Braves made history 19 years ago today

Bill Shanks looks back on the day that changed Braves baseball.

It’s been 19 years. That’s a long time ago, but it seems like it was yesterday. Tuesday is the 19th anniversary of the day the Atlanta Braves won their only World Series championship.

I hate to wonder what I would have said if you had told me they wouldn’t have won another one in almost two decades. We were in the mindset the Braves were in the middle of a roll that year that might last forever. It didn’t, unfortunately, and every year since the last season they appeared in the Fall Classic (1999) we are reminded how long it’s been since the Braves were relevant, at least like that.

But on that day Braves fans all over the country had a dream come true. It was like a dream, if you were there. It was like a dream you thought you would never have and yet when it was going on you wished it would never end.

For me, October 28, 1995 started in Athens, GA. I had driven all night the night before from Brunswick to Athens. Georgia’s football team had a game that Saturday against the mighty Florida Gators. The Ray Goff era was coming to an end, while the Gators were becoming a national powerhouse.

The game was in Athens because the Gator Bowl had been remodeled the year before to prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 1994 game had been played in Gainesville. It was the first time since 1932 Florida had played Georgia in Athens, so there was n way I was going to miss the game.

Georgia had no shot at winning. I knew that, but I wanted to be there anyway. It was history. I shot video from the sideline, and all I remember and all I want to remember is that Chris Doering, Florida’s talented wide receiver, scored about seven touchdowns in the first half.

Actually, Florida beat Georgia 52-17. It’s known in Florida’s history as the “half a hundred” game. Spurrier said he wanted 50 points or more because he had heard no team had ever scored 50 points or more on Georgia “Between the Hedges.”

The game was awful, so I left. The plan was to meet some friends in the parking lot at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to try and watch Game Seven between the Braves and Indians from the parking lot. As I was driving from Athens to Atlanta I listened to the Braves pregame show. Pete Van Wieren and Skip Caray couldn’t believe the position the Braves were in. They had a shot to win the Series at home.

Remember, this was the time before cell phones. So I pretty much had to park at hunt for my friend. I can’t even remember how I found a place to park, but I did. Then I walked along Capital Avenue to try and find him. All of a sudden, my friend tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Hey, do you want to go to Game Six of the World Series?”

I didn’t have a credential. They wouldn’t credential TV stations from that far away. So the only chance I would have of seeing the Braves clinch was to have a ticket. I didn’t hesitate to answer him.

“Oh my God,” I replied. “How did you get those?”

“I walked along here for about 10 minutes and a guy hung his head out his window and said he’d take $200 apiece for them.”

I smiled and said, “Let’s go!”

So we went through the turnstiles for a World Series game in Atlanta. I couldn’t believe it. The seats were in the upper deck, halfway between home plate and third base. I didn’t care if the tickets were on top of the scoreboard halfway to Conyers. I was inside. That’s all that mattered.

The game sailed by. Tom Glavine pitched brilliantly. We waited for someone to score, and from my viewpoint the David Justice home run to right-center was perhaps the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my 25 years on Earth.

I can still see in my mind Marquis Grissom squeezing his glove on the third out in the 9th inning. I was high-fiving people I didn’t know, hugging people I didn’t know. It was an instant celebration. It was mayhem in the truest sense of the word.

At some point, I just kind of collapsed and started crying. I had been a Braves fan for 18 years. I had seen a lot of miserable baseball. But it was all wiped away that very night, with that one game, that one championship.

After the game I ran into some guys from my hometown of Waycross. We were out on Capital Avenue and saw Justice drive out of the tunnel in his sports car. We screamed at him and he waved at us. He was on cloud nine. So were we.

It was a special night. Wish we had more of those type memories, but hopefully we will in years to come. But for those of us who remember, and especially for those of us who were there, you can never duplicate what happened on October 28, 1995.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

Atlanta Dugout Top Stories