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Former pitcher Cloninger who hit 2 slams in game dies at 77

July 29, 2018
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FILE - In this July 3, 1966, file photo, Atlanta Braves right-hander Tony Cloninger hoists an armload of bats after pitching the Braves to a 17-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants in which he hit two grand slams, in San Francisco. Cloninger, perhaps best known for hitting two grand slams in a game, has died. He was 77. Cloninger died Tuesday, July 24, 2018. He had worked as a consultant for the Boston Red Sox since 2002 and the team announced his death Saturday. (AP Photo/Robert "Sammy" Houston, File)

DENVER, N.C. (AP) — Former major league pitcher Tony Cloninger, perhaps best known for hitting two grand slams in a game, has died. He was 77.

Cloninger died Tuesday. He had worked as a consultant for the Boston Red Sox since 2002 and the team announced his death Saturday.

Cloninger was a high school star in the North Carolina community of Denver, then went 113-97 during 12 seasons in the big leagues, mostly with the Braves.

The right-hander was 24-11 for Milwaukee in 1965, the club’s last season before moving to Atlanta.

On April 12, 1966, Cloninger threw the first pitch for the new Atlanta franchise. Pitching at what was then called Atlanta Stadium, he started on opening day and tossed all 13 innings in a 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh — a home run by Willie Stargell broke the tie.

It was later that season, with a bat, that Cloninger put himself into the record book.

Playing at Candlestick Park, Cloninger became the only pitcher to hit two grand slams in the same game. He drove in nine runs that day, in fact, getting three hits as the Braves routed San Francisco 17-3.

Cloninger hit five of his 11 career home runs in 1966.

Traded to Cincinnati during the 1968 season, he went to the World Series with the Reds in 1970. Cloninger started and took the loss at Baltimore in Game 3 — he was pulled in the sixth, and later that inning Dave McNally connected off reliever Wayne Granger to become the first pitcher to hit a grand slam in the World Series.

Cloninger finished up as a reliever with St. Louis in 1972.

After leaving the majors, Cloninger was a big hitter for a nationally recognized softball team in North Carolina.

Cloninger returned to pro ball was the longtime bullpen coach for the New York Yankees during their championship run. He became Boston’s pitching coach in 2002 and took a medical leave in 2003 because of bladder cancer. Cloninger recovered and returned to the Red Sox, first as a senior pitching adviser in 2004 and then spending the next 14 seasons as a player development consultant.

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