I don’t believe in curses, but if they exist they don’t apply to perennial losers like the Cubs. I can think of only three stark examples where the spirit of the billy goat or whatever cost them a chance at a World Series. I can cite four times as many kicks to the gut over the last 20 years for the Braves, going back to Lonnie’s base-running blunder in the ’91 Fall Classic.
So who, or what, is responsible? Could it be Chief Noc-A-Homa, who was unceremoniously fired by the Braves after the 1986 season? It might explain the ’95 championship, i.e. the aberration, when the chief relented because the opposition featured a mascot even more objectionable to Native Americans than the chop.
Levi Walker’s curse didn’t really take effect until 1996 — the 10th anniversary of the chief’s departure — when the felon in pinstripes homered off Mark Wohlers in Game 4 of the World Series. Save for a valiant effort in ’99, we’ve experienced nothing but postseason humiliation.
In 1997, Florida scored three unearned runs in the 1st inning of Game 1 after Chipper fumbled a Jeff Conine grounder with two on and two out. Moises Alou followed with a bases-clearing double and the Marlins got the road win they needed.
Game 5 featured a strike zone more expansive than Eric Gregg’s gut. We thought we’d never see umpiring that bad again. Never assume anything with this team.
The Marlins clinched the pennant the following game, in Atlanta, where every team but the Braves has home field advantage in October.
In ’98, it was the Padres (Sterling Hitchcock !?! Danny Bautista !?!), followed by St. Louis in 2000 (in which the Braves committed 5 errors in 3 games and were outscored 25-10), Arizona in 2001 (before only 35,000-plus in the deciding Game 5), San Francisco in 2002 (Sheffield’s gift to his onetime BFF Barry Bonds), the Cubs in 2003 (after which CD and I were mocked by Little Bears making the trudge up Georgia Avenue), the Giants in 2010 (Brooks Conrad) and the Cards on Friday (Sam Holbrook, Fredi, Chipper, Uggla …).
To sum up, over the last 16 years, we’ve seen eight teams clinch a division series or NLCS at Turner Field. That’s a kick to the groin every other October.
The one year where the Braves played their last postseason game elsewhere came in 2005, when they blew a 6-1, 8th inning lead in Houston, then made us endure 10 more innings before succumbing to the inevitable.
We hoped the four-year hiatus from the playoffs would change our luck, but things appear to be getting worse.
Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jason Heyward struck by lighting in next year’s Wild Card game. At Turner Field, naturally.
Such catastrophe could be averted if the Braves return Chief Noc-A-Homa’s teepee to its rightful home. They could make room for it by knocking down the Chick-fil-A cow.
Sounds like a win-win proposition to me.