An old well-known expression is “April showers bring May flowers.” On May 1, 1975, the Milwaukee Brewers showered hits all over Milwaukee County Stadium in a 17-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers. Every Brewers starter reached base that day, but it was also one of the rare times that both Hank Aaron and Robin Yount went ballistic on the opposition in the same game.
The Kid’s Hot Start
Robin Yount had been in the majors just over a year when the Tigers came to town, and was all of 19 years old. His first season in the bigs hadn’t been particularly memorable – he hit .250 with 3 homers and 26 runs batted in. He was viewed as the shortstop of the future, but his defense needed work. “The Kid” committed 19 errors in 107 games in 1974.
But 1975 was a different story for the youngster. Yount started out 2 for 3 against tough guy Luis Tiant in Boston on Opening Day. He didn’t let up after that by the the end of April led the Brewers in batting average, homers, runs batted in, runs, and hits. His hot bat earned him American League Player of the Month for April.
Home run king Hank Aaron knew he was witnessing the beginnings of Yount’s great career. He exclaimed, “That Robin Yount! This kid is for real.”
There’s No More There
While “The Kid” was on the rise, “Hammerin’” Hank Aaron was on a downswing. He was excited to return to Milwaukee where his long and illustrious career began. After he was traded to Milwaukee on November 2, 1974, Aaron said, “I know I’ll get an opportunity to help the kids.”
Those kids included Yount, catcher Charlie Moore, outfielders Sixto Lezcano and Gorman Thomas, and pitchers Bill Castro and Jim Slaton. All were draft choices by the Brewers and their predecessor Seattle Pilots. If you’re going to be learning about life in the big leagues, why not learn from a future Hall of Famer like Hank Aaron?
Even though Aaron usually batted in the middle of the lineup, he wasn’t hitting as he had for the previous two decades. He not only had to battle the opposing pitchers, but also dealt with age and nagging injuries. Late in his career, Aaron admitted, “After a certain age Mother Nature takes over. There’s no more there.”
Battle for First Place
Both Milwaukee and Detroit had gotten off to surprisingly hot starts before they met at County Stadium on April 30-May 1. After Milwaukee won 6-2 in the first game, Detroit remained in first place in the American League East with a 10-6 record. The Brew Crew were right behind with a 9-7 mark.
Neither team would have a .300 hitter that year. Detroit’s big star was Designated Hitter Willie Horton. He’d hit 25 homers and drive in 92 with a .275 batting average in 1975. Ron LeFlore manned center field, but he was a couple years away from putting up some serious offensive numbers. Detroit also had a kid named Ben Oglivie that would hit .286 that season, but didn’t play every day. His best years came later in a Brewers uniform.
Milwaukee’s bopper was George Scott. “The Boomer” hit .285 that season, with 36 homers and 109 runs batted in. The very consistent Don Money played third base, putting up a .277 batting average. After those two, it was Hank Aaron and the aforementioned kids.
Milwaukee sent righty Pete Broberg to the mound to face righty Vern Ruhle in front of a whopping 8,395 fans. Broberg had been around a few years, and was in the midst of a season that saw him throw the most innings in his career. Ruhle was just starting out a 13 year career, and was also a key member of a fairly thin rotation.
Hank and Robin Put on a Hitting Clinic
The teams sent out these lineups on May 1:
Detroit took an early 2-0 lead on a Willie Horton homer in the first inning. Milwaukee responded with a run in the second inning. After George Scott doubled, Hank Aaron moved him over to third with a single, where Mike Hegan’s sacrifice fly scored the run.
In the third inning, Milwaukee took the lead after singles by Sixto Lezcano, Scott, and Aaron pushed two runs across the plate. It was the end of the day for Verne Ruhle, who was relieved by Ray Bare.
Pete Broberg got around a wild fifth inning, allowing just one Tigers run. The score was tied 3-3 until Milwaukee came to bat in the bottom half of the inning. They erupted for five runs on five hits, led by Yount and Aaron connecting for doubles. Darrell Porter and Pedro Garcia also had triples in the inning.
After a quiet sixth inning, Detroit threatened in the seventh against Brewers reliever (and former 20 game winner in a season) Jim Colburn. The Tigers ultimately left two men on base and didn’t score.
Aaron led off the bottom half with a single and was lifted for pinch runner Bobby Mitchell. Aaron had broken Babe Ruth’s career record for runs batted in earlier in the game, so manager Alex Grammas decided to give him the remainder of the day off. As it turned out, Yount clubbed a three run homer later in the inning, giving the Brewers a lot of cushion with a 13-3 lead.
The Brewers finished their hitting clinic in the ninth with a two run homer by Porter. Some small ball followed the big blast, including a sacrifice fly to score a run, and Yount reaching on an error for the second time in the game.
Milwaukee had 17 hits in the game, led by:
Hank Aaron: 4-4 with 2 RBI’s
Robin Yount: 2 hits, 1 HR, 4 RBI’s
Don Money: 3-5, 1 RBI
Darrell Porter: 2-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI’s
One Special Day in a Long Season
Neither team would finish remotely close to first place, but their early surges were fun while they lasted. Milwaukee remained in first place until May 23, and even was within 4.5 games of Boston at the All-Star break. But the second half was horrific for the Brew Crew, and they finished in fifth place with a 68-94 record. Probably the biggest highlight at County Stadium in 1975 was the All-Star Game. It was Aaron’s last and 24th All-Star Game (25th All-Star Game selection overall).
The Tigers had a nice 19-14 run in July, which couldn’t offset a 19 game losing streak in August. They ended up in last place with a 57-102 mark.
But for one day, on May 1, the Brewers and Tigers fought for first place. The Hall of Fame careers of Hank Aaron and Robin Yount properly intersected – and history was made. May flowers truly bloomed in the form of hits, runs, and memorable quotes such as this one by Robin Yount:
“Henry’s still the man, always will be.”