From the Church to the Ballpark

Glen Merklen Hero of July 29, 1961 Game

Nashville’s Glen “Buzz” Merklen had two errors against Atlanta on the night of July 29, 1961, giving the visitors two runs. But the big 6’ 4”, 200-pound first baseman had a single, double, and home run in leading the Vols to an 8-6 win over the Crackers, giving the decision to reliever Bruce Swango.

Merklen’s output brought his batting average up to .269. His homer followed Bob Meisner’s double in the eighth inning to break a 5-all tie. His club had been down 5-0 going into the seventh inning before his blooper single scored Buddy Gilbert for the first run of the inning.

Married Before the Game

He received a loud round of applause from the 862 fans on hand in Sulphur Dell after his leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning. No doubt one of them was his new bride. The couple had just been married a few hours earlier.

Swango had been Merklen’s best man at his wedding to Miss Nina Langford of Amarillo, Texas at McKendree Methodist Church, and both players went right to the ballpark from the church after the wedding.

Before the game began Merklen told Nashville Tennessean sportswriter F. M. Williams about his double-duties as husband and ball player.

“Married life’s great,” he said. “At least, for the first six hours. What a life, right from the church to the baseball park.”

Taking over in the eighth inning, Swango’s win was his fifth against one loss. He allowed two hits and one unearned run. In 60 innings pitched so far during the season, he has allowed 17 runs on 47 hits.

Seven Minor League Seasons

Merklen, who was born on September 9, 1937, in Los Angeles, California, had been obtained from Amarillo one month earlier to fill in for the inured Ray Looney. Merklen was hitting for a .245 average with the Texas League (Class-AA) club and had spent the 1960 season with Burlington (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League, Class-B) and Asheville (South Atlantic League, Class-A).

He would play in 18 games for Charlotte (South Atlantic League) before retiring in 1962. In seven minor league seasons, he played for nine clubs and had a .263 lifetime batting average. Perhaps his best year was in 1958 when he had 110 hits, 20 home runs, and 104 RBI for Fargo-Moorhead in the Northern League (Class- C).

Merklen passed away on December 12, 2017 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.


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