FanPost

After Heyward went down, I had to do this.

Some Personal Braves’ History Following Yesterday’s Depressing Game. Being more than a little glum following J Hey’s injury, I felt compelled to look into past seasons and came upon the following interesting tidbits, interesting to me anyway, with parallels to today. Limiting myself to 10 year intervals for brevity’s sake, I submit for your approval … 2003. On this day (22 August) in 2003 the Braves were in a position similar to today. In first place at 82-46; 11.5 games ahead of second place PHI and 13.0 games ahead of third place FLA. ATL was on the way to their twelfth division title in a row and sixth, and last, 100 win season under Bobby Cox. Chipper was in his second year of playing left field and the team had a new third base coach, a guy from the Marlins named Fredi Gonzalez. On 22 August the Braves beat the Rockies to begin a three game sweep in Denver. Gary Sheffield got himself thrown out in the first inning for arguing a strike call and Bobby Cox promptly came out to get ejected as well. What I remember about this team was the incredible offense: a team slash of 284/349/475 and five starters slugging over 500. Ray King had the most appearances out of the bullpen, don’t ask me why, and Russ Ortiz won 21 games. This was the ninth time a Braves pitcher had reached 20 wins since 1991, but no one has done it since. Earlier in August, Rafael Furcal had an unassisted triple play, which I vaguely remember hearing on the radio. Television memories tend to be a lot stronger. Also, I had two young children so didn’t follow the team as closely for a few years. The final record of 101-61 earned ATL home field advantage in a best of five with the Cubs. CHI, with only 88 regular season wins, won that series behind strong pitching from Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. I wasn’t there but I remember the media loved the fact that Cubs fans were filling the seats at the Ted. The wildcard Marlins, who finished ten games back (TEN GAMES!!!), won the World Series. They won the last game in New York, which I found especially amusing at the time as I watched with my Long Island relatives, who just expected the Yankees to win, no problem. 1993. On this day in 1993 the Braves were 76-49, again a similar record to today but this time 7.5 games behind the Giants who were 83-41. In the afternoon they had beat the Cubs in Wrigley 4-3. I had been living in Illinois for a couple of years before this, catching the Braves whenever they came to Chicago, especially Sunday matinees like this one, but had just moved out earlier in the summer, heading back home, so missed this series. That night the team travelled to San Francisco for three massive games. They ended up sweeping that series to close to 4.5 and give everyone the belief they could win the division. The return series, with SF coming to Atlanta, was the next week, beginning on 31 August. I remember being on the road in western Maryland during one of the games, travelling back from a work assignment and stopping at various bars trying to find one that had the Superstation and would show the game. Eventually found one and, though I can visualize the bar and the street it was on, I cannot remember the game apart from that the Braves won and knocked another game off the lead. In the last year of no wildcard, the Braves had been ten games out in late July, about the time Fred McGriff joined the team and the press box caught fire. From that point they went on an amazing 51-17 (750) run, never losing back-to-back games in the last six weeks, to overtake SF and win their third consecutive division title. And despite the need to win every game, Bobby Cox was still able to get some playing time for a September call-up named Chipper Jones. For me, this was really the year it all came together, and all those years of seemingly pointless fandom paid off, as both the offense and pitching were tremendous and you just knew the team would stay competitive. They led the league in HRs and ERA and Maddux won the Cy Young. Basically every team and every winning streak since, I have compared to this one. This team just had so many great young players and so many contributors. Keeping Bonds from playing in the World Series again was also enjoyable at the time, and even more so now. Cannot recall exactly, but I think this was the year of the "Unbelievable" ads (the EMF song)? I loved those. Also of note, Giants’ Second Baseman, Robby Thompson was hit in the face by a pitch in late September. He sat out only eight days before coming back wearing a clear plastic mask. 1983. On this day in 1983, the Braves were also in, guess what, first place! 74-50, 3 games ahead of the Dodgers. They had the day off, travelling from Chicago to St Louis. I remember this team well; Joe Torre was in his second strong year as the manager, Dale Murphy was on his way to his second consecutive MVP award and the pitching seemed better than in recent years as Phil Niekro, Pascual Perez and Craig McMurtry would each pitch over 200 innings. In mid August the team was doing really well, 6.5 games in front of LA and had become the first Atlanta Braves team to be 25 games over 500. Then there was a big series at home to the Dodgers starting on 12 August. The middle game was won with a walk-off 2-run homerun by Bob Watson, turning a loss into a win. I remember watching that one on tv with my dad. It was summer break from college and I only had a few weeks at home but was able to catch a couple of games. He killed my buzz by pointing out that the Dodgers were far better, even though I showed him the standings to argue my case. Annoyingly, he turned out to be right, as two days later third baseman Bob Horner injured his wrist and was out for the season, then the tailspin began and ATL finished 17-28 as LA won the division. To keep hope alive, pitcher Len Barker was acquired from Cleveland at the end of August. I remember he had a perfect game on his CV and I was hoping for a real ace. He turned out to be average and the team could only win one of his six starts, and neither of his two against LA. 1973. On this day in 1973, the Braves were not so good, struggling at 61-68, in fifth place, 17.5 games behind LA. They finished in fifth as the Reds won the division. The second baseman, Davey Johnson (yes, that Davey Johnson), homered on this day in a loss to St Louis and went on to earn the Player of the Month award for August and Comeback Player of the Year. He combined with Hank Aaron and Darrell Evans to become the first ever trio of teammates to each hit 40 HRs. This team also included three regulars who were future winners of the Manager of the Year award: Johnson (BAL 1997, WAS 2012), Dusty Baker (SF 1993, 1997, 2000) and Johnny Oates (TEX 1996). No Superstation then, so no game memories, but I do recall morning checks of the box scores in the newspaper to follow Aaron’s chase of 714. He ended up hitting number 713 on the next to last day of the season. I was in third grade at the time and remember writing the Hammer a letter offering my support on the chase. Never heard back, but that’s okay. One odd thing about this season that I had never noticed before was a tie game. In May, a game with LA was rained out in the 13th inning, with the score 7-7. Even though LA had seven more games to play in Atlanta, they never finished that one and ended up with a tie at year’s end. Back to the Present. So despite my bad attitude after yesterday, I realize this is a lifelong journey, good or bad, and I look forward to this weekend’s games. Pat Rocket, 22 August 2013

This FanPost does not express the views or opinions of Talking Chop.

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