Our History Part I: A Look at the Atlanta Braves' Top 10 Moments
The following is the first part of five in a special series.
Baseball is a sport where grown men will fall to their knees and cry.
Baseball is a sport like no other, with its players and fans going through a roller coaster of emotion and thoughts through a grueling 162-game season.
Baseball is a sport with high stakes and drama, where every action of every team member is illuminated and seen.
Baseball is our sport, America's sport. It makes complete strangers on the Metro or at the corner coffee shop converse with one another because this sport of ours forms a common link between us more unbreakable than the human spirit.
We invest so much time and energy (and sometimes marriages) into this little game where you just "throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball," according to Bull Durham. More often than not our dreams and expectations are shattered because so much can happen in a season, but every now and then our faith in the game and our teams is rewarded with spectacular moments we cherish forever.
Braves fans are considerably lucky when it comes to these special moments. For a franchise about to start its 140th season of play, ample moments abound that fans would consider "great"—from the miracle workers of 1914 to the modern wonders of how Martin Prado can break out and become a promising starter.
But how do we rank them? Who's to say which moments were the greatest? How can we keep passion and opinion from clouding our judgments? Truth is we can't; however, we can be objective as well.
How to be objective? A good observer and journalist will set up criteria for such an endeavor. The greatest moments in a team's history must above all be memorable. The best moments come when a team is up against the wall and going against impossible odds. They often redefine a team and almost always uplift a player to god-like status.
Above all, the greatest moments make grown men fall to their knees and cry.
The following are, in my opinion, the 10 greatest moments in Atlanta Braves history, starting with moments 10 and nine.
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10: Southward ho!
The franchise moves to Atlanta
It was a century after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox when the South finally received a baseball team. Though many of baseball's greats hailed from the region, the South was still arguably recovering from reconstruction, Jim Crow, and now going through the Civil Rights Movement.
The city of Atlanta was growing and trying to throw off the chains linking her to the old South. The thriving market turned the heads of the new owners of the successful Milwaukee Braves franchise. Looking for greener pastures, in 1966 the Braves packed up and moved south. It was their second move in 13 years.
Moving the franchise to Atlanta created a profound impact on the region. America's sport finally found a home in America's oldest settled region, and the people welcomed it with open arms, even though the Braves were mediocre at best their first years in the city.
Let's face it—many of us would not be Braves fans if the team was not in Atlanta. The Milwaukee Braves (or wherever other city they could've moved) would just be another team slugging it out.
The Braves would also not be the same franchise had it not moved south. Ted Turner never would've picked up the tab, Chipper Jones probably would be playing for the Dodgers, and who knows if the franchise could've sustained those 14 consecutive division championships in another city?
The Southeast possibly could be different as well. As stated before, Atlanta was casting away its old image and trying to create a new, diverse, and vibrant one. Bringing the Braves franchise was the first step in creating this dream. It would culminate in the '70s when Hank Aaron would break Babe Ruth's home run record, another moment Braves fans cherish.
Now Atlanta is experiencing a growth boom and is considered the capital of the new South.
Of course, many fans would not have seen this moment if it weren't for our next great moment in Braves history.
9: TBS: The Braves Syndication
A marketing ploy makes the Braves "America's Team"
Many Braves fans would not follow the franchise if it wasn't for TBS. Media magnate Ted Turner decided to buy the Braves in order to keep the struggling franchise in Atlanta. In order to generate more interest in the team, Turner placed the Braves in prime time on his TBS network.
People the country over took notice and began to watch. Many newcomers were baseball fans who really didn't have a home team to root for since they lived out of market. Though the team struggled throughout the latter half of the '70s and '80s, people still continued to watch, and some even made the trek to Atlanta to watch the ballgames.
The continued interest generated revenue for the team and kept it in Atlanta. An argument could be said because of this continuing stream of money, and help from Turner, Atlanta would make it through the dark ages of the '80s. Later this revenue provided the means for the Braves to make the moves they orchestrated in the late '80s to position themselves as the championship team they would become.
Atlanta fans around the country also got the pleasure and honor to hear the late Skip Caray call the games on TBS. One of the last great broadcasters, Skip never masked his opinion behind a journalistic veil. He was always upfront and honest with his viewers, and they loved him for it.
Putting the Braves on TBS and promoting young players such as Dale Murphy alongside veterans like Phil Niekro proved to be a stroke of brilliance by Ted Turner. Fans tuned in to watch and were somehow hooked. Atlanta continues to enjoy its nationwide fanbase, and many cried out in anger when TBS dropped the Braves and went for the playoffs in 2007.
Even though some viewers can't watch their team, some are willing to fork out $100 on MLB.tv to watch their Bravos. Atlanta continues to thrive as America's Team.
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A good warm-up to Atlanta's greatest moments: the team moving to the city and its owner broadcasting them nationally. There are more great Braves moments to discover, so stay tuned.
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