I’m not much of a sports fan and lack the patience to sit through a whole game of almost anything. Women’s beach volleyball in the Olympics has been an occasional exception. We’ll save that skimpy discussion for a potential future column and stick with the bare facts today.
Baseball is an especially slow process. Six innings or ten p.m., whichever comes first, is my customary limit. And that’s only in the post season if the Atlanta Braves are playing. I didn’t stay awake past the seventh inning stretch during the 2021 World Series in which Atlanta defeated the Houston Astros. But I’ll have to say it sure feels good to win.
Jane and I watched baseball with some regularity when the Braves were perennial contenders in the 1990s. We saw the Hall of Fame pitching trio of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, and Greg Maddux put on some amazing performances.
We pulled for Chipper Jones, Javy Lopez, Fred McGriff, and a roster of players who became part of our extended family. We knew Bobby Cox’s calm demeanor could get disrupted by a bad call from an umpire. Sometimes he got a warning. At other times he earned another check mark on his ejection tally.
My memory isn’t reliable enough to mention specific moments in those playoff games or the World Series they won in 1995. What I do recall, however, is the optimism which Braves fans had for a long time. Some seasons were better than others, but for a number of years it always seemed possible that America’s Team could get another set of rings.
Sports writers have covered every angle of this year’s World Series, so I don’t have much to add. Diehard fans can tell you a lot more about their road to victory than I can. But even for those of us who boarded the train near the end of the line, it sure feels good to win.
It’s hard to say what the best storyline is from the Braves’ recent accomplishment. There were many, but I only have room to mention a few. Let’s begin with the manager.
Brian Snitker is one of the finest examples of persistence I’ve ever seen. He’s been with the Braves’ organization 44 years, most of it in roles that go largely unnoticed. If he got a headline, it was by a hometown paper covering a minor league game.
He made a decent living, I assume, and apparently enjoyed his work. But being named manager late in his career, then leading the team to a championship at age 66, was too far-fetched to even dream about.
Other men and women have had notable accomplishments during their senior years in various fields. Next time I see a list, I’ll pencil in Brian Snitker. And I’ll reflect on how a man past his prime by some standards, quietly and steadily led a group of young men on a trip they will never forget.
Freddie Freeman, the team’s smiling first baseman, has to be mentioned. He’s been called “the face of the Braves” because of his long tenure, steady performance, and good disposition. The Braves had a six to nothing lead in that final game when Freddie hit a solo homer. The seventh run he contributed wasn’t essential, just icing on the cake.
Having Freddie circle the bases at that point was, I thought, as good as it gets. In the top of the ninth, however, Houston was down seven to zip and only had one out left to try and stage a miracle comeback. Dansby Swanson, another fine fellow and native son of Marietta, Georgia, fielded a ground ball and threw it to first base. Freddie Freeman made the catch, and the Braves were once again champions. A better ending could not have been written.
The tribute to Hank Aaron was touching. I can’t help but believe the Good Lord allowed number 44 to enjoy the World Series. Maybe Hank should get some credit for the hot bats of game six, but I can’t say either way. If it’s not okay to pray for a Braves win, I’m already in trouble.
It was inspiring to see every player standing respectfully for the National Anthem, caps over their hearts as the giant flags waved. And sportsmanship seemed to be in vogue at each game. It’s uplifting when professional athletes set good examples for kids of all ages who admire them.
There’s no doubt I’ve left out some important aspects of the Braves’ enchanted season, but I hope you’ll excuse me. I only saw the early innings and next day highlights. I don’t claim to be an expert on baseball or America’s Team, but there’s one thing I can say with certainty. It sure feels good to win.