2013-09-19 / Editorial Page

It’s fun to relive some Braves memories

Baseballs best
By Lamar Garrard
Baseball historian

A few days ago my wife and I were able to take in an Atlanta Braves game at Turner Field with the Braves hosting the Cleveland Indians. While sitting there enjoying the game and taking in all the sights and sounds at the ball park, I was reminded of how many good memories the Braves have recorded for many faithful fans over the years.

We also attended the first Atlanta Braves game in Fulton County Stadium on April 12, 1966, along with 50,671 other excited fans. The game was a 13 inning affair with the Braves losing the opener to the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-3. Tony Cloninger who pitched the whole 13 innings was the losing pitcher. The Braves manager was Bobby Bragan and the lineup included greats like Joe Torre, Eddie Mathews, and Henry Aaron. I am sure most of us have wonderful memories of great games played at Fulton County back then and now Turner Field. I will describe a few of mine over the years noting that there are many more that could be added to these recollections.

April 8, 1974, Hammering Hank broke Babe Ruth’s all time home run record by hitting number 715 at Atlanta Stadium off L.A. Dodgers pitcher Al Downing in the fourth inning. The ball landed safely in the Braves bullpen and was caught by reliever Tom House who later gave the ball to Aaron. Many times the television replays have aired this home run and we see Hank rounding second and the fans chasing him on the field and finally he touches home plate only to be mobbed by exuberant teammates and family. What a night of celebration that became. Some people did not want him to break the record and he endured some threats and insults during the chase. But to his credit he put all that behind him and is the reigning baseball home run king in the eyes of most fans and baseball people.

My favorite Brave strike out of all time was thrown by Gene Garber on April 1, 1978, as he struck out the visiting Red’s Pete Rose and ended his hitting streak at 44 games. Rose was in pursuit of the Joe Dimaggio record of hitting safely in 56 straight games set by the Yankee Clipper in 1941. Rose was miffed and upset at Garber and accused him of throwing like he was in a world series game. Garber informed him that he pitched just like he always pitched and that was to win! As a side note Rose did break Ty Cobb’s all time hit record but Rose came to bat over 3500 more times than the Georgia Peach. He only has 67 more hits than Cobb. Today Garber is a successful dairy farmer in Pennsylvania.

On October 14, 1992, Sid Bream made history when he scored the winning run as Atlanta beat Pitts- burgh in the playoffs on a pinch hit single by Francisco Cabrera.

The scene shows Bream loping around third base and finally getting to home plate sliding safely past a throw from “skinny” outfielder Barry Bonds to catcher Mike LaValliere. Safe! Braves Win! This was one of the most exciting Atlanta finishes ever. Sid Bream, a man of faith, when signing autographs usually includes a Bible verse.

There are so many events that come to mind. The great Hall of Famer Phil Niekro amassed 318 career wins, the most ever by a knuckle ball pitcher. Dale Murphy should be in the hall of fame with his 398 home runs and back-toback MVP awards in ’82 and ’83. Both of these players were great without the use of enhancement drugs.

Both today are staunchly opposed to players cheating in any fashion, especially steroid use. Two of the good guys, Murphy and Niekro.

Consider the1995 World Champion Braves...a team that won the final game #6 against Cleveland with a combined one hitter pitched by Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers. They were great champions. No team will ever amass a steak of 14 consecutive division titles like our Braves did during the Bobby Cox years.

Looking at this year’s team we can hope that they will finish strong and win another pennant and maybe the world series. The 2013 Braves have been an exciting team and one that fights till the last out. The team has given us many thrills. We need a World Series winner again in Atlanta and here’s hoping that we do not have to “Wait Till Next Year.”

Remember those past slogans? I would rather forget them. Go Braves! Next year is here!

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