ATLANTA -- As the Braves' legends emerged from behind the center-field wall and made their way toward their former positions, the fans that packed Turner Field one last time Sunday afternoon were provided yet another opportunity to reminisce about all of the great times they had experienced while this ballpark
ATLANTA -- As the Braves' legends emerged from behind the center-field wall and made their way toward their former positions, the fans that packed Turner Field one last time Sunday afternoon were provided yet another opportunity to reminisce about all of the great times they had experienced while this ballpark served as the home of the Braves for the past 20 seasons.
Though the main event was a regular-season finale between a Tigers team battling for its postseason life and a Braves club simply attempting to add to its promising late-season success, the celebratory feel had more to do with the memories the players, coaches and fans wanted to savor during the final game in Turner Field's history, which dates back to 1997.
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"It was kind of weird walking in here knowing this will be the last time," Hall of Famer Tom Glavine said before the Braves' 1-0 win over the Tigers. "I don't know what it will be like going into that new stadium, but I know it's going to be weird going into a new stadium that I have no history in. Now, more than anything, it will be interesting to see what happens to this place."
Turner Field will soon be transformed into Georgia State's new football field, much like it was once transformed from Centennial Olympic Stadium (where Carl Lewis captured his last Olympic gold medal) into the stadium where the Braves capped the greatest era in the organization's history and spent the past couple of years attempting to move toward another era of greatness.
"There will be a lot of emotions seeing all of the guys come back," said Freddie Freeman, who stands as the only player who played for the Braves during both the Chipper Jones and Dansby Swanson eras. "A lot of great memories have been made here and hopefully we can create some new ones."
Some of those memories were stirred as they Braves introduced the members of their Turner Field Team before Sunday's game. Third baseman Chipper Jones, who will forever be remembered as the most prolific player to play at The Ted, was the first to emerge from the center-field wall, walk through the outfield grass and stand at his former position.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal, second baseman Marcus Giles, first baseman Adam LaRoche, left fielder Brian Jordan, center fielder Andruw Jones, right fielder Gary Sheffield and catcher Javy Lopez followed suit. Then the Hall of Fame trio -- John Smoltz, Greg Maddux and Glavine -- walked in unison toward the mound before Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox walked on the field to a rousing ovation. Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz threw the stadium's last ceremonial first pitches. Beloved usher Walter Banks, who has been with the Braves since they moved from Milwaukee in 1966, delivered the final "Play Ball" announcement before Julio Teheran delivered the game's first pitch.
"Over the course of the week as guys talked about their favorite moments, you remembered stuff," Glavine said. "It's hard to remember everything. But as soon as I saw Brian Jordan, I remembered that grand slam he hit against the Mets [late in the 2001 season] and certainly the literal walk-off win against the Mets [to go to the 1999 World Series]."
While Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium hosted many more postseason celebrations for the Braves, Turner Field served as the club's home as it captured nine of its 14 consecutive division titles (1991-2005), participated in four NL Championship Series and reached the World Series in 1999, which was the same year Chipper Jones was named National League MVP.
Some of the greatest memories at Turner Field include many of the home runs hit by Chipper Jones. The ones that buried the Mets late in the 1999 season, the one he hit during the 2000 All-Star Game and, of course, the last of his career -- a walk-off shot against Philadelphia's Jonathan Papelbon to cap a five-run ninth inning.
Eric Hinske's go-ahead home run in Game 3 of the 2010 NL Division Series drew one of the loudest ovations in the stadium's history, but that memory is tarnished by the last of the three errors Brooks Conrad committed that day. Thus, there are some fans who have more of a fondness for remembering that both Jason Heyward and Jeff Francoeur homered during their big league debuts in front of the hometown fans or that Brian McCann homered in his first career postseason at-bat against Roger Clemens.
"This has been a great park," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "There have been a lot of great games and a lot of great Hall of Fame players have come through here. I think there will be a lot of people for a long time that remember that they got to watch Chipper, Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux play on this field. So they'll tell their kids, 'Back at The Ted, I got to watch those guys play.'"
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.