There was a time, in the not too-distant-past, when your Atlanta Braves were the hot ticket in town.
“I have a great idea,” my buddy Bob Carr suggested in the winter of 1995 after the team had won its only World Series Championship. “We should scrape our money together and get season tickets next year. That way we’re guaranteed playoff tickets when the new stadium opens after the Olympics.”
So that’s what we did. And soon that new stadium will be replaced with a newer stadium. Somehow we now live in a world of disposable stadiums. Playing fields with an expiration date. A baseball stadium barely 20 years old with few great moments to remember.
Just a few.
Bob is an Edward R. Murrow and Peabody Award-winning editor, the guy responsible for crafting so many cool I-Team stories throughout the 90s.
Like me, he grew up in Georgia, subsisting on bad Braves baseball for decades. He’s my equal when it comes to remembering the low tides of our team. (Ozzie Virgil? Sugar Bear Blanks? The echoes of Chief Noc-A-Homa bouncing around an empty ballpark?)
Bob left FOX 5 in 1999 to start his own company, Carr Productions.
But by then, the two of us had planted deep roots along Aisle 410 of Turner Field. First it was four seats, then as our children got older and families less available, we moved over to Aisle 412 and reduced it to two seats per game. Through the years, we always had multiple friends buy into our 82-game season ticket consortium, taking eight, 10, 12 games at a time. At a discounted price of around $10-15/ticket, it’s always been the best sports deal in town. Our wives, both teachers, deserve their own Hall of Fame. Each realizes her husband is beyond salvation.
Our preseason ticket draft party at Bob’s house each March is legendary, even better than our postseason ticket draft. That’s right. Postseason. There was a time after the Braves clinched the postseason each year when I had to carefully consider which playoff game I should bid on first: Game 1 of the NLDS? Game 3 of the NLCS? Game 5 of the World Series? Would we clinch the whole thing by then? (Questions I seriously asked myself in 1996. Never again.)
Bob and his dad John always wound up with the lion’s share of regular season games since Bob lived only minutes from the Braves stadium. It all worked out.
Like many Braves season ticket holders, we face a difficult decision. Transfer our season tickets to Stadium #3 in Cobb County in 2017? Or wrap up our 20-year run right now?
(My colleague Dale Russell even featured me and Bob in his two-part series about how hard it might be to get to the new stadium. Of course, the true test won’t come until next spring.)
As the Braves finish their final game this weekend at Turner Field, it’s easy to list what this stadium has failed to deliver:
- No World Series game victories. We’re 0-2 at the Ted.
- No dramatic playoff-clinching victories, unless you count Andrew Jones walking with the bases loaded in 1999 to get the Braves to their last World Series. Not exactly a Sid Bream moment.
- No proper send-off for Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox. We lost 3-2 to the Giants, who would go on to win the World Series that year.
But the more I think about it, I did share some key moments from our seats along the third base line. Not Chipper’s errant throw that cost us his final, trash-tossing, Outfield Fly Rule game. (Chipper never should have started.) No, I’m talking about moments that, when it comes down to it, have little to do with championships.
- My teenage daughter carefully driving to pick me up at work and going to the game, the rule always being if the Braves lost, she’d have to drive us home.
- That same daughter being chosen to run out on the field years later to replace first base during one game. We lost. This time I drove us home, still smiling the whole way.
- Taking my dad, who suffers from Parkinson’s, to games we knew we’d probably lose but didn’t care.
- Chatting with our longtime usher Jeanette Lockhart about her health, her asking about my daughter’s college plans and, years later, my daughter’s wedding plans. (Jeanette retired last year. We miss her dearly.)
- All of us trying to sing God Bless America as loud (and deep) as Timothy Miller.
Will SunTrust Park give me moments as great as those? It’s tough to say. I’m in a different phase of my life now. Not exactly the bottom of the ninth, but definitely close to making a call to the bullpen. My baseball-obsessed daughter is married, my sports pals too spread out to count on for regular company. How can I handle a dozen games at a stadium so much farther from work? (But actually a few miles closer to my house.)
Logical, well-thought out questions. Of course, lifelong Braves fans follow logic as well as Pascual Perez could follow directions.
“I have a great idea,” I told Bob last winter. “Let’s just try it for one season at SunTrust. And we’ll see.”
So on March 31, 2017, you will find me and Bob somewhere down the third base line in a baseball stadium built across the street from a city called Smyrna.
But this Sunday, when the Braves finally say goodbye to their second home, you will find me and Bob one last time on Aisle 412, Row 3, seats 1 and 2.
Feel free to drop by and help us remember.