Yesterday marked my final visit Turner Field, as I’ll be in Brunswick covering a certain sensational trial beginning next week. About 5,000 people, at most, joined me on a hot Thursday afternoon to watch the equally hot Braves sweep the Padres. Although I strongly believe the move to The Mallpark is going to be a disaster for the Braves, my memories of The Ted are mixed.
I only saw one game there in the ballpark’s first 5 years, as I was living in L.A. The second game I ever attended at The Ted set the tone for the years that followed. It was Game 5 of the 2002 NLDS and, despite my prolonged absence, that familiar October dread greeted me as soon as Braves icon Reggie Sanders put San Fran ahead 1-0 in the 2nd. Down 2-0 in the 6th, the local nine finally scored on a Mark DeRosa single but that’s as close as they got. The Braves stranded 12 runners on base in the 3-1 loss.
CD and I were there for another elimination game in 2003. With way too many Cubs fans filling the stands, we had to settle for SRO tix. Not that we missed much, as the Little Bears coasted to a 5-1 win behind a dominant Kerry Wood.
I saw the first and last game of the 2004 NLDS vs. the Astros, both blowouts. Carlos Beltran outscored the Braves by himself, driving in 7 runs, with 7 hits and 3 HR. Game 5 was particularly ugly, with Houston scoring 4 runs off Chris Reitsma and 4 more over Tom Martin and Juan Cruz.
Reitsma would allow four more runs in Game 1 of the 2005 NLDS, a 10-5 loss to the Astros. Eight earned in 1 cumulative inning has to be a record, doesn’t it? And yes, I was there. Fortunately we were all spared another Game 5 loss at home.
It would be five years before the playoffs returned to Atlanta, and Game 3 of the 2010 NLDS was a gem, unlike the previous five postseason games I attended. When Eric Hinske put the Braves up 2-1 in the 8th The Ted shook and I allowed myself to believe. Then Brooks Conrad happened, ruining Bobby’s final campaign. At least they put up a good fight, playing without Chipper, Prado and Billy Wagner.
I was strangely optimistic going into the 2012 Wild Card game vs. the Cards: Medlen was pitching out of his mind, the Braves were healthy, Kimbrel was at his most dominant, Jay Hey had rebounded from a dismal sophomore slump, we had Andrelton … And when David Ross, getting the nod over B-Mac, slammed a 1-2 offering from Kyle Loshe over the left-center wall I got a little cocky. The Braves actually had the lead. And Medlen was dealing.
And then October happened. Chipper ended his career on a sour note, sailing a throw to second on a force-out that put runners on the corners with no out. Naturally the Cards capitalized, taking a 3-2 lead going into the bottom half of the 4th.
That’s when stupidity took over. Fourth inning, runners on the corners, one out, Simmons at bat AND THE PITCHER ON DECK. WITH SLOW-FOOTED FREDDIE FREEMAN AT THIRD. Andrelton running outside the base paths was a mistake; Fredi’s call to have him bunt was indefensible.
This from the same manager who, with a playoff berth on the line, chose to pitch to Hunter Pence with Michael Martinez, a 28-year-old rookie with a .196 BA, on deck. I was at that game, too.
By 2013 I had been to seven playoff games at The Ted, all losses, most non-competitive, four of which ended the Braves’ season. They led in only 3 of the 63 postseason innings I had witnessed.
In what would be the last playoff game ever held in Atlanta city limits, my luck finally changed, although it didn’t come easy. Up 4-1 in the 8th, David Carpenter gave up a two-run bomb to Hanley Ramirez. Then in the 9th Kimbrel — aided by a great throw by Gerald Laird to nab Dee Gordon at second base –pitched around two walks.
It was only the Braves’ 6th win out of their last 22 home playoff games. My first, and last.
There were plenty of good times at The Ted, led by Jay Hey’s Opening Day HR in 2010. I hadn’t felt such electricity at a Braves game since Sid’s slide. And I wouldn’t again, though Hinske’s homer came close.
The years since mostly sucked, even when the home team didn’t. Too many distractions, too many carnival barkers. Too much corn pone. Too much fake fiddler. Way too much chopping. And an insufferable amount of Liberty Media corporate synergy.
If only a half-crazed 37-year-old with local ties and global ambitions could take over and rescue us from this lost period. Instead, we get The Mallpark. I’ll show up now and then but know I’ll feel even less connected to that boondoggle just across the Lester Maddox Bridge. Even if I manage to see a playoff win or two.