Friday, April 17, 2015

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

When I was a young girl and television was broadcast in black and white, I remember joining my dad in the living room to watch the New York Yankees play. I became enamored with the game and players like Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Roger Maris, Tony Kubek, Mel Stottlemeyer and Mickey Mantle.  The games were called by LA Dodgers HOFer Pee Wee Reese and St. Louis Browns’ HOFer Dizzy Dean on NBC and by Pee Wee and Curt Gowdy on CBS.  My dad would always laugh when ‘ol Dizzy would say, “He slud into third.”

According to club chronology, the Boston Beaneaters changed their name to the Braves in 1907.  The Braves played their first game in Milwaukee in 1953.  Their first season in Atlanta was 1966.  They played in what was arguably the worst-kept field in baseball—Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium—where, in 1971, “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron hit his 600th homerun.  Just three years later, he broke the Babe’s homerun record by smashing No. 715 off Dodgers’ lefty Al Downing.

Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s the Braves were pretty much the worst team in baseball, but when Ted Turner decided to buy the team in 1976 he began broadcasting the Braves’ game on TBS and after a while the Braves became known as America’s Team garnering fans everywhere as Pete Van Wieren, Skip Caray, and Joe Simpson called the games. 

The Braves made history in 1991 after going from worst to first to reach the World Series.  I never forgave the Twins’ Kent Hrbek for his thug play at first base in game two.  It was a highly controversial play in which Hrbek grabbed Ron Gant’s leg and pulled him off the base.  The call by umpire Drew Coble was ranked as one of the Top Ten Worst baseball calls by both ESPN and Sports Illustrated.  I know what you’re thinkin’.  You’re thinkin’ I’m biased in favor of my boys, but I challenge you to watch the video.  Even announcers Tim McCarver and Jack Buck knew it was a bad call and said so on air.

The Braves went on to play in the 1992 World Series losing to the Toronto Blue Jays, but, but there was yet another chance for glory in 1995 as World Series Champions against the Cleveland Indians.

I had me some kind of a serious crush on Steve Avery, Atlanta’s young pitching phenom.  There was also Smoltzie and Maddux and Glavine whom I adored.  Hell, I loved all those guys.

And so it was for 30 years until the advent of ESPN when ratings began to plummet and Turner ended the affiliation between TBS and the Braves.

I had been on the road with my employer from 2002 until 2007 and it was a joy to be able to tune into a game and wash away the dreck of the day.  When I came off the road, I was working the night shift, usually 1 to 9:30 PM or 2 to 10:30 PM and wasn’t able to follow the boys from Atlanta.

Now that I am retired, I can sit back with my furkid Sophie and enjoy Braves baseball once again, not on TBS but on Fox Sports South and Sports South.  Old friend Joe Simpson is still calling the games.  Though Skip Caray has joined dad Harry Caray in the broadcast booth in Heaven, son Chip Caray is in the booth with Joe and occasionally former pitcher Tom Glavine will join them.

Things change over the years as they always do.  The Braves in conjunction with Sun Trust Bank are building a new stadium in Cobb County, Georgia.  It will be incredibly easier to get to the park there than in downtown Hotlanta.  I’m looking forward to that.

I’m planning on visiting my friend again next week and the following week I will be at the Ted (Turner Field) to watch my boys beat Charles Krauthammer’s beloved Washington Nationals.  If you watch the games, look for me behind the Braves dugout, chanting the war chant and tomahawk choppin’ with the best of ‘em and during the 7th-inning stretch when it’s time to sing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” I’ll be the one singing the loudest.  I should be easy to pick out from the crowd.  I’ll be wearing a home jersey, Braves ball cap and I’ll have a beer in my hand.

I’ll get to the stadium a couple of hours early to watch batting practice and get some autographs to add to my other Braves memorabilia  Look out Dr. Krauthammer, your Nats are going to lose.

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