"Oh, Atlanta, hear me calling, I'm coming back to you one fine day. No need to worry, there ain't no hurry, cause I'm well. Atlanta hear me calling, I'm coming back to you one fine day. No need to worry, no need to hurry, 'cause I'm on my way back to Georgia."~ Bad Company's Oh, Atlanta.
1999 Skybox Oh Atlanta - #15 and #18 (from a 30 card set)
My first and only visit to the city of Atlanta came in September of 1993. My dad and his future wife had planned a visit to the Peach State, and offered to pay for my airfare-as well as a couple of Braves/Reds games. Well, if you're going to twist my arm....
The first game we attended (and my first ever Braves game) was on September 14th- the same night a certain rookie shortstop had his first ML at-bat (an infield single). And while it wasn't his ML debut (that came as a defensive replacement in San Diego)- it was the first plate appearance in Chipper's major league career. And while that was a pretty cool thing to witness, what mattered most that evening was that the Braves beat the Reds 10-3 to maintain their slim lead over the Giants in the wild, wild west.
The next night, however, is what made the trip totally worthwhile.
Heading into the eighth inning, Cincinnati held a 3-2 lead. With San Francisco losing to the Cubs earlier that day, the fans seemed restless-wanting that victory to put the Braves up by 4 games.
As the Reds came to bat in the top of the eighth, Braves right handed reliever Mark Wohlers took the mound and before you could say Leyritz, Cincinnati had two on in scoring position and one out (a sac-bunt). Juan Samuel chased Wohlers out of the game when he singled-making it 5-3 Cinci. Mike Stanton came in and the lefty got his first batter out before surrendering a single and then a double. After Jacob Brumfields' RBI double, the Reds finally relented.
By the time Jeff Blauser led off the bottom of the eighth, a mass exodus had taken place at old Fulton County Stadium. Even more had left before Terry Pendleton grounded out to end the inning. At least we wouldn't have to fight traffic afterwards! Oh, wait-we took MARTA from the 'burbs. Still-no way this boy was leaving.
Pete Smith set the Reds down in order during the top half of the ninth, meaning we would all get home just a little sooner. Not so fast.
Reds' reliever Johnny Ruffin had already pitched the 7th and 8th innings, but manager Davey Johnson sent him back out for the bottom of the ninth. On a 1-2 count, Damon Berryhill doubled to left and then exited the game as Bill Pecota pinch-ran for him. With Pete Smith due to hit, Bobby Cox used Chipper Jones to pinch-hit. Number 16 (yes, 16) struck out on three pitches. (Boo! Way to go #16! Who is this bum?! He will never amount to anything!).
Bobby sent Ryan Klesko (he of the awesome card above) in to pinch-hit for light hitting Ramon Caraballo. With a 2-0 count, Klesko klubbed a bomb to the fellow right below where we were sitting-deep in the right field bleachers. 6-4!!
Jeff Reardon, 1992 World Series goat, took over for Ruffin and proceeded to give up a double and a single. I guess some things never change.
At this point in my story, I looked over at a fellow sitting next to us. About ten minutes earlier, the dude had a Reds hat sitting upon his melon. Now? It was nowhere in sight and he's on his feet-cheering. Loudly.
That brings us to Nasty Boy Rob Dibble. Mr. Meltdown. Facing Ron Gant, Dibs decided to bring the heat-daring Gant to beat him. On the first pitch, and with a one-handed swing, Gant hit a ball that looked like it never got higher than about twelve feet off the ground. Before we knew it, though, the ball clipped the top of the outfield wall-just barely clearing it, for a game-winning three-run home run!
When we arrived back at Bonnie's sister's house, everyone told us they saw us on tv. The camera man had filmed Klesko's home run and my dad and I were captured jumping up and cheering. I eventually saw the highlight. First on SportsCenter, and then on TBS- which used to have a Braves year-in-review at the end of the baseball season. Ours was included on the 1993 season-in-review.
I haven't been back to Georgia since that unforgettable late summer of '93. I was hoping that this would be the year. When Chipper announced that this would be his final season, I immediately go on line and purchased a ticked for the final home game of the season. Because of time and money constraints (primarily time-work!), that isn't going to happen. But one of these days I will return to Georgia.