Elton John, the Lemmer, Knucksie and JS talk Bravos

My dream: Elton John teams up with a rich Atlantan (say Sara Blakely, the billionaire who founded Spanx) and buys the Bravos.

He’s no superficial fan. In this series of clips, from 2007, Elton bitches about the best-of-five division playoff, disses the DH, compares B-Mac to Johnny Bench, quizzes JS about Leo Mazzone’s departure and asks Knucksie about his nephew Lance.

He even gets JS to admit a mistake when he asks: “Why did we get rid of Jermaine Dye?”

Think of it: A baseball fan who’s loved the Braves as long as, if not longer, than most of us running the show. Bet he’d get rid of that godawful country pop shit they play between innings, too.

No shame in being pissed

Nearly a quarter century ago, a moribund Braves franchise recruited Jim Varney, aka Ernest P. Worrell, as a pitchman.

The Braves trotted out Ernest with all the subtlety befitting the character. On radio, fans hear Ernest yelling at Vern to buy tickets – as often as every half-inning. At the ballpark, Ernest’s 6-foot~tall face grins maniacally above the Gate G ticket windows.

For Braves fans, it was one indignity too many. When Ernest P. Worrell showed up on the Matrix board one Sunday afternoon to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” he was greeted with a chorus of boos, thus ending one of the marketing department’s many missteps. (Side note: Some guy wearing a Taco Mac shirt threw out the first pitch Friday. Typical.)

Braves fans are not the most passionate in baseball, obviously, but it’s good to see that, when pushed, they still have a pulse. I would’ve been embarrassed had the fans not gone apoplectic after Sam Holbrook’s historically atrocious call. No one was hurt, so let’s not treat what happened as more than it was.

Too bad the Used Car Salesman wasn’t there, for its his refusal to allow instant replay ensured the call would stand. Bud Selig, you suck. Always have, always will.

And as you’d expect, Holbrook was unapologetic.

Holbrook defended the call, even after he looked at the replay.

“Once that fielder established himself, he got ordinary effort,” he said, referring to shortstop Pete Kozma calling for the ball, then veering away at the last moment as left fielder Holliday drifted in. “That’s when the call was made.”

Asked if he thought he made the proper ruling after seeing the replay, Holbrook replied, “Absolutely.”

Eric Gregg will meet you in Hell.

Bring it, Chipper!

Sorry, Chip, had to watch replay of the Buffalo-UGA tilt on TV and then catch up on all the high school games I DVR’d.

Actually, the announced attendance of 16,686 was far from the worst in baseball Tuesday night and, considering how poorly they played, the Braves should be happy there were few witnesses.

On the other hand, the Rays drew about a 1,000 more, albeit with the Yankees in town and a division title yet to be decided. I’m sure 15,000 of them were rooting for the Bombers.

Golden Age, eh Bud?

Dead horse flogging alert

Let me preface this by saying I’m an Atlanta native, and there aren’t many of those. I don’t care if you’re sick of the topic — I’m sick of this city’s a-pathetic fan base. Besides, you were warned.

Last night a little more than 18,000 people (allegedly) showed up at The Ted to watch one of the best teams in baseball. Conversely, 26,821 turned out in Denver to see the Rockies, 30 games under .500, take on the Brewers, another also-ran. Miami — MIAMI — drew a bigger crowd, by about 5,000, to watch the NL East’s two worst teams square off.

I guess school hasn’t started in Colorado or Florida.

There’s nothing new to say about this, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept the detachment. Yeah, those of us who run and read this blog are passionate, but we’re a distinct minority. The rest of the area is made up of nothing but rednecks who drool college football, carpetbaggers and trendy frontrunners. I wish they’d all move to Alabama. Or Boston.

The Braves’ ownership is partly the blame, refusing to recognize the realities of a challenging market. Instead of selling the Braves, they pimp noise and gimmicks and Lynyrd Skynyrd concerts. Instead of, say, lowering beer prices, they raise ticket prices for the games fans most want to see.

How’s that working out?

There doesn’t appear to be more than 10,000 people in the stands tonight (and yes, I’m not one of them, but I go to my fair share). The atmosphere is funereal to say the least — if I have to hear that little girl shouting “Let’s go (blank), let’s go” one more time I’m going to stick a fork in my trachea.

I’ll leave it at that.

Worst fans ever (cont’d)

Don’t take my word for it.

For six months, Tampa Bay fans simply did not come to the ballpark as often as they should have. The Rays were coming off a 2010 season in which they beat the mighty Yankees and Red Sox to win the American League East. This year, they staged a second-half comeback for the ages. And yet their average attendance went down, from 22,759 last year to 18,879.

Some context: This year’s average attendance at Tropicana Field was closer to the 2007 figure — when they were the worst team in baseball — than last year.

The announced attendance at Tuesday’s Game 4 vs. Texas: 28,299, well short of a sellout.

Worst fans ever

Tampa has a $39 million payroll and a roster full of exciting, homegrown players. Once again they’re slaying the dragons in the AL East, but their 12 fans could give a shit. Tonight’s attendance, with the Yankees in town, no less: 18,722.

Okay, so your stadium sucks, and it’s poorly located. Whatever. You are the most pathetic fans I’ve ever seen. The worst. Bar none. Ownership should be allowed to move the team whenever and wherever they feel. They’d be better off in Fargo than in your central Florida wasteland.

Portrait of THE fan

Enjoy this 1983 SI profile of Pearl Sandow, who attended more than 3,700 Atlanta Crackers and Braves games.

Aisle 105, row 9, seat 1 is her accustomed spot, behind the Braves’ dugout, and she even receives mail there, though the Braves office forwards it to her home. “I get mail from players I knew who passed through Atlanta 30 years ago,” she says.

In 1975 the Braves gave Sandow a lifetime pass, but she’s uncomfortable accepting “charity,” so she promptly purchased a season ticket for the seat next to her. “I bought that seat to keep my purse on,” she says. “Besides, I don’t want someone there talking all the time. I want to watch the game.”

Sandow was a head statistician for the U.S. Housing Assistance Bureau and worked for the government for 33 years, or until she qualified for her pension. Then she quit because “work interfered with baseball.” …

She was to have been a reluctant witness at the last game ever played at Ponce de Leon Park. It was on a Friday night in September of 1964, between the Crackers and Jacksonville. “I hope it starts raining Friday afternoon and rains all Friday night,” she had said. “It will be so hard, seeing a game in this park for the last time. I’d rather have the game rained out and have it go out that way.”

Pearl got her wish. The game was called because of rain.

Welcome to the Net

That’s what they call Oakland’s mausoleum, home to Al Davis’ ego (and the Athletics). Wednesday’s Turner Field experience reminded me of what it must be like to be an A’s fan: Sparse attendance (15,542 announced was generous) and chilly temperatures. By doubleheader’s end no more than 1,000 fans remained. Too bad, because it was a game I’ll remember for a long time, thanks to the Alameda-like atmosphere and, of course:

Not all Boston fans suck

Meet the Boston Braves Boosters — a dying breed who deserves your respect.

The only organized Boston baseball fans who actively despise the Red Sox, the BBB attend every Braves-Sox game to loudly cheer on the National Leaguers, and “really give it to the local nine and their fair-weather fans,” according to BBB president Gus Farnsworth. During games they ring cowbells and hold up signs featuring popular Booster slogans like, “If We’re Brave, Then What Are You?” and “Any Idiot Can Wear Sox.”

I had a chance to attend a Boston Braves Boosters meeting last October in Brookline, a stone’s throw away from the Braves’ old stomping grounds. They were celebrating both the playoff absence of the Red Sox (“those crimson-hosed Johnny-come-lately upstarts of Boston baseball,” as they’re colorfully described in the BBB charter), and the Boosters’ 57th anniversary. But to be honest, the proceedings felt more like a wake. Two members had passed away the previous month (the Boosters’ average age is 89.3), and their secretary had just been hospitalized with “a bad bout of consumption.”

Time’s running out on their dream to build a replica of Braves Field in the same location as the old park. They hope that one day the Braves/Bees will return to Boston. No chance of that, but God bless their Red Sox-hatin’ souls.

The next Braves owner (we wish)

It won’t happen, but it’s fun to dream.

Elton is local — more local than Liberty, at least. And he’s a serious Braves fan; according to Atlanta magazine, he has a backstage assistant relay score updates to him each summer when he’s on tour. (Check out EJ talking baseball with JS, the Lemmer and Knucksie.)

He has a background in sports ownership, too. John was chairman and director of the Watford Football Club and part-owner of the North American Soccer League’s Los Angeles Aztecs.

So what do you say, Sir Elton? Your Braves need you.

GQ skewers BoSox, Philly fans

Red Sox fans came in 6th in the magazine’s rankings of the nation’s worst sports fans.

aka Pvt. Pyle from 'Full Metal Jacket'

Insufferable Hypocrites. Winning the 2004 World Series was the worst thing to ever happen to Red Sox fans. Having been beaten into a state of lovable-loserdom by generations of championship futility, they now seem intent on living out some sort of horsehided cycle of domestic violence, inflicting upon us everything that for eighty-six years was inflicted upon them. It is a display of epic hypocrisy. All their whining about the Yankees’ salary-driven Evil Empire? They now gloat while drubbing opponents with what is routinely the second-highest-paid roster in baseball. All that self-satisfaction about being a bunch of scruffy underdogs? They blindly maintained it while winning the 2007 World Series with a payroll almost $90 million higher than Colorado’s. All these continuing claims to be an elite group of die-hard supporters? They have the biggest legion of bandwagon fans in the country, pushing past the Pinstripes as baseball’s top-drawing road team in 2005, 2007, and 2008. These days, Red Sox fans are indistinguishable from Yankees fans—just with more grating accents.

A-fucking-men. I would’ve ranked them first, but that dishonor went to Philly fans, who certainly belong in the conversation.

Things reached their nadir last season, when Citizens Bank Park played host to arguably the most heinous incident in the history of sports: A drunken fan intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl. The truth is this: All told, Philadelphia stadiums house the most monstrous collection of humanity outside of the federal penal system.

Numbers and such

  • 23,438: Sunday’s night’s attendance at the Trop for the finale of the Tampa-Boston series. The Rays are a great story and a fun team to watch, but no one in TSTP seems to care. Pathetic.
  • 38,170: Sunday’s attendance at The Ted. I hope that’s more about the Braves than Bark in the Park or the Christian rock band that played after the game. Hopefully we won’t see any of those embarrassing, Trop-like crowds this week against the Mets.
  • 240: Runs scored by the Bravos from the 7th inning on.
  • 5: Games separating the Braves and the Cards. Hard to figure what’s up with St. Louis, but any team with Wainwright, Carpenter and Pujols can’t be dismissed. That four-game series at The Ted weekend after next could be as a big as the last three games vs. the Phils. The Giants are actually ahead of the Cards in the WC race, but with Lincecum scuffling and Zito imploding I’m skeptical.
  • .391: Barbaro Canizares‘ batting average since the All-Star break. Too bad he can’t play CF.

Atlanta fans suck (part pi)

Compelling baseball played here


Tonight’s paid attendance? 18,105, a little more than last night, which was the smallest crowd of the year. Must’ve been a replay of a UGA scrimmage on cable. 

How embarrassing was tonight’s turnout? Even the Rays drew a bigger crowd — not a reflection on the team, but on its fans. Watch out, St. Pete — Atlanta‘s gunning for you. 

I’m sure Derrek Lee will be impressed by the 15,000 people who show up for his debut tomorrow afternoon.