November at the age of 30.

I didn't understand the pain Koufax was in after each game he pitched. If I had known, I don't think I would have leapt so high or cheered so loudly that night.

copyright Phil W. Lowder