Jarry Park, Joe Robbie Stadium, the Ted

I can’t find another big league ballpark with a shorter life than those three. I’m not counting Mile High Stadium or the LA Coliseum, which were always intended as temporary   homes for major league baseball. There have probably been others, but I’m not sure there’s been a park that was a baseball-only stadium that lasted just two decades as an MLB home.

It’s petty stupefying when you consider the mountains of services and things our public sector lacks (decent pay and proper training so that cops don’t shoot people who are lying on the ground, for one thing). Yet we in metro Atlanta scare up half a billion bucks for Liberty Media and Arthur Blank. Shameful, really. But what’s done is done.

So the Ted’s career will last but 20 years. Many memorable Braves had more longevity: Henry Louis Aaron, Phil Niekro, Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, Julio Franco, to name a few. If A. J. plays next season, he’ll match the career of the stadium on Hank Aaron Drive. Chipper had 19 seasons in the bigs. Had he not gotten hurt in the spring of ’94, he would’ve had a 20-year big league career.

Speaking of Hank Aaron Drive, will they rename the street in Cobb after Tim Lee, or John Malone, or Greg Maffei, or Mike Plant, or some other stooge? It’d be appropriate to call it Soulless Alley or Corporate Way.

As for the product on he field, the home nine closed out the unofficial first half in good fashion, winning 3 of 4 in Chitown. We’ll be along soon with our midway season report. As for today, it was especially encouraging to see Folty dominate. Striking out the side in his last inning, and firing his last pitch at 98 — impressive. I think he had just one three-ball count. One key seemed to be throwing his curve and change up for strikes, so hitters couldn’t essentially just sit on his fastball. Big league hitters can hit a 100 mph fastball if they’re looking for it and it’s not well located.



Turner Field — where spontaneity goes to die

But of course. You wouldn’t want to have anything unique at Turner Field to distract us from the focus group-approved distractions. Hey, time to the do The Chop again. Or how ’bout some more Zac Brown?

It’s possible, if you’re a middle-aged white guy from the suburbs with bad taste in music and a passing interest in baseball, to enjoy the Turner Field experience. As for the rest of us, well, fuck off!

They practically give the game itself the middle finger. A rich team history receives rare acknowledgement at the old ball yard. When the Braves celebrated their 50th anniversary on alumni weekend, did they show any of the old players on the video board between innings, or replay highlights of great moments from the past? Grudgingly, it at all.

Besides, fans come for Kiss-Cam and the cheerily bombastic platitudes of carnival barker Mark Owens. And all those clever attractions, like Zombie Night, featuring Zombie Survival Kits, because zombies are popular now. At least they haven’t repeated “Gone With the Wind Night,” held in 2011.

Anyone for a Wayne LaPierre bobblehead?

Last September I attended a game at Camden Yards, where the distractions were minimal, vendors actually circulated through the Upper Level and the musical offerings included a Smiths song and an R.E.M. tune other than “It’s the End of the World As We Know It.”

Meanwhile, way down yonder on the Chattahooch … a jackass playing Fiddler Hero accompanies “Devil Went Down to Georgia” on the big screen.

To Liberty, the Braves, er, Cobb County Baseball Concern, might as well be the Diamondbacks. Except the D’backs are outdrawing the Braves this year. The Braves will have to sell about 22,000 tickets per game over the final 14 to reach 2 million, a figure they’ve exceeded every year since ’91. They’ll have to fudge the numbers to reach it in 2015.

TV ratings are also way down. As of July 17, when the Braves were still considered overachievers, Atlanta placed 23rd among the 29 U.S. teams with a 2.3 rating, nearly half Arizona’s 4.24.

Of course the play on the field has a great deal to do with it, but I’m encountering more and more  longtime Atlantans — those that still care even a little — who have grown to resent the Braves. Animus and apathy — a winning combination.

The Office is in it for good, but there’s not a whole lot of us lifers left. We have out-of-town corporate ownership, and it’s eager facilitator, The Worst Commissioner Ever, to thank for that. And for the worst local TV contract in the game. “Golden age,” right Bud?

Meanwhile, the Braves just set a franchise record with their 11th straight home loss in front of a home crowd nearly partisan to the Mets. Bummer, but at least we’ve still got the Home Depot Tool Race!

And it’s likely to get worse. Not on the field, but inside the new Cobb County home, sure to be a beacon to sanitized. pale-faced family entertainment.


Random notes on a night at the yard

The fam had a delightful time at the yard last night. First off, the interminable 7th inning confab notwithstanding, it was a stirring and significant win for the home nine. Taking two of three from the NL Central leaders, and coming back from three runs down to do it, feels big. Splitting after taking the first two games of the series would have been a letdown. I suspect the team feels much the same.

Winning on a night when the lone constant for this team, starting pitching, faltered, also is satisfying. Was that Oafbatross and BK reaching base a combined four times, scoring three runs, and starting the comeback with an opposite field homer? Glory be! BK’s roundtripper sprang off the top of the wall right in front of us in section 125. It was pretty cool to see the right fielder speed back, leap and then have the ball just elude his glove and kangaroo several rows up. And how long would it be between significant hits for BK and Oaf? Just one inning, as the second sacker delivered a single in the 3-run seventh.

But along with Doumit, who suddenly is a bad ass pinch hitter, the night’s hero was the big lefty galoot Ian Thomas. What he did defines defusing a rally. From first-and-third-one-out, he made it two outs and a man on third before throwing a pitch, and then extinguished the Brewer threat in four pitches, excluding an intentional walk. He fanned Garza, but still, it was 4-1 Brewers and one more run there probably ends the Bravos’ chances.

As much fun as the game itself was, the crowd in 125 was also a blast. For starters, a really cool guy was next to me: Mike, a bar tender at a bar in Morningside called The Family Dog. Mike gave my kid his Andrelton bobble head. We had gotten a broken one, the last available when we entered the gate during the top of the first. (It’s hard to get places on time with a 4-year-old.) Mike also kept up a steady and clever harangue — get it? — of Ryan Braun until the d-bag right fielder exited early. Mike looked up obscure facts about Braun on his smart phone and yelled things like, “Coach Thompson (high school coach) is very disappointed in you” and “Granada Hills High won’t be inviting you to speak at the commencement.”

Mike also attended Wednesday night’s loss, and later described the 7th inning weirdness as “pitching change miasma.” I witnessed the three-run rally from the shadow of the giant plastic cow. The kid was at “the running place” as he calls it. He was pretty fascinated by the bovine’s tomahawk chopping front leg and the tool race, so I guess that sort of thing is aimed at the toddler-to-grade scholar demographic. This morning, the kid was still repeating some of the things Mike and others yelled last night.

So a tip of the Braves cap to Mike, who also sneaked in a flask of bourbon that he willingly shared. Next time you’re in Morningside, stop by The Family Dog. If you see a guy with glasses and a heavy dark beard, that should be Mike.

All in all, a beautiful night, a beautiful Braves victory and the start of a four-day weekend. That’s like Jose Feiliciano — you got no complaints.

* I love Steve Buscemi, and you should too.

‘You can see the Chick-fil-A cow from atop the ferris wheel’

Developers are pitching their visions of how to transform the 55 acres of land north of Turner Field into a (drumroll) “mixed-use” sports and entertainment district.

Innovative and original are not the first words that come to mind.

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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?

Braves attendance tough to figure

The Braves drew the smallest crowd of any home team Sunday, and that’s saying something because the Rays were playing at the Trop. Also-rans Kansas City and Seattle attracted more fans than the streaking Braves, who won their 7th in a row before just 23,382.

This comes after the local nine failed to sell out their July 4th contest against the Cubs and attracted a capacity crowd in just one of the three games vs. the Yankees.

Despite that, attendance is actually up 132,697 from this same point last year, for an average of 29,968 per game, according to Baseball Reference.

It just doesn’t feel like it.


Off the field annoyances

The list is growing, thanks to the FSN Twitter chick. Perhaps she and Chip will be involved in an embarrassing, Bobby Petrino-esque incident that will get them both fired. Chip’s singsong narrative is driving me to drink (more).

I won’t even bother to wish for an end to Mark Owens’ obnoxious between innings patter or “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” in the 7th. But it sure would be nice.



So much for the warm fuzzies

Very disappointing night at the Ted. It should’ve been all about the greatest team in Atlanta sports history and the city’s most beloved announcer but tributes to both seemed little more than afterthoughts. Between innings it was the usual noise, with the overly enthusiastic Down’s Syndrome guy cheering on the saw and the other usual distractions. Why show a highlight of the ’91 team when you can play “Way down yonder on the Chattahooch” for the millionth time. Would’ve liked to have heard Ernie’s voice more than once as well but instead we got John Denver. For the millionth time. Hell, even the trivia question wasn’t about the ’91 Braves.

Whoever rescues this franchise from the inanimate corporate rod that owns it should, as their first act, fire the promotional hacks who seem intent on turning the ballpark experience into one that could be had at any amusement park or suburban megachurch. You guys suck worse than Derek Lowe.

And Derek Lowe sucks.Time for him to become baseball’s best-paid mop-up reliever.

As for the 10,000 overbearing Little Bears fans … I could go on and on. But why waste time on those losers when I can post the greatest rant in sports history. By the way, Lee Elia now works for the Braves.

Another stupid promotion

If you’re going to the Atlanta Braves game on July 2, bring your glove and your hoop skirt.

The Braves, the Atlanta History Center and the Margaret Mitchell House are teaming up for “Gone with the Wind Night” to celebrate the novel’s 75th anniversary. Fans who show their July 2 Braves ticket stub at the Atlanta History Center or Margaret Mitchell House afterward will receive $5 off admission to either venue.

So should black fans dress as Mammy? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Would someone with a clue please buy this team.

There’s no politics in baseball

At least there shouldn’t be. But the geniuses within MLB’s promotions office don’t agree, setting aside June 14 to commemorate Ronald Reagan‘s 100th birthday at various ballparks around the league. The Braves will mark the occasion thusly:

    President Reagan’s favorite treat, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, will be given away to the first 10,000 fans to attend the game;
Aim for Selig's head!10,000 fans at the game;
    Stewart McLaurin, Executive Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation’s Centennial Celebration, will serve as Honorary Team Captain;
    National country artist Tim Dugger, member of the Reagan Centennial National Youth Committee, will sing God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch;
    A Major League Baseball Video Tribute to Ronald Reagan will be shown; BravesVision will show Reagan trivia between innings.

How ’bout Braves Vision feature baseball trivia! I go to Turner Field to be distracted from life’s various irritants, not reminded of them. Please tell me Blockhead Hannity won’t be throwing out the first pitch.

What exactly is the point, injecting a divisive figure into a nonpartisan gathering? I suspect the event will attract as many fans as it repels. And before conservatives throw a fit, I’d be just as opposed to a day honoring JFK.

Can’t wait for Glenn Beck bobblehead night.

Rob Neyer’s Turner Field experience

I was surprised at the many thousands of empty seats. I was impressed by the huge video board. I was distressed by the volume of the P.A. system, which must have been set at 11, and dismayed by the between-innings “entertainment” that reminded me of a Tuesday night in the Midwest League.

Who does he think he is, besmirching the Midwest League like that?

Today’s read

Nice story in the AJC about the great Walter Banks:

Chatting recently with a family of five from Cincinnati, Banks suddenly noticed that the stadium clock read 7:14. He pondered this for maybe a millisecond before saying, “Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs, which you probably knew. But did you know that Jack Webb’s badge number on “Dragnet” was 714. Matter of fact, Tim Hudson was born on 7/14.”

He let this sink in before adding, “Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews both hit their 500th home runs on 7/14, although one year apart, both against the Giants, incidentally, Mathews on 7/14/67, Aaron on 7/14/68.”

CD and I had a great conversation with Mr. Banks at a Braves function a few years back. Wish the team would bring back his trivia questions between innings instead of foisting loud obnoxious guy on us.

The Braves organist is taking requests

Matthew Kaminski, the best thing about Turner Field besides the Braves, is interacting with fans and even taking some requests on Twitter.

Atlanta Braves vs. Detroit Tigers – Don Kelly will get the Godfather theme😉 about 11 hours ago via web

Atlanta Braves vs. Detroit Tigers – Blitzkrieg Bop for Ramon Santiago about 13 hours ago via web

The megachurch of baseball

Could the Braves promotional crew be less inspired? As you may have heard it’s country and western night at The Ted, which is perplexing since they beat you over the head with that crap every other home game. Of course there’s few things more entertaining than seeing a photoshopped picture of Melky Cabrera in a 10-gallon hat projected  on the giant screen. I’m sure that brought in thousands of new fans.

Look, just because we root for the Braves doesn’t mean we have the same musical taste as Chipper Jones. Would it kill them to play a song without a twang every now and then? The Braves play here, in Atlanta — not Alabama. Is an occasional Outkast tune too much to ask? Hard to understand the benefit of promoting a bland, inoffensive experience at the old ballpark (ixnay on the baseball-ay …).

And why not promote the game for a change? When’s the last time fans got to cheer Otis,  Avery, Frankie or Sid at the Ted? Instead, we get Travis Tritt.

Take away the on-field action and you’d be hard-pressed to note much difference between an evening at the Ted and opening night of the GOP convention in Orlando. Can’t wait to see Todd Palin throw out the first pitch on Real American night.

Cocktails at Azar’s revisited

Today’s AJC has an article on the lack of nightlife around Turner Field — the subject of my first Rowland’s Office post almost five years ago.

We celebrated the win with a bunch of other Braves fans on the deck of Azar’s, where the spirits are as lively as the conversation. All that revelry got us hungry, so we ventured across Georgia Ave. to the upscale Chinese eatery, Fuhwah. I can still taste the Happy Family. Wanting to work off the pounds from that late night snack, we decided to hit the links at the Fanplex. Nothing like a round of miniature golf in the heart of a big city.

Remember when our city fathers and mothers promised a revitalization of the neighborhood around the Ted, post-Olympics? To be fair, they did leave us with that hideous metal contraption next to I-20 where the flame once burned (along with the deserted mini-golf course referenced above).

Our city’s progress keepers have now turned their energies to bringing a NASCAR museum downtown. Nothing like another unnecessary distraction to hide all those broken promises.

Say hey, it’s Jay Hey

Those who were at The Ted today will tell their grandchildren they saw Jay Hey‘s first home run. I wasn’t at Game 6 of the ’95 World Series, but I haven’t heard a crowd this turned on since ’92. There were Cubs fans in attendance, but you wouldn’t know it. They were silenced after Jay Hey’s 442-foot dinger. Meanwhile, Braves fans never let up.

Jay Hey was electric, but don’t overlook Yesco’s five ribbies, Nate’s two (okay, 1 and 1/2) fantastic grabs and Wagner’s splendid ninth (hitting 97 MPH on the radar gun twice).

This could be the year.