Friday Flashback: Atlanta Braves’ New Home Openers

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For only the third time since the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, they will open a new stadium tonight against the San Diego Padres at the 41,000-seat SunTrust Park located in Cobb County on the Northwest side of downtown.

Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium (1966-1996)

The Braves played their first game at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on April 12, 1966.  A sellout crowd saw the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Braves 3-2 in 13 innings.    The Braves had threatened to win the game in the 11th inning when they loaded the bases against Pirates’ reliever, Don Schwall but Schwall got the last two batters out on a strikeout and force out at second base to end the threat.  Willie Stargell hit a two-run home run in the 13th to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead.  The Braves tried to comeback in the bottom half of the inning when Joe Torre hit his second home run of the game to cut the lead to 3-2 with one out but Schwall struck out Denis Menke and Lee Thomas grounded out to hand the Braves a loss in their first home opener in Atlanta.  The Braves went on to finish 5th with a record of 85-77.

Turner Field (1997-2016)

After the 1996 Summer Olympics were held in Atlanta, Olympic Stadium was converted into the Braves’ new home for the 1997 season.   The Braves opened Turner Field on April 4, 1997 with a 5-4 win over the Chicago Cubs in front of 45,044 fans.

Trailing the Cubs, 4-3 in the eighth inning, Kenny Lofton got on base when his ball was misplayed by Cubs shortstop Shawon Dunston which allowed Jeff Blauser to tie the game at 4-4.  Two batters later, Chipper Jones hit a two-out single which scored Mike Mordecai to put the Braves in front, 5-4.  Mark Wohlers shut down the Cubs in the ninth to give the Braves their first win at Turner Field.

The Braves finished the 1997 season with a 101-61 record for first place in the National League Eastern Division.  They lost the National League Championship Series to the Florida Marlins.

Facts about SunTrust Park:

  • Highest percentage of seats closer to the field than any other ballpark in Major League Baseball (MLB)
  • Expanded protection from foul balls
  • New playing surface called “Seahorse Paspalum, Platinum TE which is similar to Houston’s Minute Maid Park and Miami’s Marlins Park.
  • Instead of a stand-alone Braves museum, the new park will have a Monument Garden.
  • Water feature similar to Colorado Rockies’ Coors Field.
  • 5,500 more parking spaces than Turner Field

 

 

 

Baby Cakes, Jumbo Shrimp and Firefrogs

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You may have seen the major sports headlines over the past week but you probably haven’t seen these:

The New Orleans Zephyrs of the Pacific Coast League announced they were changing their name to the Baby Cakes.  Yep, you read that right.  The minor league affiliate of the Miami Marlins chose the name which beat out six other finalists (Tailgators, Night Owls, King Cakes, Red Eyes, Po’boys and Crawfish) in an online contest.  Apparently the name has some kind of connections to the New Orleans Carnival customs.  Seriously?  My pick would have been Crawfish or Revelers.

Is this something with Marlin affiliate teams?   Weeks earlier the Jacksonville Suns of the Class AA Southern League decided to rename their franchise to the Jumbo Shrimp.  The team had been known as the Suns since 1962.  Now they will be taking the field with a side of grits.

The Braves’ minor league team which moved from Brevard County to Kissimmee, Florida was renamed from the Manatees to the Florida Firefrogs which beat out Rodeo Clowns and Sorcerers.  The Firefrogs will be the only Atlanta affiliate that does not use the Braves nickname.

Waco’s newest baseball team in the independent Southwest League is down to five entries.  The choices are:  Woolies, Mammoths, BlueCats, Peppers and Grackles.

The Binghamton Mets will be the Rumble Ponies next season.

Bismarck, North Dakota will welcome the Bismarck Larks to the Northwoods League next season.  At least this name makes sense with the state bird being the Meadowlark.

Kinston, North Carolina’s Carolina League team has decided to become the Down East Wood Ducks or “woodies” for short.  Yeah, I’m not commenting on that one.

The Staten Island Yankees are letting fans rename their single-A affiliate.  The choices are:  Bridge Trolls, Heroes, Killer Bees, Pizza Rats and Rock Pigeons.   How about “Crazy Taxi Drivers”?

Next Tuesday, the new Las Vegas National Hockey League (NHL) team will unveil their name and logo.  They initially had called themselves the Black Knights but ran into issues with the Army in using that name.  With all the possible nicknames associated with gambling, I would guess it will be something totally different.  The current ECHL team is called the Las Vegas Wranglers.   My personal choices would be the Jokers or Jacks.  With all this crazy naming going on, it will probably be something like “Sand Frogs” or “Cactus”.

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Flashback: 1992 National League Championship Series – Game 7


Ask any Atlanta Braves fan and they will get that warm fuzzy feeling in their stomach they experienced when they witnessed Sid Bream score the game-winning run to win the 1992 National League Championship Series and advance to their second consecutive World Series appearance.

The Atlanta Braves had risen from obscurity in the 1991 season when they won the NLCS against the same Pittsburgh Pirates but came up short to the Minnesota Twins in the World Series.  The Braves and Pirates met again for the 1992 National League pennant.

Atlanta took a 3-1 lead in the series but Pittsburgh came back to tie the series at 3 to force another seventh game.

In the deciding game, the Pirates scored first as Alex Cole led off with a walk, advanced to third on a double by Andy Van Slyke, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Orlando Merced.  In the sixth inning, Jay Bell scored on a single by Van Slyke which the Pirates took the lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning.

Terry Pendleton led off the ninth inning with a double.  David Justice followed with a sharp grounder to Pirates’ second baseman Jose Lind, who misplayed the ball which allowed the runners to reach base at the corners with no outs.  Sid Bream was walked on four pitches from Doug Drabek.  Drabek was replaced by Stan Belinda.  Ron Gant hit a deep fly ball to Barry Bonds which allowed Pendleton to score.  Damon Berryhill was walked to load the bases again.  Belinda was able to get the next batter, Brian Hunter, to pop out for the second out.  Braves’ manager Bobby Cox sent a seldom-used utility player named Francisco Cabrera to hit for Braves’ pitcher Jeff Reardon.  Cabrera hit a line drive which allowed Justice to score.   Bream was given the green light and scored in a close play at the plate to give the Braves an improbable win.

Unfortunately the Braves went on to lose the World Series to the Toronto Bluejays.

In an interesting tidbit that I read about this game was during Cabrera’s at-bat when he hit a line drive foul before his game-winning hit, Van Slyke and Bonds got into a brief argument as Van Slyke signaled Bonds to move in closer so that Bonds could cut off a potential single and keep the runners from scoring.  Bonds gave Van Slyke the finger and refused to move then on the next swing Cabrera lined the pitch which dropped in front of Bonds.

Cabrera played one more season for the Braves and finished his career with the Orix Blue Wave in Japan.  He later managed the St. Louis Cardinals’ Dominican League affiliate.  He is the only player in Major League Baseball history to win a postseason series with a hit during an at bat in which he could have lost the series with an out.

Bream played for the Braves in 1993 then signed with the Houston Astros in 1994 and seeing limited action as a pinch hitter.

The Pirates never recovered from their loss to the Braves.  They would not have another winning season for the next 20 years and did not make another postseason appearance until 2013.

Until 2008, the Braves were the last team to win a seventh game after blowing a 3-1 series lead.

At least for one cool night in October, Braves fans will remember it warmly.

 

 

 

 

Team of the Week:  Rome Braves


The parent team may be having one of the worst seasons in recent history but the Class A Rome Braves of the South Atlantic League (SAL) did the organization proud when it rebounded from an opening game loss to the Lakewood Blue Claws and won three straight to capture the title in a 6-1 win in game four.

This was Rome’s second league title.  They won the 2003 title in their first season in Rome.  Rome was the only Atlanta Braves’ affiliate to win a league title this season.

Alejandro Salazar had three hits, scoring two runs as pitcher Max Fried struck out 13 batters to start the celebration. Fried was also the winning pitcher when the Braves eliminated Charleston in the Southern Division playoffs.  

Rome spotted Lakewood a 1-0 lead but scored three runs in the fifth inning as Salazar and Anfernee Seymour scored for the Braves.

The Braves were only 70-69 overall but their 43-27 second half finish clinched the Southern Division by 2 1/2 games.  The Braves were 58-82 last season.

Outfielder Ronald Acuna led the team in batting with a .311 average.  Patrick Weigel led the pitching staff with 10 wins and was promoted to Class AA Mississippi in the Southern League to finish the season.