Saturday, June 09, 2007

Old Friends - Braves Memories

A buddy and I took a road trip last night to Turner Field to take in an Atlanta Braves game.

Donnie Mills and I have a lot of memories as fans of the Atlanta Braves. Fifteen years ago or so not only did we attend a lot of Braves games but we called each other dozens of time nightly during games we were watching on television from our homes. I can remember answering the phone and asking a question before saying hello: “Did you see that catch? Can you believe that clutch hit? Can you believe Cox has not taken him out of the game? Do you think they will sacrifice here or swing away?”

We were serious Braves fans. And we shared the fun and created a great friendship in the process.

By the way I was a Braves fan long before it was cool to be a Braves fan. I remember my mom dropping a friend and I off at Atlanta Stadium when we were kids to watch a double header and we would spend the day. And she was a Braves fan too. In 1969 when the Braves won the Western Division for the first time, my mom drove up and down the streets of Reynolds at midnight honking the horn.

I also remember driving over from Athens from time to time with some college buddies to catch a Braves game. I’ve been there when there were less than a 1000 people in the stands. I was also there on April 8, 1974 when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s record. About five fraternity brothers and I drove over the morning of that game and stood in line to get tickets. We were sitting in left center field seats when Aaron hit the home run. It was one of the great moments in sports and I was there.

For you baseball fans that remember or have seen the video, two guys ran around the bases with Hank that night during that historic home run. They were students in Athens and I knew both of them. Brent Gaston and Cliff Courtney got arrested that night but it was worth it. I’ve watched them run around the bases with Aaron many times in videos and even watched them at Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

So when the Braves finally started winning in the early nineties, people like Donnie Mills and me really got excited. I got so excited that I went in with a few other families to buy season tickets. We were about 3 rows up from the field on the first base side. And I was sitting in those seats on October 22, 1991 when the first ever World Series game was played in Atlanta. I have to tell you – I had chill bumps that night. It was emotional. A World Series in Atlanta. Wow!

And Donnie Mills and I were at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to take in what was probably the greatest baseball game ever played. It was Game 7 of the National League Playoffs. The Braves were behind 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning and the crowd was almost silent as our World Series hopes had about faded away. But we saw a miracle comeback that night. The Braves scored 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win the game. Francisco Cabrera knocked in two runs to win that game and take the Braves into their 2nd consecutive World Series. The runner who scored the winning run was slow running first baseman Sid Bream who was called safe after his famous slide.

The place went absolutely nuts. I have never experienced anything like it. I kissed a lady sitting behind us right in the mouth. I’m serious. And her husband didn’t mind at all. We must have stayed in that stadium for 2 hours after the game was over. It had to be the greatest baseball game ever. And Donnie and I were there.

So you can understand when I had the opportunity to a watch a Braves game from a Suite in the Lexus level at Turner Field last night there was only one person I even thought about inviting to go with me. So we took a road trip for old time sake.

Atlanta Fulton County Stadium has been destroyed now but the field is plainly marked off in the north parking lot of Turner Field. This picture shows Donnie standing on the pitcher's mound. I’m taking the picture from home plate. The same plate where Sid Bream scored that famous run. The same home plate where Hank Aaron (legitimately I might add) broke Babe Ruth’s record. The same plate where people like Joe Torre and Dale Murphy and Orlando Cepeda batted so many times. And the same plate where Bob Horner hit 4 homeruns in one game in 1986.

Only real baseball fans would appreciate such stuff. A couple of real ones took a road trip last night. And as is my nature, we took a stroll down memory lane.

And my old friend and I had a blast.


Anonymous said...

Bruce, Your old friend Donnie is my brother in law (Shawna is my sister). I just talked with him and listened to what a great time the two of you had at the game. He wanted me to look at the story on your web site. I did enjoy reading it and some of the other stories. Donnie and Shawna gave me your book for a gift and I really enjoyed reading the stories. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I am so envious, what a great time you must of had. Baseball been very very good to Atlanta.

Anonymous said...

My daddy and I went with Mr. sink and Buddy on June 26, 1966 and sat on the top row of the sold-out stadium. Denny Lemaster and Sandy Koufax had a 1-1 game into he 9th. Maury Wills reached 2nd on an error to lead off and scored on a double by Willie Davis (Wes Parker, who had been hit by a pitch, was thrown out at the plate - Alou to Menke to Oliver) and the Dodgers won 2-1. I have lots of memories from the old days in that stadium.

Anonymous said...

I was watching the Braves on TV the night Hank Aaron broke Babe's record. I was only about 8 or 9 but still remember jumping up and down and screaming.

My daddy used to rock me to sleep at night listening to the Braves on the radio. Even now when I hear a baseball announcer I remember snuggling up in Daddy's lap, listening to the creak of the rocking chair on the wooden floor and the excitement of the game... now I'm starting to sound like Bruce! LL in SC