Former Milwaukee Braves star Joe Adcock, who died last week at 71, had, to an amazing degree, a sense of moment. In a 17-year major league career he hit 336 home runs, this despite countless injuries and the penchant among certain of his managers to platoon him at first base. In fact, only twice did he play as many as 150 games in a season, and in only four years did he have 500 or more at bats. So his home run totals are doubly impressive. Yet it wasn't so much the quantity of his dingers as their sheer majesty that made him one of the game's more memorable sluggers.
Consider these Homeric feats: On April 29, 1953, Adcock became the first major league player to hit a ball into the centerfield bleachers at New York's Polo Grounds since the distance had been increased to the virtually unreachable 483 feet in 1923. On July 31, 1954, he became only the seventh player (there are 12 now) to hit four home runs in one game. He hit them at Ebbets Field off four Brooklyn Dodgers pitchers while using a borrowed bat. In his only other at bat that day, he doubled, giving him 18 total bases, still the single-game record. On June 17, 1956, he became the only player to hit a ball out of Brooklyn's Ebbets Field in leftfield, his drive clearing the 83-foot high roof above the 350-foot sign at ground level.
On May 26, 1959, Adcock made history again by breaking up the best-pitched game ever with a homer that wasn't a homer. For 12 innings the Pittsburgh Pirates' Harvey Haddix had pitched a perfect game against the Braves in County Stadium. Then in the 13th, Felix Mantilla reached base on an error and advanced to second on a sacrifice by Eddie Mathews, and Haddix walked Henry Aaron intentionally. The perfect game was gone, but the marathon no-hitter was intact. At which point Adcock hit one over the right centerfield fence for an apparent 3-0 Braves win. But after Mantilla crossed the plate, Aaron, who didn't realize Adcock's ball had gone over the fence, touched second and started heading to the dugout, thinking the game was over. Adcock, happily into his home run trot, passed Aaron on his way to the plate and was called out. His homer was scored as a double. The final score went into the books as 1-0.
It was quite a career, but Adcock would start another one soon after he left baseball for good in 1968. Raised on a Louisiana farm, he returned home to a farm outside Coushatta and became one of his state's leading breeders of thoroughbred horses. Ten times he was named Louisiana's top breeder. A gregarious man, he was, said his son, Jay, "the sort of person who never met a stranger. Everyone was his friend. He was comfortable with anyone on any level in any walk of life. He was not in any way one-dimensional."
Adcock suffered from Alzheimer's disease the last few years. He died on the farm, near the town where he was born.