An Instilled Love for Braves Baseball

An Instilled Love for Braves Baseball

The Beginning of an Atlanta Braves Fan

April, 1988, the birth of an Atlanta Braves fan.  A 10-year old little chubby boy (LCB) arrives home off the bus around 3:00 PM, rushes inside, grabs an Oatmeal Cream Pie, some lemon-lime Kool-aid with crushed ice, and starts pounding away at his homework. There’s a schedule to be kept here as “the gang” will also be finishing up their homework in about an hour and that’s when the wiffleball game would begin.

The strike zone is the air conditioner.

The home run line?

The ditch between 2 neighboring  houses.

And the bat?  A run of the mill yellow wiffleball bat with duct-tape upgrades on the handle and barrel. It’s a 3 vs. 3 matchup therefore the “pitcher’s hands” rule is in full effect. Rule defined:

The pitching mound is essentially a warp-zone to the 1B bag on any play. If the pitcher is standing on the mound with ball in hand before runner steps on 1B, the runner is out.

Before the game, the LCB would bring down 6 baseball cards, 3 of which would be Braves baseball position players, and 3 of which would be position players from the Braves opponent of the night. That’s how the teams were chosen, and make no mistake, the performance on the wiffleball field that day would play a vital role in the outcome of the game to be at Fulton County later that night.

5:00 rolls ’round and it’s time for the LCB to make his way inside for supper…and, as always, a surprise from Dad. While his Dad would never admit it, collecting baseball cards was not something that he merely did for the LCB, as he loved it equally as much. Nearly every night, Dad would roll in from work around 5:30 with a whole box of baseball cards: 36 packs. Always different: Fleer, Topps, Donruss. 540 new toys nearly every weeknight.

The drill was always the same:

  1. Open all 36 packs
  2. Sort the cards into hundreds 
  3. Sort the hundreds into tens
  4. Place all in numerical order
  5. Plug new cards into sets in construction

Dinner would be consumed and baseball card packs would be opened during Sanford and Son. Yes, Elizabeth, it is the big one this time!  Baseball card set construction would run during the Andy Griffith show and the legendary Barney Fife would educate us all on The Emancipation Proclamation.

America’s Team, the Atlanta Braves!

But 6:05…that was the real treat. Skip Caray, Ernie Johnson, Pete Van Wieren and the god-awful Atlanta Braves were coming on.  The LCB would always have a separate stack of Braves players that were the hidden treasures from the day’s packs and they’d be deemed the lucky players of the game for the night.

It was family time. It had meaning. The result didn’t matter. The love of the game was built inside the LCB and it still lives today in the baldheaded1der.

When I go back to my parents’ house, I walk into a baseball museum that has been moved from the limelight to the closet light. As baseball cards started their decline, they became more of a burden rather than a luxury. Over the course of 15 years, my Dad and I built for 450 sets of Topps, Fleer, Donruss, Upper Deck, Leaf, and any other specialty set one can recall. It was a passion that was burned into the deepest parts of me and no matter where I am, what I’m doing, or who I’m with, I will always be a Braves fan.

 

 

12 Comments

I was 10 years old in 1982, when I first started watching The Braves on WTBS (I was raised in a SH1TTY, rural town on The Arkansas side of The Mississippi River called West Helena..most of my friends were Cardinals fans, who ironically knocked us out of The NLCS in 1982 and went on to win The World Series that year). Sanford and Son used to come on at 6:05pm before The Braves came on at 6:35pm (Central Standard Time), unless they were playing on The West Coast (back in those days, The Braves would make 3 trips yearly out west (I’ve lived in San Francisco for over 20 years now..calling where I live ‘out west’ seems outdated, lol)!

In 1982, my mom gave my brother and I (we shared a bedroom growing up) a hand-me-down, push button, channel 2-13 television (it was color, lol) that, if you opened up the control panel, could ‘mess’ with the reception, which if you did it just right, could get ‘pirated’ HBO, SHOWTIME or Cinemax (which would show, at that time, some late night ‘T&A’ soft core cheezy plotted movies, lol)! WTBS was on Channel 8 on that tv.

To be honest, I miss The Braves being in The NL West. We had some pretty interesting games/rivalries (when we were good) with The Giants, Dodgers, Padres..and even with The Reds (I’ll never forget that with only 4 games left and 1 game behind The Dodgers on October 1st, 1991 where, after falling down 6-0 early in the game, David Justice hit a 2 run homer off of Rob Dibble in the 9th inning to win the game…Chip Carey’s call was almost as good as his 1992 NLCS Francisco Cabrera call) and Astros. The Braves 1991 down to the wire race with The Dodgers as well as The 1993 battle with The Giants were drama-filled/exciting to watch. When we moved to The NL East in 1994…there were very few years where we had to wait until the last weekend of the season before The Division was decided. For whatever reason…The Braves being in The Western Division (at least when we first became winners in 1991) provided a more compelling/exciting story..than after we moved to The Eastern Division. Even when The Braves SUCKED in the mid-late 1980’s…I still preferred seeing The Braves play the vast majority of their games against Western Division teams.

What do you guys think (at least those of you who remember those Western Division days)?

Kudos on the article, Ryan.

I’m an 80s baby, so I was too young to really remember the Braves ever being as bad as people say they were back in the day. My first taste of baseball came in 1991, watching the worst-to-first year via TBS; which is how I became a Braves fan. I didn’t understand all of the nuisances of the game, being young and all- but I loved the drum, and the chop. Lol. I also really, really wanted to play the game the way Ron Gant did at the time, too. It actually really bummed me out when he broke his leg to the point I might’ve quit watching baseball had it not been for Larry Wayne “Chipper” Jones.

I always tried to emulate the way Chipper would hit when I was a kid, and play with that same type of moxie. Unfortunately, my lack of any type of pro ability aside, left-handed 3B were never going to catch on. The hot corner was still my spot on the playground, though.

I do vaguely remember the Braves being in the West, but I probably don’t have the same fondness for it as some might. I had to use Google to really recall which teams were in the West back then. I do vividly remember the announcers at the time talking about how no one really wanted the Dodgers to win the division during a broadcast one time, though. The weird things that stand out. Lol.

I credit those early 90s years for making me fall in love with the game, though. Now I’ll always be a Braves fan for life.

You started following during the Golden Age. I’ve enjoyed these past few years despite the team being awful. I’ve been following prospects hard for about a decade and purchased MiLBTV for the first time in 2016. It’s been my saving grace for a bad MLB team.

Finally, the Yelich mess can be put to rest! I’m SO HAPPY that The Braves DID NOT trade for Yelich (because of what we’d had to give up to get him)!

Given how expensive starting pitching is…I’m a little ‘perplexed’ by the thought process that teams trading prospects have to give up MORE VALUE in pitching prospects..as opposed to hitting prospects…because hitters play everyday?

When BUMS like Tyler Chatwood are getting 3 year/$38 mil…and Ian Kennedy gets 5 years/$70 mil prior to 2016…..I’m a little confused to how much sense it makes for Atlanta to have to give up 2-3 pitching prospects like Acuna, Allard and Anderson..to ‘equal’ a Lewis Brinson (which is the main piece of what The Brewers gave up to get Yelich. The other three pitching prospects The Brewers gave up…probably didnt equal COMBINED the ‘perceived value’ that Brinson seemingly represents to many).

Ernie Banks was a great Hall of Fame short stop for The Cubs. How many World Series did he go to/win? As great as Chipper Jones was for The Braves….he DOES NOT win a World Series WITHOUT Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine!

I love the potential that Albies and Acuna brings to Atlanta. However, our long term success will be determined how the likes of Soroka, Allard, Wright, Anderson, Wentz, Wilson develop for The Braves….as well as Fried, Newcomb, Weigel, Tousiant, Muller, Davidson and Sanchez!

Sure, it would be nice if The Braves can sign Machado and Harper to hit homers in the middle of our lineup. However, an potentially more important signing…would be Kimbrel to be THE HAMMER to stabilize our bullpen/give comfort to our young rotation that he’s there if they can get through the 6th-7th inning each time out!

Perhaps The Yelich Trade will work out for both The Brewers and The Marlins. However, it looks like I was ONCE AGAIN proven right by insisting that The Braves SHOULD NOT trade for Yelich!

**shrug**

Well one positive is at least that opens up roughly 486 hours of free time for me this summer. I’m not investing my time, or money, on a team that isn’t in it to win it this season. I’ll just look at the box scores.

King….the progress of our young prospects/seeing how they progress…will give you a preview of what lies ahead for The Braves in our future! I’m excited! When Dale Murphy was traded to The Phillies in early August of 1990, David Justice moved from 1st base to Right Field. Not only did he hit 20 homers the last 2 months of the season…but The Braves were exciting to watch! While I didnt anticipate John Schuerholtz making all the moves he made during that offseason/Spring Training of 1991….I feel that perhaps John S. based his decision to ‘upgrade’ the roster that offseason on what he saw the last 2 months of The 1990 Season.

Our GM, AA, is in a similar situation that John S. was in back then. There is a good chance that history can repeat itself with 2019 mimicking 1991!

Braves fan since 1969…listening on the radio from Orlando. I cried almost every year the day after the season ended. Now my 13yr old son plays for James Parr…ex Brave.

I will always love the Braves!

I think the future is going to be wonderful to be a Braves fan.

Mike…you are absolutely correct! Our future is HELLA bright. Just one more losing season in 2018 (probably to how The 1990 proved to be a ‘spring board’ going into that MAGICAL 1991 Season) and we’ll be fine.

People forget…Steve Avery got his feet wet in 1990, going 3-11 with a 5.64 ERA in 21 starts (while I remember him getting hit hard in a number of his starts..his stuff was noticeable. He just needed to get his feet wet and figure out what adjustments he needed to make going into 1991). Avery went 18-8 in 1991, with an ERA of 3.38 in 35 starts, only giving up 189 hits in 210 innings pitched.

I feel that an argument can be made that Avery DOES NOT have nearly The 1991 Season…if he wasnt able to ‘get his feet wet’ during The 1990 Season. That’s why I feel that 2018 is SO IMPORTANT for The Braves! We need to see Mike Soroka, Kolby Allard and possibly Kyle Wright all get their feet wet during the last 2 months of The 2018 Season (meaning that basically The Braves will be ‘punting’ on 2018 even if we’re seemingly in a playoff push for a Wild Card spot by trading away veteran starters like McCarthy, Kazmir and maybe even Teheran and/or Folty, depending if a team around The Trade Deadline makes us an offer that we cant refuse, lol).

Also an important trade made during that 1990 Season…was John S. trading Dale Murphy to The Phillies in early August (a VERY UNPOPULAR MOVE at the time by Braves fans, lol), which allowed David Justice to move from 1st base to his more natural position in Right Field. After that trade, Justice hit 20 homers the last 2 months of the season…..spring boarding him into being a lethal middle of the order presence that we sorely needed the next 6 seasons (until we traded him to Cleveland in 1997).

I RELIGIOUSLY followed The Braves back then while growing up. I’ll never forget how we went from SUCKING DONKEY SCHLONG from 1985-1990 to being a World Series threat from 1991-2005. I have a similar feeling that 2019 will be the beginning of another run of success, similar to how 1991 was the beginning!

Mike…NICE!

I cant wait for The 2018 Season to start (especially the end of April to get here..when we’ll see Acuna in a Braves uniform). Then The Trade Deadline…when hopefully we’ll see Soroka and Allard (and hopefully Wright) all in a Braves uniform, making starts for Atlanta!

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