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'Atlanta Rules' chronicles journey of '90s Braves

MLB Network documentary set to air Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Before they stood as the envy of fellow Major Leaguers for more than a decade, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz experienced the frustration of being part of those Braves clubs that served as the game's laughing stock during the late 1980s.

"I remember asking Glavine what would it be like to play somewhere else and win," Smoltz said. "Then the 1991 season happened, and we were as confident of a team as you'll ever see, thinking we could do it for three or four years easy. Then 10 years happen, and then from that point forward, no one thought it could continue. When you get to 14 [consecutive division titles], it just doesn't seem real."

ATLANTA -- Before they stood as the envy of fellow Major Leaguers for more than a decade, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz experienced the frustration of being part of those Braves clubs that served as the game's laughing stock during the late 1980s.

"I remember asking Glavine what would it be like to play somewhere else and win," Smoltz said. "Then the 1991 season happened, and we were as confident of a team as you'll ever see, thinking we could do it for three or four years easy. Then 10 years happen, and then from that point forward, no one thought it could continue. When you get to 14 [consecutive division titles], it just doesn't seem real."

This unrealistic journey will be chronicled in "Atlanta Rules," the story of the '90s Braves, an MLB Network documentary that will premiere Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. The hour-long film will examine how Atlanta endured a seventh consecutive losing season in 1990 and then remarkably represented the National League in five of the next eight World Series.

John Schuerholz, Bobby Cox, Chipper Jones, David Justice, Mark Lemke, Greg Maddux, Terry Pendleton, Smoltz and Glavine are among the team's former key figures who are interviewed in the documentary.

Video: The legacy and story behind the '90s Braves

Pendleton left the Cardinals after the 1990 season to join the Braves, and he was named the 1991 NL Most Valuable Player Award winner. Before his first season with Atlanta, he remembers the reaction he received when he told a former beat reporter, Bill Zack, the team was about to do something special.

"[Zack] looked at me like I had major issues because I said we would be contending and probably win our division [in 1991]," Pendleton said. "He stopped me and said, 'Do you realize this is the Atlanta Braves and not the St. Louis Cardinals?' I said, 'Well, we'll just have to show you guys.' We went out and showed America what we were capable of doing."

The Braves won an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005 with the assistance of six key figures -- Schuerholz, Cox, Jones, Maddux, Smoltz and Glavine -- who have been elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame.

Video: MLB Tonight: Chipper voted to HOF on his first ballot

Before becoming a Hall of Fame manager, Cox altered the culture of the organization as he served as the general manager from 1985-1990. Schuerholz cultivated those efforts while serving as the team's architect throughout the successful stretch, during which Maddux, Pendleton and Fred McGriff became key acquisitions.

A portion of the film details the jubilance felt after winning the 1995 World Series and the disappointment felt after squandering a 2-0 series lead in the '96 Fall Classic.

During a candid interview during last year's Hall of Fame Induction Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux reminisce about the time they shared together, and they discuss whether the team should have won more than just one World Series during this remarkable stretch.

"You can only shock people once," Smoltz said. "In '95, we got it done. What happened in '96, unequivocally, is the biggest gut punch. I still believe the destiny of the Atlanta Braves changed that year. We were going to win two in a row and then three out of four and maybe four out of five like the Yankees did. As great as '95 was, that's how devastating '96 was."

The filmmakers also focused on what happened after the 1992 season, when Schuerholz nearly acquired Barry Bonds before signing Maddux, whose four Cy Young Awards (1992-95) separated those captured by Glavine ('91) and Smoltz ('96).

"I remember very vividly the years of the '90s and the Braves' excellent baseball during those years, and the awakening of the city of Atlanta to Braves baseball after we went from worst to first in 1991," Schuerholz said. "I'm looking forward to seeing how this film characterizes that and shows it as a historical development for this organization."

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves