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Braves Finally Have a Slugger at Short

August 21, 2021

Hugh Atkins

Going into this weekend’s series against the Baltimore Orioles, Dansby Swanson of the Atlanta Braves had 24 home runs on the season. When Swanson hit his 20th homer back on July 31, I saw several reports stating that he was the first Braves shortstop to hit that many roundtrippers in a season since Denis Menke hit 20 for the Milwaukee Braves in 1964.

Menke had a fine season in ‘64, but the Braves moved him to second base on September 15 to give Sandy Alomar a look at short. Menke had 17 home runs at the time, and his next two homers came as a second baseman. His final home run of the season came in a game in which he started at second base, but later switched to shortstop before hitting a home run in the 12th inning. So, in reality, Swanson is the first Braves shortstop to hit 20 home runs in a season.

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Injuries limited Menke’s playing time in 1965, and he hit only three home runs as a shortstop. He bounced back in 1966, hitting 15 homers for the season, 11 of which came as a shortstop. In his final year with the Braves, Menke hit seven homers, all as a shortstop. Menke held the franchise record for home runs by a shortstop in a season for almost 57 years, but it’s not as if the Braves had any real sluggers playing short after he left the team in 1968.

From 1969-1973, a combination of Braves shortstops consisting of Sonny Jackson, Gil Garrido, Bob Aspromonte, Marty Perez, and Zoilo Versalles hit a total of 18 home runs. Larvell Blanks (3) and Darrel Chaney (1) boosted that total to 22 by the end of the 1976 season, but it wasn’t until Jerry Royster hit his second homer of the 1977 season that the Braves had 24 total home runs–Swanson’s current total–from the shortstop position after Menke’s departure. Jackson, the shortstop the Braves received in the trade that sent Menke to the Houston Astros, hit a total of four home runs in his seven seasons with Atlanta.

Prior to this season, three players held the Atlanta Braves’ record for home runs in a season by a shortstop with 17: Jeff Blauser (1997), Andrelton Simmons (2013), and Swanson (2019).

© THE TOPPS COMPANY, INC

In 1964 Menke was part of a Braves team that tied a National League record by having five players with 20 or more home runs; the other four were Henry Aaron (24), Ed Mathews (23), Rico Carty (22), and Joe Torre (20). The Braves broke that record the following season when Aaron (32), Mathews (32), Mack Jones (31), Torre (27), Felipe Alou (23), and Gene Oliver (21) all hit over 20 homers. Since that time 33 teams have had at least six players with 20 or more home runs in a season; 11 of those had seven players with over 20 homers, and the 2019 Minnesota Twins had eight.

Not only does Swanson hold the Braves franchise record for home runs in a season by a shortstop, but he also has a great chance at being part of the first team in major-league history to have four infielders with 30 or more home runs in a season. First baseman Freddie Freeman entered the weekend with 27 homers, third baseman Austin Riley has 26, and second baseman Ozzie Albies has 22.

Finally, in addition to providing some punch in the middle of the lineup, Swanson is also an excellent defensive shortstop. The same cannot be said of that gaggle of shortstops the Braves trotted out after they gave away Denis Menke.

Menke’s homer, off Willis Hunter, enabled the Braves to tie a league record of five players with 20 or more homers in a season. Other Braves with 20 or more circuit clouts this year are Hank Aaron, Joe Torre, Eddie Mathews and Rico Carty.

–The Sheboygan Press — October 1, 1964

(Statistics are from Baseball Reference and Retrosheetgame details are from Retrosheet. Some details are from SABR and Newspapers.com.)

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