Category: “Atlanta Braves”

My Tribute to Bobby Cox

NOTE: I wrote the following near the end of Bobby Cox’s final season in a Braves uniform. I’m republishing it today to celebrate Bobby’s induction into the Hall of Fame. Here’s hoping that he will be joined in Cooperstown by his pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. (The comments are from the original post. The post itself hasn’t been edited.) I’ve also replaced the baseball cards from the original post with some great videos of Cox ejections. Enjoy!

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Like most Braves fans, I spent more than my fair share of time criticizing Bobby Cox. I’ve yelled at him through the television screen. I’ve called people on the phone to complain about a move he made. I’ve cursed his name. (In my defense Bobby, in 1994, you kept playing Dave Gallagher! Why?) Through it all though, for every damn second of it all, I loved Bobby Cox as much as any fan could possibly love the manager of his team.

Did anyone think when Bobby Cox first wore the Braves uniform as manager in 1978 he would become the face of the franchise for the better part of three decades? He won after Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz left. He won before Chipper arrived. Through it all, Bobby Cox was our constant.

When Ted Turner dismissed Bobby Cox after the teams mediocre performance during the strike shortened 1981 season, he was asked what he was looking for in a manager. He said someone just like Bobby Cox. After four seasons at the helm of the Blue Jays, where he took them from the cellar to the ALCS, it was no surprise that Ted chose him to build the Braves franchise. It was Bobby Cox who traded Doyle Alexander for the young fireballer from Detroit. It was Bobby Cox who shepherded the young left-handed hockey player from Massachusetts through the Braves minor league system. It was Bobby Cox that rebuilt our organization around pitching by drafting young arms like Kent Mercker and Steve Avery. It was Bobby Cox that improbably turned Todd Van Poppel’s rejection of the Braves into gold when he selected a young shortstop out of Florida with dreams of Ripken in his head with the first pick of the 1990 draft.

It was not enough for Bobby to put the pieces in place. He wanted to work directly with the young players around which he had built the organization. It was Bobby Cox who stepped aside allowing the Braves to hire John Schuerholz. When Schuerholz gave him a 3rd baseman whose career looked to be on a downswing, a tiny, light hitting shortstop with a good glove, and a solid if unremarkable first baseman, Bobby Cox turned it into gold. If not for a Lonnie Smith base running blunder, a Ron Gant weak ground ball to first and a Sid Bream double play, Bobby Cox would have turned the 1991 Braves into World Champions.

That day would come of course when Bobby led our team to 14 straight division championships and would win the 1995 World Championship. For many of us who were their in the late 80s, we never lost our excitement at what Bobby Cox had built. Gone were the days of wondering if the Braves would finish last or simply next to last. Gone were the days of empty stadiums where every cat call could be heard over TBS. Year after year we had HOPE that our ball club would win it all. For all the criticism leveled at Bobby Cox over winning only a single World Championship during that 14 year run, you have to wonder, what team other than the Yankees wouldn’t have wanted to trade places with the Braves? Sure, the Blue Jays may have won two World Championships, but are you telling me they wouldn’t have traded one of those championships for 14 straight seasons of division championships, considering that they haven’t played in the post season since the 1993 championship year? The Marlins may have won two World Series in their only two playoff appearances, but are you telling me that their franchise wouldn’t have been better off winning one and hitting the playoffs for 14 straight seasons? (Don’t forget, for all the criticism leveled at Braves fans, we haven’t drawn less than 2,000,000 fans since the start of the streak. There’s something else for which we can thank Bobby Cox.)

I’m certainly not qualified to defend Bobby Cox against the legion of haters out there, especially those who are so narrow minded as to think you either win the World Series or you might have well finished last. I’ll leave that to guys like

Jayson Stark

and

pacgnosis

. Here’s what I do know: before Bobby Cox rebuilt our franchise and returned to the dugout to lead our team, Braves fans didn’t have a lot of hope. Every year since we’ve had hope. Even after the playoff streak ended, we’ve had HOPE. As a fan, I don’t think I can ask for anything more.

Here’s hoping that the Braves give Bobby Cox one last post season run. Here’s hoping that Bobby Cox enjoys his well-earned retirement. Here’s hoping that the Braves franchise and the Braves fans never forget what this great man has given us as baseball fans. I’ll be there tomorrow afternoon to say goodbye along with a huge crowd of fellow Braves fans.

We’ll miss you Bobby.

Braves Collection: Terrell Wade

Wade would make 59 appearances with the Braves from 1995 to 1997. He was primarily a “long man” out of the bullpen but would get the occasional spot start. That might not seem like much of a career, but I bet he loves baseball.

After all, despite pitching just 4 innings for the Braves in 1995, and not making the post season roster, he got a World Series ring.

In 1996, he would spend most of the year in Atlanta and would pitch in the NLCS and the World Series.

After leaving the Braves for Tampa in the expansion draft in late 1997, Wade would spend years in the minors before hanging up his spikes in 2000. He would return and play independent ball for parts of the 2003, 2004 and 2006 seasons.

Sounds like a cool career to me.

Thanks to Derek at Tomahawk Chopping for the card!

Braves Collection: Roberto Kelly

Remember this guy? Me too.

Remember anything he did as a Brave? Not me either.

Was he the lead off hitter between Otis and Grissom?

Thanks to Derek for the card!

Braves Collection: Reid Gorecki

Does anyone know of Gorecki is still playing in the Yankees minor league system? I like the guy a lot. He played well in the Braves minor league system in both 2008 and 2009 earning himself a cup of coffee in 2009. He signed with the Yankees and spent the 2010 season in their system.

I know … I could look it up myself but I’m much too damn lazy to do that.

Thanks, again, to Derek at Tomahawk Chopping for this card.

Braves Collection: Quilvio Veras

One of the forgotten players of the Braves run of 14 straight division championships. Well, I forgot him anyway. He was actually pretty great that first season with the Braves. The second year? Not so much. The Braves would cut him … the Red Sox sign him … and he would never be heard from again.

Thanks to Derek at Tomahawk Chopping for the card. 

Braves Collection: Mike Gonzalez

I love weird players and this guy was WEIRD. I found his stretch to be fascinating, and perhaps, a little ridiculous. I wanted him to be great. I wanted him to be the closer. He did OK for a bit. Injuries saddled him.

He’s now stinking up the joint in Baltimore.

Thanks to Derek for the card!

Braves Collection: Damon Hollins

Damon was an Atlanta Brave for a short time in 1998. He was then traded to the Dodgers and would bounce around the minors for the Reds, Brewers and Twins, before finding his way back to the Atlanta minor league system, and returning to the big league club in 1994. Briefly though. Just briefly.

Amazingly, he would get significant playing time in Tampa during the 1995 and 1996 seasons, before again returning to the minors with the Royals and the Phillies along with a stop in Japan.

Damon Hollins … we salute you!

Thanks to Derek at Tomahawk Chopping for the card.

Braves Collection: James Parr

2009 Topps Heritage
Not to be critical of Parr himself, but Topps really outdid themselves on the back of this card. It reads, “What a debut he had with the Braves: 14 1/3 innings over a trio of starts before he was scored upon.” Totally true, but it sort of seems pointless when you consider that over the  remaining 8 innings of his 2008 season, including the remainder of his third start, and his fourth and fifth start, Parr gave up 13 earned runs.

Dog hair once again makes an appearance on one of my scans.

Thanks to BA Benny for the card!

Braves Collection: Jung Bong Redux

The return of Mr. Bong. I first featured Mr. Bong in this post, but I decided to replace that card in my Atlanta Braves binder with this one (thanks Derek), because it doesn’t, you know, feature some irrelevant Astro never-was. No, I prefer my cards only feature an Atlanta Brave never-was. (The usage of the English language in this post is brought to you by 8 years of schooling in Columbus, Georgia.)