I became a Braves fan when we got cable TV in 1980 or so. They immediately made two nice runs in their division behind Murphy, Horner, Chambliss, Ramirez, Hubbard, Washington, et al. before reverting to a decade of losing. Then, Bobby Cox arrived with his steady hand and the Braves moved from worst to first and stayed there for fourteen years. I became frustrated the last few years of the run as they would bow out of the playoffs short of the World Series yet again. I know they were trying to win, that they wanted to win, but the post-series press conferences would infuriate me as I would watch Cox try to explain away why such a good team with one of the best rotations of all time could lose a short series. He seemed so passionless at those times. That is a fine quality over the course of a season, but it seemed to be the Braves downfall most of those years. Even though they lost the Series in 1991 and 1992, there was no shortage of passion and excitement among the players. They were all new to the post-season and up for every game. By the mid '90s though, the playoffs were old hat and it showed.
Nobody should go into the Hall of Fame on the basis of one game. If they did decide to do so though, it should be Jack Morris for winning Game 7 of the Series in 1991 in extra innings. Morris probably doesn't have HOF numbers, but his performance in that game killed me and a few million other Braves' fans that night. His counterpart for most of the game was a baby-faced John Smoltz. Smoltz has gone on to compile HOF numbers and will most likely go down as one of the best post-season pitchers of all time, but on that night, he faced his hero and almost pulled it off. I think he made it through eight and gave up one run. Either he ran out of gas or Cox got worried about the youngster, I can't remember. Whatever it was, he came out and the Twins won.
For the next seventeen years, Smoltz walked out to the mound and dominated as a starter and closer. They moved him in and out of the bullpen due to his arm injuries and he performed well in both roles. For the fans, he provided the best role; he looked as though he hated losing. Some of the other Braves would appear to be coasting while Smoltz held his foot to the floor. When he quits baseball, he will take that same drive to the golf course. On Mike and Mike a few weeks ago, Tiger Woods was asked who the best non-golfer, golfer he had ever played with. Without hesitation, he replied, "Smoltzie." He continued, "One of the last times I played with him I shot 65-68 and he won money from me." Now, we know he didn't outscore Tiger but you can bet it was a fair handicap. Tiger is one of the best in the World and knowing how to compete and win. Smoltz stands toe to toe with him in that regard.
Boston has him now. If I had my Braves jersey on, I would rip it off. Go ahead corporate overlords, let Chipper go as well. Might as well tear down the Fulton wall and change the name of the 755 club to the McDonalds/Coca-Cola grill while you are at it.
I really didn't expect it to hurt this badly.