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October baseball

 

Frank Arnold Guest Columnist

  October baseball, playoff baseball is back in Atlanta! Listen up Henry County: behind the chanting you can hear the tom-tom beating all day and all night just like it did back in ‘91, the miracle year of worst to first. If you are not old enough or have been too spoiled by the successes or too callused by the shortfalls to remember, let me remind you of how electric that time was.

  During the last days of the pennant race, the city of Atlanta didn’t sleep, for a month. Everybody stayed up late to watch the Braves and Dodgers play on the West Coast. Every pitch was monumental. Every win was exhilarating and each loss gut wrenching. You could not look away. Kids could barely keep their eyes open in first period. Neither could their teachers.

  The Braves had been perennial doormats. Not only did they lose, they looked bad doing it. For most of the years the franchise had been in Atlanta, the team picture could have been in the dictionary alongside the definition of dysfunctional. Some very bright stars had shined in the firmament of the Braves lineups; Aaron, Murphy, Niekro and a sprinkling of others, but for the most part, the diamond at old Fulton County Stadium was a vast, empty wasteland, void of both matter and talent.

  Anna and I used to go to a lot of games. We lived just off Tara Boulevard and could drive to the stadium in less than 30 minutes. Parking was $1.00 and general admission tickets were twice that. After an inning or two, none of the ushers cared where you sat. There were plenty of empty seats from which to choose. The experience of attending a game might best be summed up by the word “seedy.” On one rainy night at the end of yet another forgettable season, we sat in our $2.00 dugout seats when a man approached from behind. Thinking some usher had found the motivation to chase us away, we were surprised to be greeted by Ted Turner who said, “Well, you guys are sure good sports to sit out in this to watch that,” as he motioned to the field. Major League Baseball in Atlanta was a dumpster fire.

  But then in the summer of 1991, that fire somehow flamed up, sparked out and set the whole southeast ablaze. Cox and Schuerholz, Pendleton and Bream brought professionalism to what had been a decidedly minor league organization. Glavine and Smoltz brought the heat, Lemke and Justice brought enthusiasm, Gant brought a big stick and Sanders blazing speed! Suddenly and without warning, the fans fell head over heels in love. Smitten! 

  There was a light-hearted optimism mixed with a sense of both awe and disbelief. Out of nowhere, the Braves were relevant! The entire metro area and far beyond were downright giddy. When the Pirates came to town for the NLCS, the excitement was palpable. When the Braves won in 7, the city went, as Munson might have said, “worse than bonkers.”

  People camped out to get World Series ticket. Those who failed tailgated in the parking lots. Some set up televisions and watched the games from outside the stadium (remember this was 1991)! A group organized and beat out “TOMtomtomtom” on Chief Knock-A-Homa’s drum literally 24 hours a day for the length of the series. Even though the Braves came up on the short end in the 7 games of what many called the greatest World Series ever played, they were still honored with a parade down Peachtree. Most classrooms in the area were empty that afternoon and the students in class likely watched it on TV.

   Today, going to a game at The Ted is nothing short of a first class experience.

  The Braves organization from President to ticket taker is fan friendly and professional. The venue is exquisite and while you’d best stop by an ATM on the way, you can count on getting your money’s worth. The players: Freddy and McCann, Gattis and Kimbrel and Henry’s own, JASON HEYWARD! Makes a fan want to get giddy all over again.

  You might want to grab a nap. This might be another special October. Let’s Go Braves!

  

  Frank is a retired educator, a UGA grad and an avid Bulldogs fan.

 

 

 

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