I'm spoiled. I really am. When others are home in October already drowning their sorrows from the regular season, I'm left wondering:
- How the late great Kirby Puckett could put a coat on the Charlie Leibrandt hanger in the 11th inning of Game 6 of the '91 Series.
- How Jack Morris outduels Smoltz in Game 7 by pitching 10 shutout innings en route to a 1-0 series-clinching victory.
I suppose I should have gotten used to that postseason heartache way back then. But a boy of eight can only be so pessimistic. The '91 Series is probably the start of my baseball memories, although they're still somewhat fuzzy until I rewatch some old videotapes.
Some may wonder how a 23-year old kid from Ohio ever "conveniently" started following the Braves since the early 90's, just in time to enjoy the entire string of Division Championships. Two words: Ted Turner.
Say what you will about the eccentric businessman. If he didn't quite make the Braves "America's Team", he made them mine. Sure our house was 80 miles from Pittsburgh and many people from the area followed the Pirates. But I was able to have as much TV exposure to the Tomahawk Chop as the Pirate Parrot growing up. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.
As a budding southpaw in youth baseball, I liked to learn from the best rotation in the business. And I soaked up all the information from Leo's boys: Avery, Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux. I developed the big looping curve of Avery and did my best impression of Maddux's pitch location due to my less than fast fastball.
So combine the national TV coverage and my love for pitching with a small dose of early postseason excitement, and the boys from Atlanta have continued to receive my support for the last 15 years. So call me a bandwagon jumper if you must, but I've survived the good (1995) and the bad (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005) of the postseason.
The '92 NLCS post by the Bucco Blogger last week brought back memories from the other side of the spectrum for me. I can still clearly remember the thrill of staying up past my usual 4th grade bedtime of 8:30 to watch Game 7 of that exciting series. And when some guy named Francisco Cabrera stepped to the plate in the 9th, I think I felt I had as good a chance as he at plating any more runs.
But Cabrera comes through with the biggest hit of his life (and his 4th of the year) to bring home Justice, Sid Bream, and the piano attached to Bream. I know Bream never had the nickname "Wheels", but he couldn't have made that play at the plate any closer. I remember watching replay after replay of "The Slide" and jumping up and down in excitement in our kitchen. My first clear baseball memory.
Then the '92 Series went to the American League as well, followed by NLCS heartbreak in 1993. And then, finally, it happened. Following the 1994 work stoppage, the Braves were finally World Champions in 1995, defeating the Indians in 6 (the only team more unlucky than Atlanta in the 90's in games after #162).
October has been the cruelest month for Atlanta fans since. Whether it was Jim Leyritz calling on the powers of Reggie Jackson to take Wohlers deep in Game 4 of the '96 Series, losing to the two-headed monster of Johnson & Schilling in 2001, or some guy named Brad Ausmus (an anemic offensive contributor if there ever was one) hitting a 9th inning home run off Kyle Farnsworth
in a game we would lose in 18, the city of Atlanta and I have shared collective disappointment.
And it wasn't until last year's postseaon that my outlook on all these could-be's changed. While most of my October moments have been sour ones, no other team's fans can state that they have postseason memories for each of the last 14 years. And that's something that you can appreciate. The dedication of this franchise to continued success amidst free agency and player turnover has been phenomenal. And so I continue to be a proud Braves fan.
"It is better to have loved and lost than to never to have loved at all", they say. The same goes to playoff baseball.
Just wanted to give everyone a quick introduction of who I am and why I'm here. I'll be graduating from college here in a month and will do my best until then to update from time to time on the current Braves instead of the ones from yesteryear. Still enjoying all the podcasts and fellow blogs on the site. More later.