The Atlanta Braves won the World Series last night. If you read any of my TV posts you will know that I am a Braves fan and have been staying up late to watch all of the games. Here is a short history of my life as a Braves fan.
I started watching the Braves when TBS came into existence and showed every Braves game. I was a kid in Kentucky. The more obvious choices for baseball were the Reds to the Cardinals, but we couldn’t watch all of their games. We could watch the Braves. So we did. The Braves of the 80s were not good. There were some good players. I got to watch Phil Niekro pitch. I got to watch Dale Murphy. They were a bad team, but I thought they were a fun team. People in high school laughed at me for liking the worst team in baseball as much as I did.
When I was in college, my girlfriend(now wife) suggested a trip to Atlanta. She collects Coca Cola memorabilia and I am a Braves fan. The trip would include the Coca Cola Museum and a Braves game. We bought tickets to a game in July. At the time of purchase, they were coming off a last place finish. By the time we went to the game in July, they were in first place and on their way to the playoffs. My first in person game would be in the season they finally made it to the postseason. I’m probably partly responsible.
That season would start a string of 14 straight trips to the playoffs. Unfortunately, that only resulted in one World Series championship in 1995. It also resulted in a lot of bandwagon fans who now wanted to be Braves fans because they were winners. And then came the collapse. The Braves went from a string of division wins to a string of bad seasons. Bobby Cox retired. Chipper Jones retired. They went through years of fielding teams full of underperforming free agents. The bandwagon fans started to fall away. The ones who are left are likely the people on Twitter who demand they cut every player who has a bad game and yells for them to fire the manager who just won a championship because they lost a game.
We were back to where I was as a kid. A fan of a bad baseball team. Worst of all, it wasn’t even a fun bad baseball team. There seemed to be no joy in the game for the team. It was a bad stretch, but I kept watching.
Slowly, but surely, the team started to rebuild from within. Young stars like Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson, and Austin Riley came up from the minors. Freddie Freeman remained as the veteran presence in the dugout. They hired a manager who has been with the system for over 40 years. The players who came up through the system know and love him. Joy and fun returned to the team. They still couldn’t get to the World Series, but they were competitive and fun to watch.
This season seemed like it would be a lost season. Mine Soroka, a very good young pitcher, reinjured his Achilles and would miss the season. Acuna tore his ACL and would miss the second half of the season. Marcelo Ozuna was arrested on domestic violence charges. Ynoa punched a wall and broke his hand. D’Arnaud missed a lot of time with a thumb injury. It looked bleak, but then they added an entire new outfield via trade. Luckily, the rest of the division was bad and all it took was 88 wins to get to the playoffs.
Now, for the first time since 1995, World Champions. It’s a good morning to be a Braves fan.