HOUSTON -- Though memories of Jim Leyritz, Larry Bird, Tom Brady and Tua Tagovailoa might linger, the city of Atlanta no longer has to be haunted by the curse these men helped create.
Over the course of the past few weeks, the Braves diligently attempted to kill the narrative about Atlanta teams constantly choking in the playoffs. They finished the job and celebrated a World Series title with the 7-0 victory over the Astros in Game 6 on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
“We killed the narrative in the [National League Championship Series] and now we’ve made sure it’s dead,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “This city has been hungry for a championship for a long time. I can’t wait to see the crowd there within the next couple days when we get back home.”
With this Game 6 victory, the Braves claimed their first World Series championship since 1995. They also snapped what was an MLB-record 16 consecutive postseason appearances without winning a World Series.
The Braves’ championship dreams that were wrecked in recent Octobers only fueled the narrative about Atlanta’s professional sports teams. Atlanta United FC won an MLS title in 2018. But to truly break the curse, another title had to be won by either the Braves, Falcons, Hawks or the University of Georgia, which could soon win a national football championship.
Possibly making this even sweeter for Atlanta fans was the fact the curse was broken in Houston, the same city where the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead to Brady and the Patriots in 2017 during Super Bowl LI.
More than four years after being present to watch his beloved Falcons collapse, Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson was exactly six miles away from that disaster celebrating a championship.
“No better story can be written than God making us come back here and win the World Series in Houston,” Swanson said. “Everything comes full circle.”
Once the Falcons experienced that disastrous fourth quarter, the Atlanta sports narrative truly gained strength. Suddenly folks were going back to the 1988 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals. The Hawks won three straight games to take a 3-2 lead over the Celtics, but then they suffered back-to-back two-point losses. Dominique Wilkins scored 47 points in the deciding game, but Bird tallied 20 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter to emerge victorious.
How does Georgia get pulled into this? Well, its football team was leading the 2018 National Championship Game 13-0 at the half at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium before Alabama introduced the football world to Tagovailoa, who engineered a second-half comeback that led to an overtime win. Bama also would record a comeback win over UGA in the SEC Championship Game the following December in the same building, which is just 60 miles from the Bulldogs' Sanford Stadium.
The Braves won the 1995 World Series, but after winning the first two games of the 1996 Fall Classic at Yankee Stadium, they lost four straight games. The most crushing loss occurred in Game 4 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when they led 6-0 through five innings and then lost in 10 innings after Leyritz hit a game-tying three-run homer off Braves close Mark Wohlers in the eighth.
“I've never been a believer in the Atlanta curse, you know, quote unquote,” Braves chairman Terry McGuirk said. “We've just gotten beat a bunch of times, but we've had some great teams. The fact that we've had to wait 26 years between world championships on the baseball side is a little shocking, but you know ... I think we're in a renaissance period right now where I think the next five years for this organization are really going to be meaningful.”
After getting swept by the Yankees in the 1999 World Series, the Braves had to wait until this year to get back. And now the curse is gone.
“I don’t even want to say the words,” Swanson said. “I’m just, ‘Wow, it’s been broken.’”