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:
- Open all 36 packs
- Sort the cards into hundreds
- Sort the hundreds into tens
- Place all in numerical order
- 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.