Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Home of the Braves

WARNING! This post focuses primarily on sports. If you have absolutely NO interest in this, drop out now. But if you do, you might miss valuable insights into my psyche . . . or not, who knows?

As of this moment, the Atlanta Braves are up 7 to 1 in the 6th inning. Baring a massive collapse (which might occur, you never know) the Brave will clinch their 14th division championship in a row--a continuous span of excellence not seen in professional sport of any sort.

Why mention this? Well, growing up in Georgia, I have always been a Braves fan. For most of that time, that meant being the fan of a crappy team. But since my sophomore year in college (1991, if you are keeping score) the Braves have never lost their division. While it is true that the team has only won 1 World Series during that time (1995) and lost four others (1991--the greatest World Series ever, 1992, 1996, and 1999) and haven't made it out of the first round of the playoffs in the last . . . oh, four tries (is that right?) . . . their success MUST be acknowledged.

Every year, about this time, ESPN runs an article celebrating the success of the Braves, lining up these statistics, comparing them to the flashy and championship Yankees while trying to acknowledge the undeniable success that the Braves have shown. This year's story is extremely long, but if you are a Braves fan, its worth reading.

As I said, my history with the Braves is a long one, steeped in childhood. About every year or so, my family would go to Atlanta, maybe on the way to Kentucky to visit grandparents, and we would stop to attend a Braves game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. During most of this time the Braves were not good or at best mediocre. The team wore powder blue uniforms and I lost AT LEAST three or four Braves caps over the years in Atlanta area restaurants after the games.

The one year of Little League success that I ever had, my team celebrated it's championship trophy by going to a Braves game in Atlanta. We sat in the picnic area and got our picture taken with Chief Noc-a-Homa. In today's world, the Chief is a terribly offensive thing, but it was a less polite, more brutal time in the 1980s. I remember the brief years of success in 1983 and 1984, when they won division titles. Dale Murphy--that Mormon sensation--won MVP awards. I have a good memory of listening to the radio broadcast as the Braves won 13 games in a row in my parents bedroom.

In the 1990s, when the Braves began their run of success, I was in awe of the team. I stayed up late suffering over endless one-run games. I suffered through the stressful, exciting, ultimately disappointing 1991 World Series loss to Minnesota. I was in Savannah with my sister the night the team won the World Series in 1995 (I didn't even WATCH that game. I was taking a ghost tour of the colonial squares in the dark of night.) I heard crowds in bars yell out faintly in the distance, either when David Justice hit the home run that was the only run of the game or when the final out was recorded.

I have pictures of some of the years in between, celebrations on campus during playoff wins. I'll scan those in when that scrapbook comes up in the rotation. Until then, well, this will serve as one of my few sports-related posts. You can all survive a few can't cha?


Sven Golly said...

My heart is pounding. Give us MORE sports commentary, Burb, please! Of the many subjects on which you and I resonate, our personal baseball journeys are a lot alike. Among my earliest memories are listening to radio broadcasts of the Milwaukee Braves on WKTY LaCrosse, Wisconsin, with announcers Earl Gillespie and Blaine Walsh, brought to you by Miller High Life, the champagne of bottled beer. The veteran left-hander Warren Spahn, the power-hitting third-sacker Eddie Mathews, and of course the young phenom Hank Aaron. Would you like to hear the rest of the starting lineup?

Those were great years, battling the Dodgers for the pennant and once or twice meeting the Yankees in the Series. My dad took me to games twice in Milwaukee County Stadium, and in one of them, against the Cubs, Aaron hit a line-drive home run that was still rising when it hit the centerfield seats. Awesome!

Not long after my family moved to Detroit and became Tiger fans, the Braves moved to Atlanta. I remained loyal, checking the stats every day in the Detroit Free Press, and even taking a few insane road-trips with a friend to see games in Cincinnati, Houston, and Atlanta as Aaron closed in on the Babe. But that's another story.

David said...

Thanks for the support Sven! I knew that you would appreciate my Braves connection, but I didn't consider that it went as far back as Milwaukee.

This topic has made me think about my brief career as a college newspaper sports reporter. (Really, I was the entire sports department for a smallish "unofficial" campus newspaper called "The Eagle." It was operated out of the Statesboro (GA) newspaper office. We scruffy college kids got to use the office and equipment after hours to publish our 12 page weekly edition.

I don't consider myself a jock, though I attempt some tennis, am willing to mess around with basketball and can be talked into playing outfield (just don't expect any power at the plate, please).

Anyway, in addition to attending as many GSU sporting events as I could get to during the week (and thoroughly covering the football and basketball teams) I wrote a weekly column. I tongue-firmly-in-cheek entitled it "The Authority Speaks" (something I KNEW I was not . . .)

It is with incredible sorrow that I now face the fact that I didn't save any issues from that brief 9 months of my life. I would LOVE to reread those articles, cringing al the while, I'm sure.

And to think, I could transcribe them on my blog for all to read.

NOTE TO SELF--next time I visit Georgia Southern U., make time to find archived newspapers at library. There has GOT to be a way to get my hands on those things.

Sven Golly said...

Oh my. I think I saved every issue of the high school paper we put out biweekly, including every embarrassing word of my column “Dunc AfterBeats,” punning on what sports editors get to do once the regular beat reporters have turned in their stories. After a series of summer jobs at local papers, I came this close to making a career of it, or at least trying. I would love to sneak a peak at "The Authority Speaks."