Archive for June, 2008

50: Tomahawk Choppin’ For the Politically Correct Braves Fan

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by JB

Before I start let, me say emphatically “No this will not be a politically slanted blog.”

I use the term “Politically Correct” as it refers to the general usage of the term and not as a forum to discuss liberal vs conservative, the 2008 election, or my opinion about rising gas prices.

As many of you well know by now, I’m a lifelong Braves fan that grew up in Atlanta and still reside here. I was born up the street from Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and my earliest memories developed out of that cavernous Launching Pad.

And since 1980, (the year of my birth) I never questioned the usage of a “Brave” as a mascot or even what it was. Thanks to Chief Nocahoma, Homer the Brave, and the joyously expressive early Brave logo,

I knew that we must be an “Indian” team. But I didn’t think much more of it.

Then came 1991.

Now bear in mind. The Braves are the oldest franchise in baseball. They’ve been called the “Braves” since 1912 and have had a tomahawk on their chests since Milwaukee and in Atlanta since 1987.

But with the arrival of Deion Sanders and some success for the first time since 1982, a new kind of excitement was forming around the team and a new phenomenon was sweeping Atlanta that year.

The Tomahawk Chop.

Because of his roots in Florida State, Neon’s Seminole/Braves fans brought with them a fixture that had been a part of Tallahassee Football during every first down at ‘Nole games for years. Now it had been transplanted in Atlanta to become the “Chop”. And with the Braves heading to the playoffs and then to the World Series that year, the nation was taking notice and the Nation (the Native American one, as represented by AIM) was getting mad.

As an 11 year old fiercely opposed to any kind of buzz kill that would dare put a damper on my Braves’ new found winning ways, I could not for the life of me figure out why oh why did AIM pick this year to stage a protest of the Atlanta Braves. I mean we’ve been Braves for … “since ever” my prepubescent my thought. Why now?

However untimely I found the protests, I did start to find their objections somewhat legitimate. Although as a southern white boy, I had never felt offended by the Atlanta Crackers, I did wonder what I would think of a bunch of white metro-Atlantans chanting and waving their arms during an eighth inning rally.

In truth, this blog post isn’t about defending their complaints or making a case that we stop the Chop. For that matter I’m not really trying to make a case either way. I mean we have a cow at Turner Field that now contributes for cryin’ out loud! This is more about coming to terms.

As a Braves fan that wants to respect other cultures, I look for dignity in the ways I talk about or interact with those cultures. But I’ve yet to consider myself “Politically Correct”. I think of PC as a bunch of hogwash because it’s not really respect for other cultures. It’s a paranoid way for us to feel good about ourselves for using terms that are as indirectly descriptive as possible. I mean I’m not trying to be sound like a southern jerk here but I myself am technically a Native American! I was born and raised here! But when I realized how the Braves’ depiction of Native American culture bothered some people I wondered if I was offending people by doing the Chop or wearing Nocahoma’s smiling caption on my chest.

So here’s my conclusion. Braves Nation, and every other baseball team for that matter, creates it’s very own culture. It takes many years to cultivate and it may borrow from the other cultures around it (as the Braves, Indians, Yankees, Brewers, Nationals… or even branch into the NBA and look at the “Celtics”) but simultaneously it develops something entirely unique. When you walk into a baseball stadium, you’re not walking into a mimic or a recreation of any other culture. You’re walking into a culture all it’s own. That’s why we blog about baseball, talk about it, live it and breathe it for 162 games a year. It’s our very own culture. That’s why we get dejected when “we” lose or elated when “we” sweep the Mets. That’s why we get in fights over baseball; it’s our culture against theirs, us against them. And that’s why I don’t think we Braves fans are intentionally or otherwise doing something to mock or defame another person’s culture. Because we’re not parodying someone else’s particular tribe or heritage. We’re celebrating our very own culture that doesn’t just exist at the game but still comes most alive when 50k+ of us are all together, setting aside our differences, and cheering for Our Team. We have also admittedly borrowed some elements from American lore (and yes even stolen from FSU) but it was all done as we created our own distinct culture in Atlanta that is being refined every year. Besides, even if you go back as far as the Ancient Romans, I think you’ll be hard pressed to find many cultures that are entirely made up of completely original elements.

I have observed this in every MLB stadium I have visited. In Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Houston, they all have a sundry of items that are distinctly “them” that the casual observer like myself finds fascinating. (I’ve noticed the Monkey Nation hasn’t gotten too upset by Anaheim’s use of the rallying simian they display.)

And yes maybe Nocahoma’s Teepee along with Big Victor, Homer the Brave, and the open mouthed, bald, elated Brave are all gone from site. But Atlanta and the Braves have an identity all its’ own. And that’s really all the Tomahawk is about. And maybe the Chop is goofy to you out-of-towners, but it’s a part of what’s unique to us and we’re not trying to offend anyone….Y’ALL!

by JB

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49: Fact or Fiction??

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By Voice of Reason Raisins

JEFFERSON, GA – I was talking with my 12-year-old son yesterday about this task of putting together a lead topic for the Braves and Stuff blog. He asked me, “What are you gonna write about?” My honest response to him was, “I don’t know. What do you think I should write about?” To this, he gave a couple of minutes thought and asked, “Does it have to be real?” I replied, “No, it does not.” Suddenly, a flurry of ideas for stories began to come forth out of the mouth of this suddenly released creative force. “The President is at the game, and Chipper Jones is batting. His bat breaks and a sharp piece barely misses the President and the Secret Service arrests Chipper and throws him in jail.” Or, “Mark Teixeira is really a spy from another country. He’s gathering intelligence from all over the country while posing as a baseball player.” I reminded him that Tex was from Baltimore, so he quickly said, “OK, it’s Escobar!” Then there was, “Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur discover Area 54 and are held captive 54 miles below ground in an underground bunker.”

Wow… I had unknowingly tapped into an endless resource of creativity all from the perspective of the 12-year-old world. So I thought, how about a little creativity from a middle-aged dad trying desperately to stay connected to a 12-year-old world?

How about: “The Braves break Spring Training with a pitcher who dominated the Grapefruit League. Amazingly, he had not pitched in a Major League game in 2 years, but his spring games were so awesome that the Braves, and the Braves fans, came to rely on him to be an important part of their plans for 2008. In the last 2 years, he had endured knee surgery, elbow surgery and a torn hamstring. He was practically like the Bionic Man. Local sports talk radio suggested he be placed in bubble-wrap prior to his first start. Ha-ha… that’s pretty funny. As the radio hosts signed off from their show on the evening of his first regular season start, they jokingly admitted that it looked like he was going to make it. 15 minutes later, this pitcher tears a pectoral muscle and can’t answer the bell. He has yet to toe the rubber again in a Major League game.” Nah…

I got one: “A future Hall of Fame pitcher enters into the season looking for one more run to the playoffs. He even implores the Braves management to bring back one of his good buddies to make the run with him. He enters into Spring Training, but disappears from sight. He trains by himself on back fields, like a ninja, secretly preparing his new arsenal so that he can unleash his final attacks on an unsuspecting league of batsmen. As the season unfolds, his team leans on him like never before. And he is good; I mean really good. He even reaches a career milestone. You’d never know that his elbow had ever been surgically repaired. You’d never know, in fact we didn’t know, that he had once had an unprecedented procedure to fix a hole in his elbow tendon. He was dominant… for about 5 innings at a time. Then 4. Then, without warning, his shoulder began to ache. It ached badly. It ached so badly that he couldn’t throw between starts… so badly that he couldn’t sleep. It ached. He was shut down, unable to help his reeling teammates – unable to right a listing ship. But he had an idea. “If I can’t throw for 5 innings anymore, maye again lead my troops to victory!” He prepared for his triumphant return to the hails of a loving throng of worshipers. But, alas, it was not to be. His return was not triumphant. And he ached badly. He would not pick up another ball this year, nay maybe never. His own shoulder had betrayed him, and perhaps this mighty warrior shall never again taste the sweetness of victory.” No, I don’t like it…

And then there’s: “The Prodigal Son returns. He returns after many years in the camp of the enemy. Yes, he wore the hated blue and orange, he wore the scripted NY, he fought with the rival. Many things were said of this once revered man. He was accused of having ulterior motives. “No!” he said. “It was just business. Things are not as they appear.” But his former faithful did not believe. But time has a way of healing wounds, and the Prodigal Son wanted to come home. Soon, many began to believe that all was truly not as it had appeared, and his former faithful began to also wish him home. He almost made it, but alas, it was not to be. But wait! A new season dawns and he has returned. Our grizzled veteran has come home to help propel his friends and teammates to another post-season. This man had seen many campaigns, some supremely successful, others not so much. But he could battle. He had never missed any portion of a campaign over his entire Hall of Fame career. He had come home to be a workhorse for a manager that he had loved and admired. But suddenly, the well conditioned workhorse pulled a hammy and found himself inactive for the first time. Yes, even the mighty fall sometimes. But he came back fighting. Ow! His elbow hurts! Dang… He has slightly torn something in his elbow. DL’d again…” No, I don’t like that one either…

Maybe: “Hot young prospect suspended for performance enhancing drugs?!?” Maybe not…

Or: “Replacement center fielder returns from back surgery to perform wonderfully… until he injures his back.” No…

Or: “Hot young pitcher steps funny in dugout and rolls his ankle.” Uh-uh…

I know: “Major free-agent-to-be can’t perform until the calendar says it’s OK.” Still not it…

“Sore armed closer lets manager know when he can pitch.” Crazy…

“Mexican League refugee finds himself an important piece of a Major League rotation.” Never…

“Rival base runner twice tries to implant his head into the shortstop’s thigh.” Funny, but no…

I got it!!! “Stud third baseman bats .400 well into June, but gets knocked outta service when he doinks a ball off the batting cage crossbar into his own eye.” That’s a good one! But it just won’t work…

I think I’ll just go back to “Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur discover Area 54 and are held captive 54 miles below ground in an underground bunker.” It’s more believable.

~Raisins~

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48: An Observation from an Interested Spectator

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By Gil

MECHANICSVILLE, VA – As we approach the magic one third mark of the season, most major league teams take stock of their situation to see where they stand as far as personnel and what is needed going forward. Often times this is the time when teams decide if they are buyers or sellers and if they have a chance to be serious contenders or view the likelihood of being an also ran and begin building for the next season.

The 2008 version of the Atlanta Braves had reason to believe they were a team with which to vie for the National League East and even a possible shot at returning to the World Series. Good pitching depth and a strong offensive line up was in evidence. The Braves only apparent weakness was a lack of bench strength. Funny how the wheels began to fall off even before the start of the season.

John Smoltz began the season on the DL with what we now know as likely a career ending injury. Perhaps we should think back to the night he pitched magnificently against the Astros in the Braves last appearance in the NL playoffs and a shirtless Smoltz revealed a tremendous amount of bleeding around his right shoulder. For him to pitch the past two years has been a testament to his grit but the ravages of time have apparently taken their toll and it seems to many that John has made his last pitch as a major leaguer.

Mike Hampton was never really counted on this year like he was in 2007 but all seemed ready for the stoic lefty to finally justify the $13 million due to him this year. Alas, it was not to be, another freak injury claimed him and who knows if he will ever pitch again effectively although the return of even a mildly capable Mike Hampton could yet salvage the season for the Braves.

Chuck James went down early. Never a pitcher with a large repertoire of baffling pitches to keep opposing batters off balance, his inability to keep pitches down combined with a diminished speed deferential between his fastball and his change up, he began giving up homeruns at an alarming rate. This led to his demotion back to AAA Richmond and a mind set that he has to reinvent himself as a pitcher.

The cause of Tom Glavin’s woes have finally surfaced: a sore elbow. Who else besides me sees this as a deal breaker for a 41 year old pitcher who has been know as an innings eater throughout his career? It also explains the loss of movement on his pitches and to me may be the harbinger of a season to forget for the Bravos.

The loss of Peter Moylan and the limited availability of Soriano have also put a tremendous strain on the Braves’ bullpen. There is a correlation between the effectiveness of a team’s bullpen and the number of innings they are forced to pitch. Manny Acosta is just not capable of pitching everyday and I don’t think any other pitcher on the Braves staff is either.

So, what do you have when 4/5th of your projected starting staff and three of your most effective relievers are out with injuries? A club that more closely resembles the Washington Nationals than one that resembles the Philadelphia Phillies. The Braves cannot afford to slip much further behind the front runners if they expect to have a chance this year but counting on young pitchers like Charlie Morton to come to the rescue may be placing too much of a burden on a young rookie who is only now finding success. Steve Avery comes to mind when making a comparison of expectations by the Braves Nation and the likelihood he will struggle in his début season.


~Gil~

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47: the broadcaster I grew up listening to

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by Berigan

JONESBORO, GA – I ain’t a beat writer….can’t get scoops from the players sitting in front of my computer in Jonesboro! Oh sure, I could make stuff up, like Dyan Perry does. 😉 Or you can just say something like some writers do but that ain’t write right.

So something I can write about, at least a little bit, is baseball broadcasters I have heard through the years. I have listened to Skip and Pete longer than any others in my life. They don’t work much together these days, but any time I hear them together, or separately, it’s like putting on a pair of very comfortable shoes. It just feels good! Even when you hear good ones you really don’t know how very good they are ’til you hear bad ones. And, boy howdy! (do the youngsters today still say that???), have I heard some bad ones! With the Yankees, you can hear John Sterling and some woman with a shrill voice convince millions that baseball is not a very good game….I really can’t listen to many people do baseball on the radio, that is a special talent few truly possess.

But, I’m not going to write about Skip and Pete, or the really bad ones today. Lately, for some reason I have been thinking back to the broadcaster I grew up listening to….the late, great Jack Buck.

Jack BuckI’m sure most everyone here has heard, or at least heard of, Jack Buck….but, unless you listened to him call Cardinal games while driving around at night (or doing Monday night football with Hank Stramm on CBS radio) you never really heard Jack in his element, at his best.

Something about him calling games on CBS TV seemed…subdued. Like some know-nothing kid producer had said “Jack, you can’t be a homer, don’t get too excited, just call the game. You ain’t just broadcasting to some hicks in and around St. Louis, this is the big time!” 🙄 Plus, with Tim McCarver never shutting up about all he could do is call balls, strikes and hits.

Which was a shame. Because Jack Buck was as funny as anyone, anywhere, when he got on a roll. So much great stuff he did (MC charities, host local roasts, had his own non-baseball show on KMOX) is just sitting, gathering dust, not likely to ever be heard again. Pre-Internet, pre-youtube. I’m curious if anyone here who heard Jack only on TV, even thought of him as a funny guy!

He had a great guy in the booth that he clearly felt comfortable with, Mike Shannon. If you like Skip and Pete, you would like Jack and Mike in their prime.

But, there were times when he was able to shine through on national TV, when something magical happened, and he couldn’t contain his excitement, like Kirk Gibson hitting a homer off Eckersley, and no one even thought it was possible he could play in the series.

Broadcaster Marty Brennaman on that moment:

“The thing that amazes me about him — and all of us have our own styles — he understated things to the extent that they more than adequately conveyed what people saw and thought. When Kirk Gibson hit the home run off Dennis Eckersley to win the World Series game, he said seven words: ‘I don’t believe what I just saw.’ And that conveyed everything that people in Dodger Stadium were thinking [and] people watching on TV or listening on the radio. He said it exactly the way it was. That’s a talent that very few people like us in this business have.”

some quotes by Jack….

“It’s such a beautiful sport, with no politics involved, no color, no class. Only as a youngster can you play and as a pro can you win. The game has kept me young, involved and excited and for me to be up here with gems of baseball”

“It (George Steinbrenner’s new yacht) was a beautiful thing to observe with all thirty oars working in unison.”

“The biggest kick I get is to communicate with those who are exiled from the game — in hospitals, homes, prisons — those who have seldom seen a game, who can’t travel to a game, those who are blind.”

“When Harry and I were doing the games together, we were as good as a team as there ever was. His style and mine were so different that it made for a balanced broadcast. The way we approached the job, with the interest and love both of us had for the game, made our work kind of special.”

Some quotes about Jack by the people who knew and loved him…and were helped by him.

From Skip Caray:
“It seemed like he took a liking to me right away. There were always people trying to warm up to me because of who my Dad was. Jack wasn’t like that. He genuinely liked me and wanted to help me with my broadcasting career.

He was doing play-by-play for St. Louis University basketball games and wanted me to come and do color analysis with him. There was a point that he thought basketball on the radio was boring. So we started taking turns doing the play-by-play. When St. Louis had the ball, Jack was talking and when the opponent had the ball, I was talking.

There was one game in which there was a loose ball after a rebound and neither of us knew who should be talking. There was silence for about 10 seconds and then we both just started laughing. So needless to say, our innovative idea ended there. The 10 or so games that I did with him doing SLU games gave me valuable experience and helped me get where I am today.

A few years later, there were some people with the St. Louis Hawks organization that remembered hearing those broadcasts and gave me the chance to do their games. When they moved to Atlanta, I went with the team and it helped me get the job with the Braves.”

And everyone’s favorite Chip Caray (hey, I like him, and that’s all that really matters! 😛 ) was helped by Jack as well. He talked about Jack just after he died:

“Jack is the voice of baseball in St. Louis. He was as big as Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray combined, and I really believe to this day maybe the best ever broadcast team in the history of this game was Buck and Caray in the old days on KMOX.Buck, Caray, Garigiola
I grew up in St. Louis and I was one of those typical kids who fell asleep with the radio on under his pillow listening to Jack and Jay Randolph and Mike Shannon broadcasting games from the West Coast.

I auditioned for one of the Cardinals jobs several years ago and I was sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Pittsburgh reading the newspaper, scared to death. This quarter comes flying out of the air and lands right on my newspaper and I look up and it was Jack and his wife. He came up to me and said, “Good luck.” He gave me a pat on the back and said welcome. He said, “I hope everything goes well.” And then he said, “By the way, don’t screw it up.”

…..Obviously, his health has not been very good [towards the end] and he handled himself with such great humor and great class. I wanted to interview him in the booth and talk to him about what he’s seen and he said, “Hey, guys, what’s shaking besides me?” He had Parkinson’s disease and he immediately made everyone else feel comfortable around him.

He was the voice of summer and a huge influence in my career. He went out of his way to make me feel comfortable and he always had a smile on his face and a song in his heart.”

Having listened to Jack Buck broadcast, I’d say you could see the smile on his face and the joy in his voice for the game. I think that’s why Chip’s style doesn’t grate on me, like it clearly does others. Chip needed to sound, and be, as different from his father and grandfather as he could. I hear a bit of Buck’s ‘hey, I’ve got the best job in the world’ in Chip’s voice….perhaps Jack sounded more sincere to others broadcasting that way.

Like Chip, I can remember staying up late, with a high tech transistor radio under my pillow listening to the Cards play past my bedtime. I’d swear Jack was almost as disappointed as I was that Willie Stargell had somehow bested us yet again late in the game, or when Manny Mota with a pinch hit, drove in the winning run for the Dodgers (when I really was staying up late!), though I don’t think he had tears running down his cheek, swearing I’d never listen to another Cardinal game like I was. But, like any true idiot fan of baseball, the dawn of a new day would make the reality that the Cards were not a very good team, somehow an insignificant fact, and I would be back for more….more close games, more losses, and more enjoyment listening to Jack Buck have a great time calling a game, and telling stories.

Of course, when I moved away from St. Louis in 1983, I was already on the outs with the team as well (as I have mentioned before, they traded darn near everyone off the team) and the KMOX signal didn’t always come in real well all the way down in Jacksonville, but….a taste of home was always there at 1120 on my AM dial any time I wanted it (and the station was coming in). And when I moved to Atlanta, it came in even better…and Jack was always there…..

Jack BuckBut I noticed around 2000, he didn’t sound quite the same. He was a longtime smoker, and it seemed to finally be taking a toll on the best radio voice ever, IMHO. He now sounded hoarse, like he had been screaming, and….old. I didn’t know how little time he had left. He was missing games, and in and out of the hospital. He had one more moment though left to give….he read a little poem he wrote that he spoke the day baseball returned after 9-11. I remember ESPN showing it and chills running up and down my spine…watch this! Once again, he brought me to tears with his words.

He died June 18th, 2002, at the age of 77. I wish I could tune in to KMOX, and hear him one more time mention Busch beer, and say one more time….. that’s a winner!

John Francis Buck

John Francis Buck

1924 – 2002

~Berigan~

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