Deep into Sunday evening, the Braves will leave the home clubhouse at 755 Hank Aaron Drive in Atlanta for the last time after 20 seasons.This won't match the emotion surrounding the farewell to Crosley Field, the quaint home of the Reds for nearly six decades before Riverfront Stadium and then
Deep into Sunday evening, the Braves will leave the home clubhouse at 755 Hank Aaron Drive in Atlanta for the last time after 20 seasons.
This won't match the emotion surrounding the farewell to Crosley Field, the quaint home of the Reds for nearly six decades before Riverfront Stadium and then Great American Ball Park came along.
The Polo Grounds. Sportsman's Park. Ebbets Field. Tiger Stadium. Just like Crosley, those were baseball houses for the ages. Still, even the heavily flawed ones had something to cherish.
Candlestick Park became a freezer on summer days, but when the fog didn't smother it, the Giants' ballpark was warm and friendly along San Francisco Bay. Say what you want about those flying saucer-shaped stadiums of the 1960s and '70s. Each had at least one attraction. Three Rivers Stadium featured the beauty of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. There were those red seats in the upper deck of Riverfront Stadium serving as automatic indications of a tape-measure shot if a ball headed that way. There was Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, known as the Launching Pad for delivering pop flies to the other side of the outfield fences.
Turner Field followed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, and the new place along the way to becoming the old one for the Braves also has provided folks with memories and moments.
"Thankfully, my favorite memory of Turner Field is that I didn't play here, because this place is too big for me," Dale Murphy told me Friday night, laughing, as he entered the ballpark that sits across the street from the site of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, where he ripped enough homers and caught enough balls in the outfield to win a couple of National League Most Valuable Player Awards.
"But if I had to pick a moment other than not playing here, I would have to say that walk-off [three-run homer] that Chipper [Jones] hit against the Phillies [to give the Braves an 8-7 win in September 2012] was one of my favorites."
Nice start, Dale. I'll serve as closer. Here are my unforgettable moments at Turner Field as somebody who frequented the ballpark often since it went from hosting the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics to operating as the home for a Braves organization that continued its record streak of 11 division titles from 1995 to 2005.
The Stars among Stars
To be honest, this didn't live up to its advanced billing.
This obliterated it.
Two years after Turner Field opened, 18 of the 30 legends selected to the Major League Baseball All-Century team moved onto a stage behind second base on a splendid October night before Game 2 of the 1999 World Series between the Braves and Yankees.
That's all you need to know, but there was so much more.
Even though I've been blessed through the decades to interview the likes of Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Warren Spahn, Bob Gibson and others on an individual basis, this was chilling to see them all in one spot. In fact, never had this many Baseball Hall of Famers gathered at the same time on a Major League Baseball diamond, and they were as giddy as the rest of us.
The outfield fly rule
I mean, did that really happen?
It may never happen again. Well, Braves fans hope it doesn't, especially if their team is trying to advance in the playoffs.
Let's return to October 2012, when the Braves hosted the Cardinals during the NL Wild Card Game. With one out and his Braves trailing by three runs in the eighth inning, Andrelton Simmons threatened to trigger a rally after his pop fly dropped between left fielder Matt Holliday and shortstop Pete Kozma. The bases were loaded, but not for long.
The crowd went from cheering to jeering after Simmons was called out by the umpires courtesy of the infield fly rule, and the runners were forced to return to first and second. Just like that, one of the rowdiest Braves crowds ever littered the field with debris for 19 minutes, and infield fly rule in this situation was labeled by witnesses as the outfield fly rule.
The Braves didn't win, by the way.
Any time Glavine pitched
Tom Glavine is a Hall of Famer, you know. He also is joined in Cooperstown by Greg Maddux and John Smoltz, who combined with Glavine as starting pitchers helping the Braves during much of their division-winning streak.
More specifically, Maddux was the game's Pitching Picasso who consistently painted the corners of home plate with a bunch of deliveries that were impossible to hit. Smoltz just dominated. He threw fastballs that sizzled from the first inning until deep in the game whenever he started. Later, when he became a closer, well, he didn't exactly fire slowballs.
Glavine just pitched, and then he pitched some more, but here's my biggest memory involving Glavine and Turner Field: the music whenever he strolled to the mound with his stoic look.
"Did I have music? I don't remember," Glavine said, showing how focused he was on the days he started after I mentioned that music to him. And, yes, he had music, and it was "Centerfield" by John Fogerty.
When you heard that at Turner Field, you knew Glavine was preparing to stand on the mound with his slight frame against a burly hitter, and the latter was just moments away from making a U turn.
Glavine frowned, then he said, "I remember they played a song for me when we went to New York, but here . . . I'm not sure."
I'm sure, which is why I'm hearing Fogerty in my imagination right now and seeing Glavine at Turner Field embarrassing hitters.
The bullpen visitor
For whatever reason, my 8-year-old godson, Julian, was infatuated with the late Bobby Dews, the Braves' bullpen coach.
This was during the fall of 1999, when Julian met Dews through reading every centimeter of a baseball card. Suddenly, this African-American kid wanted to know everything I knew about a southerner of age who wasn't much of a player but who was a terrific person and a prolific author.
I knew Dews well, and we planned a surprise. While Julian and I attended a Braves game one day at Turner Field, I took him to the home bullpen beyond the right-field fence. I told him to look down from the viewing area for fans, and he caught eyes with Dews.
"Here, Julian. Catch," Dews said, throwing Julian a baseball, with my godson holding onto the thing as if it were pure gold. All was well with his world, along with that of his godfather and a bullpen coach.
Hank Aaron, 40 years after The Homer
He's sittin' on 714.
Here's the pitch by Downing.
There's a drive into left-center field.
That ball is gonna beeee...
OUTTA HERE! IT'S GONE! IT'S 715!
There's a new home run champion of all time.
And it's HENRY AARON!"
So, exactly 40 years after that moment, there was Aaron on April 8, 2014, at home plate of Turner Field, and he stood with the aid of a walker that became his best friend after his surgery following a nasty fall on ice. Before this Braves icon of 80 years delivered his first word before the packed house, the cheering wouldn't stop, and neither did the tears.
The numbers "715" were painted on the outfield grass to commemorate the night Aaron surpassed Babe Ruth in lifetime homers. Bud Selig was there as Baseball Commissioner and as one of Aaron's closest friends. There were Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves who played with the Hammer.
As folks stood around the ballpark during his speech that was just long enough, he was his typically gracious self by telling the fans at the end, "Thank you for all your kindness all these many years."
Come to think of it, we should say the same of Turner Field.
Terence Moore is a national columnist for MLB.com.