HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — Yankee legend Chris Chambliss, famed as The Man Whose Grand Slam Emptied the Stands at Yankee Stadium, will be a special guest August 26 – 27 at the Fifth Annual Hot Springs Baseball Weekend.
He will join Atlanta Braves star Dale Murphy, whose appearance was announced previously.
Chambliss’ most memorable moment has been described thusly:
“On a cold autumn night — October 14, 1976 — the fifth game of a winner take all American League Championship Series, the game would be at a standstill in the bottom of the ninth. Kansas City relief pitcher Mark Littell would be taking warm-up tosses, Yankee public address announcer Bob Sheppard was cautioning the crowd of over 58,000 about throwing debris onto the playing field. The game had already been stopped several times because of bottles, firecrackers, beer cans and rolls of toilet paper being thrown from the stands.
“Meanwhile Yankee first baseman Chris Chambliss waited in the cold. The delay prevented Littell from staying loose and interfered with his rhythm. Finally, at 11:13 p.m., Chambliss stepped into the batter’s box and home-plate umpire Art Frantz yelled, ‘Play ball.’
“Littell would throw Chambliss a high fastball that Chambliss would smash over the right-field wall, for a walk-off win and one of the most iconic moments in baseball history, as the Yankee fans emptied the stands and filled the fields.
“There were so many people on the field and blocking home plate that Chambliss wasn’t actually sure he stepped on the plate. Discussing it with Graig Nettles, Nettles suggested Chambliss go back out and step on the home plate so that the umpires wouldn’t say he missed the plate, and not count the run. Chambliss borrowed a police raincoat as a disguise and returned to the field and stepped on home plate, that sealed the deal.”
Chambliss made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1971. After two more seasons with the Indians he was traded to the Yankees, with whom he was a Golden Glove winner, an All Star player and two-time MVP nominee. In 1976 — the year he hit his famous walk-off homer — Yankees owner George Steinbrenner would bring pitcher Don Gullett, Bucky Dent, Oscar Gamble and Reggie Jackson to the team. Jackson was signed against manager Billy Martin’s objections. Martin was noticeably absent when the Yankees introduced Jackson to the press. At one time Martin would say Jackson may be Mr. October, but Chris Chambliss is Mr. Season. The Yankees would win the ALCS from Kansas City and the World Series from the Dodgers in 1977 and in 1978.
After the 1979 season, the Yankees would be looking for a qualified catcher to replace Thurman Munson, who had died in a plane crash, and would trade Chambliss to the Atlanta Braves where he would play out the last seven years of his 17-year career while being an MVP nominee once again.
He finished his career in baseball coaching for the Seattle Mariners in 2012 at the age of 64. He will be forever remembered for the blast that emptied the stands at Yankee Stadium.
Chambliss and his wife, Audry, reside in Alpharetta, Ga.
The Fifth Annual Hot Springs Baseball Weekend again will be held at the Hot Springs Convention Center. The public is invited to attend free of charge.
For more information call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027.