So, where were you on Saturday, October 28, 1995? Many probably have their own story about that very important day.
I had driven the night before from Brunswick, where I worked as a TV sports anchor, to Athens. There was a game there and I was lucky enough to have a credential to cover the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators in Athens.
The old Gator Bowl was being remodeled, so the world’s largest cocktail party got moved to a home-and-home series for two years. Florida had demolished Georgia the year before in Gainesville, and the Bulldogs’ faithful hoped for a different outcome at home.
Instead, it was a nightmare. Florida won, and I’ve long forgotten the score. I have two memories of that experience. First, Gators’ wide receiver Chris Doering scored 10 touchdowns (or so it seemed) by himself that day, and second, I left at halftime.
What was the point of staying for that debacle? There was something else getting ready to happen in Atlanta.
I did not have credentials to the World Series. The small TV station I worked for at the time did not qualify for something so important. But I still had plans. The Braves were up 3-2 over the Cleveland Indians. They had two chances, game six on that Saturday and game seven the next day, to clinch.
And I had to be there – even if I was outside the stadium when it happened.
The plan was in place. I was to drive over to Atlanta and try to find my friend, Steve Jeffords. He was going to look for tickets and hope our dream came true to actually get in. If not, hey, we would be happy watching the big TV on the back of his suburban in the parking lot.
Somehow I got a parking space. For all I know, it was in Conyers and I walked down I-20 to get there. Now remember, this was before cell phones, so I first had to hope and pray I would even find Steve. We were to meet near the old tunnel at Fulton-County Stadium at 7:00 and see what was what.
The atmosphere was magical. I wasn’t the only one with that plan. There were thousands of people in the parking lots who just wanted to be there. The Braves had been in Atlanta for 30 years at that point, but this was the night something special could happen.
I walked near the tunnel and finally found Steve. He asked how much I would be willing to pay if he found tickets. I said, “At this point, every dime I have to my name.” It was a little less than an hour from first pitch. I didn’t have much at that point in my life, but I would have given it all away to get in there.
He took a ticket out of his pocket and said, “Would $200 be enough?”
It was the only time in my life I almost fainted. He had walked along Capitol Avenue and held two fingers in the air. Someone in traffic heading in stopped and said, “Hey, would you give me $400 for these two?”
Steve didn’t even hesitate. He didn’t even try to get the price down. He just rolled the cash out of his wallet and said, “Yes, sir!”
And we went inside. The heck with watching it in the parking lot; we were in the upper deck between third base and left field. I wouldn’t have cared if I had been behind the scoreboard in center field. It was a great seat and I was inside. That’s all that mattered.
I had a great view when David Justice, who we booed early on for his comments in the paper that morning, hit the home run. I had a great view as Tom Glavine mowed down the best lineup in baseball. And I had the best seat in the house when Marquis Grissom caught the final out in left-center field.
When Grissom made the catch, we were hugging people we didn’t even know. The team I had watched since 1978 had finally won it all. I cried like a baby. Yes, I admit it and admit it proudly. I cried like a baby. And I wasn’t alone. Everyone else in that section was so happy they were shedding tears too.
There are probably a million people who say they were there that night, when the Braves won their only World Series in Atlanta. But I really was. For a day that started so awful, it ended very well.
And to think it was 20 years ago Wednesday. Well, that’s just amazing. It certainly seems like yesterday.
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 email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.