Everybody knows that Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers gave up Hank Aaron’s record-breaking home run, number 715, on April 8, 1974, that nudged him ahead of Babe Ruth’s “unbreakable” mark.
A lot of fans remember, too, that Cincinnati Reds hurler Jack Billingham gave up number 714, at Riverfront Stadium during the opening series of 1974 — on the first pitch Aaron saw in the new season, even!
Heck, you might even remember who gave up Hammer’s first home run — that would be Vic Raschi of the St. Louis Cardinals, back in 1954.
But do you know who gave up Aaron’s last home run, number 755?
That’ one’s a little tougher because a) it came for the Milwaukee Brewers and b) no one knew it was the last.
When Aaron connected off California Angels reliever Dick Drago in the bottom of the seventh inning on July 20, 1976, the living legend was heading into the final two months of a storied career. He would play in 23 more games before October came howling, but an anemic .172 batting average with just 11 hits (no homers) and eight strikeouts would confirm the ravages of time
For his part, Drago was in his first season with California after pitching for the Red Sox for two seasons, including a few appearances in that historic 1975 postseason run of theirs. It was in Boston that Drago found his spot in the bullpen.
Before that, Drago cut his Major League teeth with a five-year run as a starter for the expansion Kansas City Royals from 1969 through 1973 (who nabbed him from the Detroit Tigers in the 1968 expansion draft).
The Halos would send Drago to the Orioles halfway through the 1977 season in exchange for Dyar Miller, and then he returned to Boston as a free agent that off-season.
There he would stay until the Sawx shipped him to the lowly Seattle Mariners early in the 1981 season, in exchange for Manny Sarmiento.
Drago would play out the string there in Seattle during that strike-shortened season, going 4-6 with a 5.53 ERA and five saves to finish his career at 108-117, 3.62 ERA, 58 saves.
Even though he hung up his spikes after that northwest adventure, though, Drago still graced wax packs in 1982, copping career-cappers from both Fleer and Topps that summer.
You know what else happened that summer, 1982?
Right … Hank Aaron was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
For the Dick Drago fan who has everything …
Since we’re talking about Drago, I thought you might enjoy this current eBay listing, which offers up a proof of the hurler’s 1977 Topps card. This one-of-a-kind came from a Topps Vault sale several years back and comes with the expected Topps certificate of authentication. Definitely worth a look!
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