Major, Miles, Mark & Mark
Now that baseball season is underway, this post is timely. I will have to check dates, but I am guessing that "going to see the Braves" started in the early 70s. Granddad Major had loved sports, and had actually played baseball, football and basketball in high school. So, when the Braves moved to Atlanta, he then started asking some of his banking contacts for tickets to games every now and then. This trend continued through the 80s, and a love for the Atlanta Braves stayed with my dad, and his brother-in-law and several others, over the course of their lives. I also went to many games, especially in the 80s. My greatest joy was getting there early enough, which we always did, to get autographs. If I had to pick a few games that were most exciting to me, I would go, first, with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Of course, these games were all in Atlanta. The Pirates had either already won their championship or were on the verge. We got to see Omar Moreno, Dave Parker, Phil Garner and the great Willie Stargell. The St. Louis Cardinals, with their raw speed and impressive gloves, also came to town. I loved Willie McGee, Vince Coleman and, of course, Ozzie Smith! And then the Mets came. This was when they had Dwight Gooden, Keith Hernandez, Gary Carter and the young phenom, Daryl Strawberry. Other great teams that we got to see play were the LA Dodgers and the Barry Bonds-led Pirates (the 90s). And to top it off, in the late 70s and early 80s, the tickets we had were just behind Ted Turner, the founder of CNN and then owner of Braves. On a baseball card, I actually got his autograph. I blogged about one Turner encounter here. The long drives to Atlanta, seeing the big skyline come into view, finding easy-to-get-out-of parking spaces, grabbing a box of KFC chicken for a quick "picnic" on the grass outside the stadium, rushing in when the gates opened, getting the autographs and seeing Chief Noc-A-Homa go through his pre-game ritual, always set the stage for enjoyable games.
Dale Murphy was the big star of the Braves for almost two decades. I never remember hearing direct talk from family about Murphy being a Mormon. although my grandmother, who loved baseball, referred to it in a matter-of-fact way on occasion. However, there was a preacher who went with us to a game, and as we sat there, in the stadium seats, struggling to eat pizza slices sticking to the paper plates they were served on, he would say, more than once, in a joking tone, but still serious fashion: "Good guys burn in hell, too"......referring to Murphy and the class person he was, yet the obvious (to this preacher) wrong course Murphy was on. I was very young, and obviously couldn't counter what he said, and just looked up at him, and laughed a bit. Just shows you the incredible power adults have on kids, and the messages that get passed from one generation to another. Fast-forward to the 2000s. Once reason I was intrigued by Mitt Romney's runs for president was the message it sent back out to folks like this preacher and to the greater public, and it showed how times have changed.
Some of our photos from Braves games