As 2 million runs approach, it all started with the Atlanta Braves

Bob Watson #27 of the Houston Astros bats against the Phillies in 1978. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Bob Watson #27 of the Houston Astros bats against the Phillies in 1978. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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Atlanta Braves
Former Atlanta Braves pitcher and Baseball Hall-of-Fame member Phil Niekro looks on while pitching batting practice. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

Homering off the Braves knuckleballer

In San Francisco, Watson walked in the second inning.  Pitcher John (“the Count”) Montefusco then also walked Jose Cruz.  Watson had stolen second, but that became moot.

In Cincinnati, SS Davey Concepcion stepped in against Phil Niekro.  In San Fran, it was Milt May against Montefusco.

Neither hitter was considered a slugger, but in both cities, anyone paying attention knew that the next run to score would be run 1,000,000.

Watson wasn’t one of those paying attention.

Both hitters homered within seconds of one another.  Concepcion definitely knew the “score” and immediately bolted around the bases as if he was trying to beat out an inside-the-parker.

Watson only had to jog from second base to home — half the distance — but it was about third base that his own dugout yelled at him to get moving.  The Astros and Reds didn’t know what was going on in each other’s game, but they both rightly figured that seconds might matter.

When Concepcion crossed the plate, he and his teammates celebrated — thinking he was the million-run man.  Not quite.

The figuring later was that the difference might have been less than two seconds:

"“I got to third base and our bullpen was right behind third and the guys were saying, ‘Run, run, run!'” recalls Watson, who had worked a walk against John Montefusco. “I think I beat Concepcion by like a second and a half.” “I was the million and one,” Concepcion says, laughing. “I was flying around the bases, but I didn’t have time to score before Bob. I think I missed by eight yards.”"

Watson was awarded a supply of Tootsie Rolls (he donated them), a new Seiko watch, and $10,000 in the form of a million pennies.  Then he had to donate his just-broken-in spikes to the Hall of Fame.

There are reasons to challenge this millionth run… new research arising from older games, the implication of Negro League contests now considered to be “major league” in quality, and several other factors.

Still… it’s reasonable to drive a stake into the ground somewhere to measure things like this.  Such will also be the case with run #2 million this week.

Things like this — which amounts to “stats on steroids” — are fun to track, and especially so since this is a case where you have no idea who will achieve the milestone.  In most other baseball stats, you know that (for instance) Hank Aaron is going to break Babe Ruth‘s homer record… it’s just a matter of “when”.

Next. Tough sledding ahead. dark

But one thing seems to be certain:  your Atlanta Braves started it all… with run #1 in 1876.  And it’s now part of their 150th franchise anniversary this season.