Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tony Cloninger (#490)

Tony Cloninger was the Braves' top starting pitcher during their final years in Milwaukee. This was the era between Warren Spahn and Phil Niekro, when Cloninger led a rotation that also included Ken Johnson, Denver Lemaster, and Wade Blasingame. (Niekro wouldn't become a starter until mid-June 1967.)

Cloninger won 19 games in 1964, and 24 games in 1965. After winning 14 games in 1966, his career took a downturn. Oddly enough, while winning a total of 38 games in 1965 and 1966, he also led the league in walks and wild pitches in both years.

On the card back we learn that Cloninger also hit 2 grand slams in the same game, as he collected 9 RBI in the Braves' 17-3 rout of the Giants on 7/3/1966.

In mid-1968, Cloninger was traded to the Reds along with relief pitcher Clay Carroll and 2nd baseman Woody Woodward for pitchers Milt Pappas and Ted Davidson, and utility infielder Bob Johnson. His 3 1/2 years with the Reds was unremarkable, and he was traded to the Cardinals prior to the 1972 season. The Cardinals released him in mid-1972.

As a youngster in 1967, I would sometimes hear Tony Cloninger's name on the radio during Phillies vs. Braves broadcasts. I would also occasionally hear Tony Conigliaro's name mentioned, but it wasn't until late in the season (probably when I got this card) that I realized they were 2 different players.

Also check out Cloninger's 1966 card.

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