It’s no secret that the Atlanta Braves have one of the most talented and hungry teams in the entire MLB. After all, they were just one win shy of earning their first berth in the World Series since that Commissioner’s Trophy made the glorious trip back to Atlanta in 1995.
This team has so much talent, quite possibly the most talent that I’ve seen return to one team since the mid-2000s, when we were in the in the midst of an unprecedented 14-consecutive division titles under the legendary Bobby Cox.
I truly believe that this team has every capability of bringing another Commissioner’s Trophy home to Atlanta. Tomorrow, the road to the World Series begins at 2:05 p.m CT in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Citizens Bank Park.
Aaron Nola will make his fourth-consecutive Opening Day start in the red pinstripes, while Brian Snitker will hand the rock to Max Fried, who will be making his first-career Opening Day start.
Just two weeks ago, we said our earthly goodbyes to Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron, the Mobile, Alabama, native, who broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714 on April 8, 1974, in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, which now serves as a parking lot to the adjacent Georgia State Panthers Football Field, the former Turner Field, which was home of the Braves from 1997 to 2016.
All that’s left of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium is a little section of the wall. You might ask ‘Well, why just a portion of the wall?’ You see, that portion of the left-center field wall serves as a reminder of all that was Mr. Hank Aaron and the all that he stood for.
Today, we remember Hank for the humbleness, integrity, honor, and dignity, with which he carried himself for so many years both on and off of the baseball field. Normally, we would be wishing him a happy and safe birthday on this day, but we don’t have to do that today, because we know that he is in a better place, far better than this land.
Hank is at the Feet of God in Heaven at this moment, I can only imagine how he is celebrating his first birthday in Heaven today, but I know that it’s far greater than any birthday he ever celebrated here on Earth during his time with us.
Today as not only Braves fans but baseball fans in general, we should offer words of comfort, compassion, inspiration, and motivation for his loved ones. To Hank’s wife Billye Suber Aaron, his children, Gary, Lary, Dorinda, Gaile, Hank Jr., and Ceci, I’m here to say that you aren’t the only ones mourning today, for we are with you.
Even though Hank may no longer be here physically, he will always be with us spiritually. Today, do as Hank would want you to do and “Just keep swingin,’” he is no longer in pain nor is he suffering and we will all meet in the Kingdom of Heaven when our names are called.
Henry Louis “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron was born February 5, 1934, in Mobile, Alabama. While it may appear to the general public that Hank Aaron had everything handed to him a silver platter, that is far from the truth. Growing up in Alabama in the 1930s and 40s was very difficult, especially for a person of color.
In the 1940s, his hometown of Mobile, Alabama was not a safe place for a colored kid to pursue equality with segregation and all that came with it. In an interview a few years ago when asked about his awareness of segregation and how he felt about it, Aaron stated “I don’t know that I was aware of it, but I was conscious of who I was.”
During his childhood, young Hank passed through the sandlots of that south Alabama town with brief stops in the Negro Leagues and the minor leagues before he settled in with the Braves. He was just 13 years old when Jackie Robinson broke baseball color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, so his greatest idol was none other than Robinson.
Hank Aaron grew up to be quite the baseball player himself. He was a consistent producer both at the plate and in the field, reaching the .300 mark in batting 14 times, 30 home runs 15 times, 90 RBI 16 times, and captured three Gold Glove Awards en-route to 25 All-Star Game selections.
1975 was arguably Aaron’s best season. He hit .322 that year with 44 home runs and 132 RBI, captured the National League MVP Award and led the Braves to their first World Series Championship since 1914. His most memorable feat game on the night of April 8, 1974, when he took Los Angeles Dodgers hurler Al Downing deep for the 715th home run of his career, passing Babe Ruth’s previous mark of 714. He would finish his career with 755 long balls.
He remains baseball’s all-time leader in RBI (2,297) and total bases (6,856). If each of his 755 home runs were to be removed, he would still have 3,016 hits. Hank Aaron was a model of humility, dignity, and quiet competence. He did not seek the adoration that he received, but he earned it, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982. He passed away at age 86 on Friday.
For as long as I can remember, Don Sutton has been a member of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team. I can clearly recall standing in front of TV as a little kid and listening to Don, along with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, and later, Skip’s son Chip, call the action.
The trio of Skip, Pete, and Don have now been reunited in Heaven and I’m sure that they will be calling the Braves’ games from the vantage point of Heaven, the greatest vantage point of them all. Not only was Don Sutton a great broadcaster, he was also a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher.
A 1998 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark said “Don Sutton’s brilliance on the field, and his last commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame, I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary and his family.”
Sutton, a Clio, Alabama native, began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he played from 1966-1980, and again in 1988. From 1981-82 Sutton was traded from the Dodgers to the Houston Astros, from Houston he left and went to Milwaukee to join the Brewers club from 1982-84, from Milwaukee he went out to California to join the Oakland Athletics where he stayed for less than a year in 1985. Later in 1985 he moved across California and joined the Los Angeles/California Angels with whom he stayed until the end of the 1987 season. In 1988, Don returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
During his career, he won 324 games as a pitcher and earned a spot in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Following his playing days, he joined the Atlanta Braves broadcast team where he served for all but two years from 1989-2018. He spent the 2008-09 seasons with the Washington Nationals’ broadcast team.
Tuesday afternoon, Don’s son Daron released the following statement on social media, “Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night (Monday night). He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful, Rest in Peace.”
The Braves subsequently released a statement that read, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Don Sutton. A generation of Braves fans came to know his voice…But despite all (his) success, Don never lost his generous character or humble personality.”
I would have to agree, every time I ever heard the voice of Don Sutton over the TV or radio, I always learned something new about the game. His knowledge for the game of baseball is what I credit for my obsession with the sport.
While sharing his unmatched wisdom, he would often find just enough room to squeeze in one of his corny jokes about either the game the night before or a personal experience with his family in which he found great humor. I could go on and on for hours about the memories that I have and will carry with me for the rest of my time here on Earth that include Don Sutton, but I don’t want to keep you here all day.
Even when he was on the mound, Don wanted to be a broadcaster, specifically with the Braves. In 1976, when the Dodgers were in town playing the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Sutton, in his usual casual-but-humorous style told Pete Van Wieren: “Someday Pete, we’re going to work together.” Little did he know he had just predicted the future.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t wrap this up with Don’s signature sign-off call, “That’ll do it here in Atlanta, for my broadcast partners, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, so long and Go Braves.”
Known for his unhittable floating knuckleball that seemed to approach the plate like a balloon, Philip Henry “Phil” Niekro was a trailblazer, an icon, a legend, a Hall of Famer and so much more.
But most of all, he was a genuinely good soul. While most people will remember him for his daunting knuckleball and his ability to strikeout some of the best hitters the game of baseball has ever seen, I will remember him for his kind, generous heart. They just don’t make them like Phil anymore.
Niekro was born in Blaine, Ohio, and grew up in Lansing, Ohio. He attended Bridgeport High School In Bridgeport, Ohio, and was a boyhood friend of basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek.
The baseball field on which he played at Bridgeport High School’s at Perkins Field athletic complex was renamed “The Niekro Diamond” in 2008 after both Phil and his brother Joe Niekro, whom was also a Major League pitcher.
Their father was a coal miner who pitched semipro baseball and had learned how to throw a knuckleball from another coal miner. He later taught his sons how to pitch in the backyard when they were kids.
During his 24 big league seasons, Phil Niekro rode his knuckleball to 5,404 innings pitched – the most of any pitcher who started his career in live ball era. Unlike most pitchers, Phil was more than simply durable.
His 318 wins and 3,342 strikeouts are a testament to a pitcher who was often untouchable. By the time he turned 40, Niekro had already won 121 games, the most wins by anyone that age in baseball history.
During his career Niekro, who became known as “Knucksie” due to the dancing movements of his famous pitch, appeared in 864 games, gave up 5,044 hits, 2,337 runs, in 5,404 innings pitched. Totaled 318 wins and 274 losses, starting 716 games, had an ERA of 3.35, pitched 245 complete games, 45 shutouts, earned 29 saves, surrendered 2,012 earned runs, 1,819 walks, and 3,342 strikeouts.
He spent time with the Milwaukee Braves (1964-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-83, 87), New York Yankees (1984-85), Cleveland Indians (1986-87), and Toronto Blue Jays (1987).
He was also a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, the 1980 Roberto Clemente Award winner, led the National League in wins twice, pitched a no-hitter on August 5, 1973, had his number 35 retired by the Braves, is a member of the Braves Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1997, alongside Nellie Fox, Tommy LaSorda, and Willie Wells.
He died of cancer at age 81.
Rest well Knucksie, I’ll see you again on the other side. Thank you for not only your contributions to the Atlanta Braves organization, but also for your contributions to Major League Baseball, your name will live on forever in the book of baseball lore.
There have been many great voices that have echoed over the airwaves of radios and through the televisions to the living rooms of sports fans over the years.
Many great calls, sighs of relief, and painstakingly heartbreaking sounds of defeat.
Even though many of those great voices have since passed on to their eternal lives, sports fans everywhere still hear the voices of those legendary broadcasters and forever identify those voices with certain teams or schools.
For me, those remarkably renowned voices belong to none other than Skip and Chip Caray. This father-son duo will always stand the test of time when it comes to Atlanta Braves baseball.
Sadly, Skip Caray’s voice is no longer present with us here on Earth, but make no mistake, he is definitely giving God a play-by-play of Braves game, whether home or away.
But Chip is still with us, and he calls all Braves games. While his voice is great, it can’t compare to that of the late Skip Caray.
There’s just something about Skip’s voice that conjures up memories of years gone by inside my mind. So many of the most famous calls were described vividly by the word wizard that was Skip Caray.
One of my favorite Skip Caray calls came when the Braves won the 1995 World Series Championship at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when Skip so elegantly described the final out.
“The wind, and the pitch here it is, swung, fly ball deep left-center, Grissom on the run…..YES! YES! YES! The Atlanta Braves have given you a championship! Listen to this crowd!!! A mob scene on the field!!!!”
What a great call. It echoes through my mind even though I wasn’t alive in 1995. I can just imagine what it must’ve been like to hear his voice describe the last out of the 1995 World Series.
What great men, what great personalities, what great voices, what great memories. Thank you, Skip and Chip Caray for so many great calls together.
It’s often been said that Bo Jackson is one of, if not the best all-around athlete to ever play sports. It’s often brought up in a debate between Bo and Deion Sanders.
Yes, the same Deion Sanders that played for both the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves in the same day back when Sanders was in his playing days.
But not only is Bo Jackson quite possibly the best athlete to ever step onto an athletic field, he’s also one of the best human beings around.
Back on April 27, 2011, the same day that tornadoes ravaged through Tuscaloosa, Jackson, an Auburn University iconic ambassador, set the bitter rivalry aside and decided to start Bo Bikes Bama in order to help raise money for the victims of the Tuscaloosa tornadoes.
The Bessemer, Alabama native has got to be one of the most thoughtful athletes ever, if he’s not, there’s something wrong. A person’s heart can’t get much bigger than that of Mr. Bo Jackson.
Tennessee returns to action for the first time in two weeks after an unexpected open weekend when it travels to No. 23/21 Auburn for a prime time kickoff on ESPN inside Jordan-Hare Stadium. The Volunteers scheduled home game vs. Texas A&M on November 14 in Neyland Stadium was postponed due to a combination of positive COVID tests and contract tracing within the Aggie Football program.
That game is tentatively scheduled for December 12 in Knoxville. All three of Tennessee’s currently scheduled November games are on the road, marking the first time since 1891 that the Vols will not play a home game during a calendar month.
Auburn was one of UT’s two additions to its 10-game conference schedule. The two teams are meeting for the first time since a 30-24 Tennessee win in 2018. The Tigers lead the all-time series 28-22-3.
Saturday’s game will be available for viewing on ESPN at 6 p.m. CT with Joe Tessitore (Play-by-Play), Greg McElroy (Analyst), and Allison Williams (Sideline), on the call.
The game will be available over the airwaves in the Smokey Mountain region by way of WIVK-FM 107.7 FM and WNML-FM 99.1, with Bob Kesling (Play-by-Play), Tim Priest & Brent Hubbs (Analysts), and Kasey Funderburg (Sidelines) on the call.
Saturday’s meeting will be the 54th all-time meeting between the Volunteers and Tigers. Auburn has won six out of the last seven meetings. The meeting will mark only the eighth meeting on the gridiron since 2000.
In Knoxville: Tennessee leads the series 14-10-2.
In Auburn: The Tigers lead 7-3-1.
In Birmingham: Auburn leads 10-4.
The two squads have met twice in the SEC Championship, tied 1-1 in Atlanta, Georgia. Tennessee’s biggest win in the series was a 42-point win over Auburn on The Plains in 1980.
Auburn’ s biggest win in the series history is 32 points, which has occurred twice, most recently in 2013 in Knoxville.
Tennessee’s record on November 21 games is: 9-5-1. They are currently on a five-game winning streak.
In mid-March, Major League Baseball halted their Spring Training workouts to the outbreak of COVID-19, and fans were not allowed into the stadiums for the entire regular season.
In fact, a week into the season in late-July and early August, Major League Baseball was sitting on its proverbial heels due to multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 in Miami, St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati.
With the bulk of the positive tests coming out of Miami and St. Louis, league officials were contemplating the thought of shutting the season down even though it had literally just gotten started.
When the league reached an agreement with its clubs to play a 60-game regular-season schedule as opposed to the normal 162-game schedule in a non-pandemic year, we knew every game would matter that much more.
Winning streaks would seem longer than they were and would mean five times more than they would in a regular 162-game season. Losing streaks would seem to drag on longer than usual and every pitch mattered.
Even though the Atlanta Braves may have lost in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, there’s still a lot to be proud of when you look at the bigger picture.
This team won its first postseason series since 2001, advanced to the National League Championship Series, spent the final month and a half without ace Mike Soroka, missed outfield phenom Ronald Acuña Jr for two weeks twice due to a left wrist injury, lost four of five-man starting rotation, with Max Fried being the only projected starting pitcher left standing, and still won their division and won not just one but two postseason series.
This team isn’t done, they’re just getting started. For every minor setback there’s a major comeback. And with the young, raw talent of guys like Ronald Acuña Jr., Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, Ian Anderson, Max Fried, Cristian Pache, and a healthy Mike Soroka, you can’t help but imagine just how good this team will be in the next few seasons with some of the best young talent in the game.
Hold your heads up Braves fans, the best is yet to come.