The day Hank Aaron had a home run taken away by the plate umpire
The Cardinals argued that the future home run king had his foot outside of the batter’s box
Editor’s Note: Hank Aaron died at age 86 on Jan. 22, 2021.
Hank Aaron was not a fan of the way St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Curtis Simmons threw the ball. The Milwaukee Brewers slugger decided he was going to walk up on Simmons’ changeup pitch.
In his first three at-bats, Aaron popped up to the catcher, singled and flied out to center field. In the top of the eighth inning, with the Braves and Cardinals tied, 3-3, no one on and one out, Simmons decided to toy with Aaron.
The pitcher floated a slow but high changeup toward the future home run king, who used his walk-up approach to launch the ball 450 feet into right field and on top of the Sportsman’s Park pavilion roof on Aug. 18, 1965.
“Simmons used to drive me crazy with his herky-jerky delivery and his floating change of pace,” Aaron, who would overtake Babe Ruth as baseball’s home run king with his 715th long ball in 1974 and finish with 755, explained in his biography, I Had a Hammer.
The monster home run appeared to break the game open in favor of the Braves, and Aaron was halfway to first base when some commotion at home plate commanded the player’s attention.
Cardinals catcher Bob Uecker was having a fit, jumping up and down and yelling at umpire Chris Pelekoudas, because he said Hammerin’ Hank had his entire left foot outside of the batter’s box when he delivered the crushing homer.
Pelekoudas agreed, so Aaron was called out and what would’ve been his 28th home run in 1965 was disqualified.
“It’s the worst call I’ve ever seen,” Aaron told The Associated Press. “I did the same thing the time before and popped up, and [Pelekoudas] didn’t say a word. I always hit Simmons that way.”
Said Aaron in his 1991 biography: “I’m sure Pelekoudas never doubted that he was right, and I won’t swear to you that I didn’t step over the line before. Really, I blame the whole thing on that damn Uecker.”
A six-year veteran in the National League, Pelekoudas said after the game that Aaron had “[run] up on the changeup, and his foot was at least three feet out when he hit the home run.”
Braves manager Bobby Bragan wasn’t trying to hear any of the explanation for that, and he immediately bolted out of the dugout. After vehemently arguing the call with Pelekoudas, The Boston Globe reported, Bragan was tossed from the game and announced that “he was playing the game under protest.”
“I told Pelekoudas it was either a grudge call or he just wanted to get his name in the papers,” Bragan told The Associated Press after the game. “That’s when he threw me out.”
Said Pelekoudas to United Press International: “Bragan’s protest was strictly on judgment. His only argument was about grudge, and that is stupid. I didn’t hesitate in making the call.”
The game would ultimately work out in the Braves’ favor, as Don Dillard’s two-out, pinch-hit home run with one on in the top of the ninth inning gave the Braves the deciding runs in their 5-3 win.
Ironically, the Cardinals argued that Dillard’s homer against reliever Ray Washburn didn’t clear the wall and therefore shouldn’t be counted. St. Louis went 1-for-2 arguing calls that day.