10 Most Memorable Moments in Turner Field History
On Monday, the Braves shocked the baseball world with the announcement of plans to build a new stadium in the suburbs of Cobb County, Georgia, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. If it feels like Turner Field just opened yesterday, your sense of time isn't that far off from reality.
After just 17 seasons at Turner Field, the Braves are planning to move, citing the need for expensive upgrades to keep the stadium as a tourist attraction and state-of-the-art venue. The necessity to play closer to the heart of the fanbase, per Deadspin, is also a major part of the story.
With plans set on a move in time for the 2017 season, the Braves will play a grand total of 20 seasons at Turner Field. At first glace, that's barely enough time to make a few memories. Yet a deeper dive into the history of Turner Field yields a bounty of memorable moments.
The following list celebrates the best moments in a park that will soon cease to exist. Despite never featuring a World Series winning club, Turner Field has been privy to an amazing amount of history in a short time.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com, unless otherwise noted.
1. 1999 NLCS Walk-off Walk
Although the Braves never celebrated a World Series victory at Turner Field, or anywhere since the park opened in 1997, the stadium did play host to one of the most memorable postseason series in recent memory.
After New York Mets third baseman Robin Ventura sent the 1999 NLCS back to Atlanta by launching a walk-off grand slam single in Game 5, the series was decided at Turner Field in a Game 6 that will live in infamy.
When Mike Piazza's game-tying home run off John Smoltz landed over the right field wall in the top of the seventh inning, NBC broadcaster Bob Costas uttered a line that had Braves fans shivering: "Tied at seven, hoping for Game 7!"
If the Mets had finished the job, the series would have reached a Game 7 despite Atlanta holding a commanding 3-0 series lead after Game 3 in New York. Before the 2004 Yankees, the 1999 Atlanta Braves could have been the faces of postseason collapse.
Instead, Atlanta took home the pennant on a bases-loaded walk in the 10th.
2. Wild Card Game Controversy
The Atlanta Braves franchise and the Wild Card should be linked together forever.
In 1993, the epic NL West pennant race between San Francisco and Atlanta, won by the Braves, left the 103-win Giants out of the postseason. By 1995, baseball added a wild-card team to each league in October.
Less than 20 years later, the Braves were involved in wild-card controversy. Prior to the 2012 season, Major League Baseball expanded the postseason again, ushering in a Wild Card Game between the top two non-division winners.
In the first ever National League "play-in" game, the St. Louis Cardinals traveled to Turner Field to take on the Atlanta Braves. Before long, postseason history was trumped by the narrative of controversy. When Andrelton Simmons' fly ball to left field was ruled an infield fly, the game, along with the complexion of the 2012 National League postseason bracket, changed forever.
3. Chipper Jones' Farewell
The next five memories, including this one, honor of one of the best quintets in the history of professional sports.
While the New York Yankees, due to winning multiple head-to-head World Series battles with Atlanta, have been remembered as a dynasty spurred on by the 'Core Four' of Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera, the Braves franchise featured five difference-makers, all of which are now remembered after Turner Field celebrations.
When Chipper Jones retired after the 2012 season, Atlanta lost one of the greatest switch-hitters in history, a franchise cornerstone, perfect No. 1 overall draft pick and future Cooperstown-bound third baseman.
During the 2013 season, they waited less than a year to give him a proper farewell.
4. Bobby Cox Honored
Years from now, future generations of Braves fans will look up during games and see No. 6 retired among the great individuals in franchise history, but the honor is hardly only for his work in the dugout as manager.
Sure, Cox was a great manager in Atlanta. In 25 years on the Braves bench, Cox won 2,149 games, five pennants and captured a World Series title in 1995. Yet, it was his work as general manager, before appointing himself manager, that placed the franchise on track for long-term success.
From 1986-1990, Cox was a front office executive, compiling talent in the Braves' system through draft picks and trades. Among the players brought into Atlanta by the future manager: John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Ron Gant, Chipper Jones, David Justice and Steve Avery.
It's hard to believe any individual had more impact on Atlanta's incredible run of dominance than No. 6.
5. Smoltz Remembered for Greatness
Before John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine reunite in Cooperstown, they joined forces one last time at Turner Field. After years of dominance as the top of baseball's best pitching staff, all three were remembered during Turner Field memories.
Smoltz, the 1996 Cy Young Award winner, was remembered during a ceremony at Turner Field during the 2012 season.
Over the course of 20 seasons in Atlanta, Smoltz dominated in every way imaginable. As a starter or reliever, he excelled. In the regular season or postseason, he took the ball without a hint of reservation or fear.
Even after missing the 2000 season due to injury, Smoltz returned to pitch another 980.2 innings for the Braves, posting a 143 ERA+ during his age 34-41 seasons.
6. Mad Dog Commemorated
One of the best questions in Major League Baseball history is hatched when looking back on this piece by Joe Sexton in The New York Times on December 10, 1992.
What if Greg Maddux had taken the New York Yankees offer? Thankfully for Atlanta Braves fans and an eventual Turner Field memorable moment, we can only imagine.
Ironically, Maddux chose Atlanta over New York, despite a sizable difference in total money and cash up front, because he wanted a chance to win a World Series when departing the hapless Chicago Cubs. To be fair, Maddux achieved that with Atlanta in 1995 but then lost in the World Series to the Yankees in both 1996 and 1999.
It's hard to imagine Maddux posting sub-two earned run averages for anyone but the Atlanta Braves, but it was nearly a reality. When Maddux was commemorated for a first-ballot Hall of Fame career, it happened at Turner Field, not Yankee Stadium.
7. Glavine's No. 47 Retired
Last, but certainly not least, is the induction of Tom Glavine into Braves history.
For some reason, Glavine always felt like the third member of Atlanta's trio of dominant starters, but his career stands alone in baseball history. Over 22 seasons, 17 of which were spent in Atlanta, the left-hander amassed 74.0 WAR, 305 career victories, the 1998 National League Cy Young Award and a World Series ring in 1995.
In 717 career starts, including the postseason, Glavine dominated by pitching on the paint, commanding his fastball and using one of the best changeups in baseball history. Of all his great moments, Game 6 of the 1995 World Series stands out.
As the video above shows, Glavine pitched the Braves to their only World Series victory in an era of dominance.
8. Randy Johnson's Perfect Game
Don't be selfish, Braves fans.
This memory likely wasn't a pleasant one for die-hard Atlanta fans, but it was hardly unpredictable. Just one day earlier, Milwaukee Brewers right-hander Ben Sheets struck out 18 Braves hitters. Considering how great Randy Johnson was during his first stint in Arizona, an even better performance the next night wasn't unlikely.
As Johnson etched his name into baseball history, Braves batters continued to suffer through a difficult week. Johnson's perfect game stands as the only no-hitter or perfect game thrown in the brief history of Turner Field and another notch on a sterling body of work for The Big Unit.
9. Turner Field Opens
This list wouldn't be complete without the opening act.
On April 4, 1997, Turner Field opened with a contest between the Braves and Cubs. A 5-4 victory for the home team was capped off with the first home run in the park when Braves right fielder Michael Tucker went deep to right field.
Tucker, a mainstay on the 1997-1998 clubs, hit 125 home runs during a 12-year career. His shot off Chicago's Kevin Foster doubled as the hit that christened a new park and ushered in years of success for the Braves.
10. 2000 HR Derby, All-Star Game
Three years after opening the doors to Turner Field, the best and brightest players arrived during July of 2000.
Major League Baseball showcased the stars of the sport during the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Atlanta's new stadium. Amazingly, that game was just 13 years ago, but the stadium will soon be just a memory.
From Sammy Sosa's laser show during the Home Run Derby to Derek Jeter's three-hit performance in the All-Star Game, baseball fans were treated to the stars of 2000 showcasing themselves on Turner Field's stage.
Agree? Disagree? What is your favorite Turner Field memory?
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