Twelve reasons to be a fan of the Atlanta Braves

As long as I can remember, my favorite baseball teams have been the Atlanta Braves, the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago Cubs.

One of the main reasons was the fact that back 20 years ago, you could only watch TBS, HTS and WGN for most of your baseball. The other reason was the numbers game: 3, 5, 8, 10, 14, 23, 29, 31, 33, 29, 44 and 47. Need I say more?

If that does not make any sense, those numbers belong to Dale Murphy, Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Jr., Chipper Jones, Ernie Banks, Ryan Sandberg, John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, Eddie Murray, Hank Aaron and Tom Glavine.
That is a list of six Major League Baseball Hall of Famers, and five future members.

I have had a chance to meet three of these legends. I have seen the majority of them play at some point in person, I have played backyard baseball acting as if I was one growing up, and I even drove 16 hours just to see one (Ripken, Jr.) go into the Hall.

What topped it all though was pulling for the red, white and blue of the Braves. It did not matter that in 1985 as a kid, not many people would proudly sport the royal blue A on their hats. Maybe it was because the Braves were 31 games back the first time we drove six hours to Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta in August.

I did not seem to mind that when the lady at the ticket counter asked us where we wanted to sit, and we responded, “Right behind the Braves dugout.” Murphy went yard that game and threw someone out from outfield.

Throughout all the trips since, Atlanta has only lost once in our visits to Fulton County and Turner Field. Back then the Atlanta Braves played in the National League West and they were rivals with the Giants and the Dodgers. My neighbor was a Dodgers fan and a Cardinals fan, so when we challenged each other, it was Braves versus Dodgers or Cubs versus Cardinals.

I was there in the game when Atlanta went from “worst to first” and I have seen all of the division titles and pennants since that time. There was nothing like watching Sid Bream slide into home to win in 1992 over the Pittsburgh Pirates in game 7. That was one of the greatest moments in Braves history.

Since 1991, the Braves have gone 2,002-1,453 for a .725 winning percentage. That included 11 division titles (three in the west, eight in the east), five pennants, and a MLB World Series Championship in 1995.

It is 2012, so here are 12 reasons to be an Atlanta Braves fan:

1. Turner Field – Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta was great, but there is nothing like the majestic Turner Field. Seeing the epic red brick surrounding the stadium, the legendary statues outside, and the green grass of the field around the banners flying high.

2. The minors – The Atlanta Braves have had a number of outstanding minor league programs throughout the years. That has included our own hometown Myrtle Beach Pelicans, before they were taken over by the Texas Rangers. Whether it was the Gwinnett Braves, the Mississippi Braves, the Lynchburg Hillcats, the Rome Braves, the Danville Braves, the Gulf Coast League Braves, the Durham Bulls from the past, or the Pelicans. Having a chance to see Brian McCann, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, Tommy Hanson and Jonny Venters among others come through Myrtle Beach has been excellent.

3. Murphy – He wore No. 3 and played outfield. That was the reason that I wore No. 3 and played outfield was I was younger. He played 18 years and racked up numbers that definitely should place him into Cooperstown one day. Two MVPs, seven all-star games, five gold gloves and four Silver Slugger Awards is fairly strong. My family and I have actually been standing in line four times to meet Murphy, but each time he was called away due to time constraints just before we got to get his autograph. He remains a true legend for the Braves. He is still a Braves legend.

4. The number of MLB All-Stars in 2012 playing in Kansas City; Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla, Michael Bourn and Kimbrel. A game that the National League won 10-6.

5. As in 1995, the year that Tom Glavine pitched a 1-0 shutout to take Atlanta to the title following a solo homerun by David Justice.

6. No. 6, Bobby Cox – One of the highest win total managers in MLB history with 2,504. He and Leo Mazzone among others helped lead a dominant return by Atlanta.

7. As in 47 being the number for Glavine. He was a world series MVP, a two-time Cy Young Award Winner, and captured 305 wins in his career. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League and the Atlanta Braves both in 1984 before staying with baseball. Also, as in No. 17, because that is the number of pennants won from all the different organizations for the Braves, (Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta).

8. For No. 48 worn by former Pelican, Hanson, who continues to show dominance with the team.

9. The number of players that have been honored by having their jersey retired by the Braves. Of course, Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 was retired by Major League Baseball. Also, No. 29, as in John Smoltz. My wife and I had the chance to see Smoltz get his number retired on June 8, 2012 against the Toronto Blue Jays. Heyward scored the game-winning run in extra innings, as he stole home just 10 minutes after I put on my rally cap, and actually told my wife, who is also a Braves fan, that Heyward was going to score the winning run. Plus, No. 19, because Francisco Cabrera, who had the game-winning hit when Bream scored, wore No. 19.

10. One word – Chipper, as in Chipper Jones (No. 10), who is playing in his last season with the Braves. He is retiring after the season. He has stayed with the team for his entire career. Jones is a .304 hitter with 467 home runs, 1,489 walks, and 1,615 RBI in 2,464 games. He has the most career RBIs for a third baseman, according to Wikipedia.

11. The number of division titles that Atlanta has won since 1991.

12. The number worn by “The Sliding Hero” Bream, who played a key role for years with the team.
OK. Just one more… Go Braves!

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