Great Braves Through The Ages: David Justice

When the Atlanta Braves went from worst to first in 1991 it began a new era for a franchise which had finished no better than 5th in their division since 1984. A mainstay of the Braves lineup throughout those early 90's teams was the sweet swingin' David Justice.

Born David Christopher Justice on April 14th 1966 David was a multiple sport star in high school. In his senior year at Covington Latin high school Dave was an all american in basketball averaging 26.5 points and 6 assists per game. He also played soccer, ran track and played American Legion baseball. But David didn't get serious about baseball until he started playing college ball for Thomas Moore College in Crestview Hills, Kentucky.

The Braves liked what they saw and drafted Justice in the 4th round of the 1985 amatuer draft. Justice was sent to Pulaski where he got into 66 games while hitting .245 with 8 doubles, 10 home runs, 46 rbi and 39 runs scored. David began the 1986 season in Sumter South Carolina. In 61 games with Sumter Dave hit .300 with 16 doubles, 10 home runs, 61 rbi, 10 stolen bases and 48 runs scored. At this point Justice was called up to Durham of the Double A Carolina League. In 67 games with the Bulls David hit .279 with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 12 home runs, 44 rbi, 2 stolen bases and scored 47 runs.

Justice spent the entire 1987 season with the double A Greenville Braves. Only getting into 93 due to a broken wrist Justice struggled at the plate hitting only .227 with 12 doubles, 4 triples, 6 home runs, 40 rbi, 3 stolen bases and scoring 38 runs. Despite his troubles at Greenville David was called up to Triple A Richmond for the 1988 season. He once again struggled at the plate. In 70 games Justice hit .203 with 9 doubles, 1 triple, 8 home runs, 28 rbi, 4 stolen bases while scoring 27 runs. Midway through the season Justice was sent back to Greenville where he found his stroke again. David hit .278 with 13 doubles, 1 triple, 9 home runs, 37 rbi, 6 stolen bases and scoring 34 runs in only 58 games.

In 1989 Justice began the year once again with Richmond where he got into 115 games. That year he hit .261 with 24 doubles, 3 triples, 12 home runs, 58 rbi, 12 steals and scored 47 runs. David earned callup by the Atlanta Braves and made his MLB debut on May 24th 1989. David had stage fright by being in the Majors and had only one hit in 20 at bats before being sent back down to Richmond. But in September the Braves recalled him and he went 11 for 31. Both callups combined David played in 16 games for the big club and hit .235 with 3 doubles, 1 home run, 3 rbi, 2 stolen bases and scored 7 runs.

In 1990 David got into only 12 games for Richmond before being called up to Atlanta for the final time. In those 12 games David hit .356 with 5 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs, 7 rbi and 7 runs scored. After being called up to Atlanta David spent time playing both first base and right field. After playing 69 games at first base Dave was moved to right field for good when Braves legend Dale Murphy was traded to the Phillies. David got into 127 games for the Braves and hit .282 with 23 doubles, 2 triples, 28 home runs, 78 rbi, 11 stolen bases while scoring 76 runs. David was voted NL rookie of the year for 1990.

David was the talk of Atlanta and baseball. Many compared his swing to that of Red Sox legend Ted Williams. In 1991 the Braves added free agents Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream and Rafael Belliard to the team. New GM John Schuerholtz also traded for Otis Nixon a speedy leadoff man from the Expos. That year David hit .282 with 25 doubles, 1 triple, 21 home runs, 87 rbi, 8 stolen bases and scored 67 runs. With the great hitting of Justice, Pendleton and Ron Gant and the ace pitching of Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery the Braves shocked baseball by winning the NL West for the first time since 1982. The Braves had become only the second team in history to finish last in thier division one year and first in thier division the next year. The Minnesota Twins were the first doing the feat only a few days earlier.

The Atlanta fans were pumped for October baseball. They had watched thier team finish in the cellar for so long and it seemed like this team was unbeatable. In the NLCS the Braves would take on the Pittsburg Pirates. The Pirates had won the NL East the previous season only to lose to the eventual world champion Cinncinnati Reds in the NLCS. The Braves were the underdogs but beat the Pirates in seven games. In the series Justice struggled hitting .200 with 1 double, 1 home run, 2 rbi and scoring 4 runs.

In the World Series the Braves would take on their American League counterpart the Minnesota Twins. The series is still considered by many to be the greatest World Series ever with fiive of the seven games decided by one run and 3 of the games going into extra innings. The Twins went on to win the series thanks to a stellar performance by pitcher Jack Morris who threw a 10 inning shutout in game 7 as the Twins won the game 1 to 0 and the series 4 games to 3. In the series Justice hit .259 with 2 home runs, 6 rbi and 5 runs scored.

In 1992 David helped lead the Braves to another division title by hitting. 256 with 19 doubles, 5 triples, 21 home runs, 72 rbi and scoring 78 runs. The Braves once again faced the Pirates in the NLCS. The series went 7 games and was won in the bottom of the 9th when Francisco Cabrera drove in Sid Bream all the way from second. Bream slid in just under the tag and the Braves were NL Champs again. In the NLCS Justice hit .280 with 1 double, 2 home runs and 6 rbi while scoring 5 runs.

The Braves faced the Toronto Blue Jays in the World Series. Justice struggled at the plate hitting only .158 with 1 home run, 3 rbi and 4 runs scored. The Blue Jays went on to win the series 4 games to 2.

1993 would be a huge season for David. Playing the most games of his career (157) enabled him to get 101 more at bats than his previous high of 484 which he reached in 1992. In 585 at bats Justice hit .270 with 15 doubles, 4 triples, 40 home runs (2nd most in NL), 120 rbi (2nd most in NL) and scored 90 runs. David was named to his first all star team and came in third in NL MVP voting. The NL West champ Braves took on the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS and David struggled once again. Hitting only .143 with 1 double, 4 rbi and 2 runs scored Justice was unable to help his team as the Phillies took the series 4 games to 2.

In 1994 David was having a great season by hitting .312 with 16 doubles, 2 triples, 19 home runs, 59 rbi and scoring 91 runs in 104 games. But all MLB players went on strike and the season was never finished. The season did last long enough for David to be named to his second all star team.

In 1995 spring training began with replacement players. But the strike ended before the season started and the season open was pushed back so the real MLB players could have spring training. This cut the season short once again. David got into 120 games and hit .253 with 17 doubles, 4 triples, 24 home runs, 78 rbi and scored 73 runs. The NL East Braves took on the Colorado Rockies in a new round of playoffs called the Division series. The Rockies were the NL Wild Card team and had a lot of power hitters. The Rockies played the Braves tough but the Braves won the series 3 games to 1. In the Divsion series David's post season struggles continued when he hit .231 with no extra base hits, no rbi and 2 runs scored.

In the NLCS the Braves took on the Cinncinnati Reds. Braves pitching shut down the Reds offense and the Brave swept the series 4 games to none. David was nursing a injury and only played in 3 games of the NLCS but hit .273 with 1 home run, 2 rbi and 1 run scored. Teammate Mike Deveraux took over for the injured Justice in right field and ended up winning the NLCS MVP award.

The Braves now had to face the Indians who had one of the greatest lineups in baseball history. The Braves led the series 3 games to 2 and on the morning of game 6 an interview with Justice hit the newsstands where he said of the Braves fans "if we don't win they'll probably burn our houses down" and talked about Braves fans not being as loud as the Indians fans. This angered alot of Braves fans and was the talk of the media that day. Glavine shut down the Indians throughout the game with the only Cleveland hit coming from Tony Pena in the 6th inning. But the Braves were not scoring any runs either. That is until David came to the plate it the sixth inning. Among boos from the Atlanta fans Justice stepped in against Indian pitcher Jim Poole. Justice launched a home run into the seats giving the Braves the lead and making the crowd erupt. It would be all the runs the Braves would score and need. Glavine on hit the Indians for 8 innings and then Braves closer Mark Wohlers came in and got 3 quick outs to give the Braves thier first World Series championship since 1957. Justice finished the series hitting .250 with 1 double, 1 home run and 5 rbi while scoring 3 runs.

1996 started of really well for Justice, in 40 games he was hitting .321 with 9 doubles, 6 home runs, 25 rbi and had scored 23 runs. But on May 16th Justice dislocates a shoulder while swinging at a pitch. He damaged the same shoulder in 1995 while diving after a ball and it had never properly healed. Justice had to have surgery and was out for the season. The Braves went on to win another NL Pennant and faced the Yankees in the World Series. The Braves took the first two games but lost the last for givving the Yankees the series win 4 games to 2.

Justice came to spring training in 1997 and it looked like his shoulder was fine but on March 25th 1997 only a few days before the Braves were to head to Atlanta to begin the season the Braves traded Justice and centerfielder Marquis Grissom to the Indians in exchange for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree. Braves fans were angry aswell as Justice himself.

Justice went on to spend 3 1/2 seasons with the Indians helping guide them to the World Series in 1997 where they lost to the Marlins. David was then traded to the Yankees halfway through the 2000 season where he earned his second World Series ring as the Yankees beat the Mets in what was billed as "The Subway Series". Justice and the Yankees returned to the World Series in 2001 but lost to the Arizona Diamondbacks. In a string of trades in December of 2001 Justice was first traded to the Mets in exchange for third baseman Robin Ventura. Then one week later he was traded to the Oakland A's for Mark Guthrie and minor leaguer Tyler Yates. After playing the 2002 season in Oakland David Justice retired from baseball. He currently can be seen as a color commentator on ESPN baseball games.

David Justice career Braves hitting stats:
Games: 817
At Bats: 2,858
Hits: 786
Doubles: 127
Triples: 16
Home Runs: 160
RBI: 522
Stolen Bases: 33
Runs: 475
Average: .275

Awards with Braves:
1990 NL Rookie of the year
1993 NL All Star
1994 NL All Star

David Justice career hitting stats:
Games: 1610
At Bats: 5,625
Hits: 1,571
Doubles: 280
Triples: 24
Home Runs: 305
RBI: 1,017
Stolen Bases: 53
Runs: 929
Average: .279

Atlanta Dugout Top Stories