Just after mid-day on Monday, the news broke around the State of Alabama that Andy Burcham, the longtime color analyst for the late Rod Bramblett had been named the new ‘Voice of the Auburn Tigers’. While I’m sure that this move had to be a tough one on Burcham, it just seems fitting. As Rod and Andy had just celebrated 25 years of broadcasting Auburn Baseball games alongside each other a few weeks before Rod and Paula Bramblett’s untimely and sudden death. Andy has been in the broadcasting industry since 1988. The 2019-2020 season will mark Burcham’s 32nd year in the industry. Personally, I don’t think I could’ve taken the job under these circumstances, but somebody has to do it and I know without a doubt, that Rod is smiling down from heaven knowing that his longtime friend and colleague, Andy Burcham, has been selected to assume the role that Bramblett held for so many years. While you will never be able to replace the silky, southern voice of Rod Bramblett, now is the time for Andy Burcham to cement his legacy alongside Bramblett and Jim Fyffe as ‘The Voice of the Auburn Tigers’ and Rod wouldn’t have it any other way. In a sense, Rod is simply passing the headset to his right-hand man, Andy Burcham.
Not too many people I know can say that they went to school with a guy that has played football for two Division I Southeastern Conference teams however, I am one of the few people that can say that. I watched Brandon Kennedy play for two years at the high school level for my alma mater, Wetumpka High School and like many people he was bigger than me, but unlike most people, he was 6’5″ and weighed somewhere close to 300 lbs. I watched him dominate at the ranks for those two years, I also watched him play at Alabama for a few years and I’ve watched him play for my favorite team, the Tennessee Volunteers. All within the last few years. Kennedy left high school in December of 2014 to head to Tuscaloosa and be a part of the dynasty that Nick Saban has built for the past 11 years, going on 12. But prior to leaving school to enroll at The University of Alabama, he was scheduled to graduate in 2015, a year ahead of me. After he graduated from Alabama a few years back, Brandon decided to leave The Capstone and transfer elsewhere to play out his last two years of eligibility. During his time at Alabama, he won he won a national title. In 2016, my senior year of high school I had the pleasure of interview him for a promotion video project that I was a part of for the football team. Brandon is scheduled to be Tennessee’s starting center in 2019. Honestly, never in a million years did I think I would attend the same high school as a multi-Southeastern Conference football player but I did and I still can’t believe it to this day.
On July 1, 1939, Walter Banks was introduced to the world. Walter has been an usher for the Atlanta Braves for 54 years. Banks joined the Braves security staff in the offseason 1965, just in time for the team’s transition from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Atlanta, Georgia. Since 1966, Banks has been a mainstay at Braves’ home games, attended over 4,000 games and shaken the hands of approximately 400,000 thousand fans, who ended up being a friend of his by the end of the night. I am one of those lucky 400,000. Back in August of 2012, August 13, 2012 to be exact, my dad and I took a trip to Atlanta to see Braves play the San Diego Padres in Chipper Jones’ last season. I wasn’t expecting to meet an usher that had been with the Braves for 46 years at the time. We got to Turner Field that day as soon as the gates opened and we needed help finding our seats, six rows away from the Braves’ dugout along the first baseline. So we approached this nice-looking, black gentleman and asked him for assistance in helping us find our seats. He shook our hands and showed us to our seats, at the time, I had no clue how long he had been with the Braves. A few minutes later, he made sure to stop by our seats to check on us, we told him we were fine. He then asked us “Where are you from?” We replied: “Montgomery, Alabama.” Because very few people know where Wetumpka is. He then asked dad: “When were you born?” I’m sure that dad didn’t know how to take that, but he replied “1968.” And then came the knowledge. He said “I’ve been with the Braves since they moved to Atlanta in 1966.” I was mesmerized. So I asked him, “Were you there the night Hank Aaron hit his 755th home run?” He replied: “I was I’ve never seen anything like it, that night was incredible.” At this point, I was speechless. Then he asked me “What year were you born?” I replied: “1997.” He enthusiastically said “You were born two years after we won the only World Series title in Atlanta Braves history, right across the road at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.” (The stadium had since been turned into a public parking lot for Braves fans). After a while, he asked “Who is your favorite player?” Without hesitation, I said “Chipper Jones.” He said “Chipper has been a member of the Atlanta Braves since 1993 and will someday be in the Hall of Fame.” A while passed and he said “Hang on, I’ll be right back, stay here.” I noticed that he had gone down to the Braves dugout, but the Braves were taking batting practice so I wasn’t sure what he must be doing. He came back after a minute and said “I got you something.” With his hand behind his back. I was curious to see what he had gotten me. He took his hand out from behind his back and in his hand was a baseball from the Braves dugout. I thanked him and then asked for a picture with him. He obliged immediately, saying “Absolutely!” I still have the ball on a shelf and I also still have the picture of myself with Walter. I chose to write this today because tonight, the Braves are giving away Walter Banks bobbleheads to honor the beloved usher of 54 seasons. If you ever get the chance, go to.a Braves game in Atlanta and ask for Walter Banks, you won’t be disappointed. Happy 80th Birthday, my dear friend, Walter! Braves Country loves you!
Just three months ago, back on April 2, 2019, just hours after attending and throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the Atlanta Braves home-opener against the Chicago Cubs, Braves fans all across the country were shell-shocked at the news that they would receive next. Bobby Cox, the man who led Atlanta to an unprecedented 14-consecutive National League pennants, had suffered a stroke. But being the strong-willed man that Bobby is, he managed to make his way to a neighbor’s house before calling an ambulance. Since then, Braves Country has worried, prayed and wondered about the condition of the beloved long-time skipper. On Thursday, June 20, 2019, Bobby Cox was able to go back to his Marietta, Georgia home. Which was a huge sigh of relief for millions of people, including myself. The news was broken by Ken Rodriguez, a sports news director at a local Georgia television station. Though Cox was left with paralysis on his right side and the inability to speak for a number of months, the larger-than-life figure has not slowed down. Thursday, Cox was speaking, hitting a ball off of a tee and throwing the baseball with his therapy dog as well as talking about the Braves. Though Cox hasn’t been at the helm of Atlanta since 2012, he said “I watch every game.” Bobby also has high hopes for himself as does all of Braves Country. Cox also said “I hope to be there for Spring Training.” His wife, Pamela Cox said “I think the biggest frustration for him is his speech, but it will get better with time.” Cox then looked at his wife and smiled. Bobby has been kept constant company since April 2nd by his beloved grandchildren. “They light up a room.” He said with tears in his twinkling eyes. If there’s one word that describes Bobby Cox, it’s “fighter”. Get well soon, we love you Bobby!
Many across the State of Alabama remember listening to the enthusiastic, deep voice of Rod Bramblett at some point in their lives. Whether it was during your childhood/teenage years or in your adult life. Even if you were a fan of a different school, like myself, you were familiar with the silky smooth voice that Bramblett possessed. Hearing of his passing on Saturday May 25, 2019, left me speechless. Not only by the loss of a broadcasting legend, but also by loss of a great person. This world was a better place because of Rod Bramblett. Rod passed away at a Birmingham, Alabama hospital due to injuries sustained during a car collision earlier that evening. Not only did Rod but his wife, Paula Bramblett was also injured and also succumbed due to injuries sustained. Bramblett took over for Jim Fyffe in 2003. My thoughts and prayers are with Auburn University, its athletic department, and the Bramblett as Rod, represented not only a broadcaster, but also a son, father, mentor and friend to many across the State of Alabama. His compassionate spirit and silky smooth voice. Will not soon be forgotten
It was 2013 and I had no clue, at the time, that the place I had always loved visiting for baseball, and even just passing by on the road would close to baseball operations just three years later, in 2016. This game and season was a little bit on the weird side for me, as my favorite player, Chipper Jones, had just retired in 2012. I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself since Chipper had gone into retirement. I realized one day that the Braves would be hosting the San Diego Padres on August 13, so I told my dad that I wanted to go since it was summertime and I didn’t have school. He agreed and ordered the tickets immediately. When August 13th got here, I woke up quickly and reminded dad that it was game day. He rolled over and nodded his head, half asleep. I went back to my room and quickly got dressed. When we arrived in Atlanta, we went to the stadium in time to catch batting practice for both teams. We were walking towards our seats and an usher walks up behind us and says “Do y’all need any help finding your seats?” Dad and I looked at each other and agreed that we needed assistance in finding our seats. The usher led us to our seats just above the Braves first base dugout and we thanked him. I recognized all of the stickers that were on the nice usher’s name tag but didn’t ask what they were for. In fact, I didn’t have to ask, as he quickly explained the stickers to us before introducing himself. “I’m Walter Banks, I’ve been with the Braves since they moved here, to Atlanta in 1966.” Walter said. “Ask me a number.” He said. So instinctively, I went with 10 because of Chipper Jones. Walter said “I attended my very first Braves at age 10 when they were the Milwaukee Braves.” I was at a loss for words. “I’ve never watched TV,” Banks said. “I’ve only read books.” While the Braves were taking batting practice, he said “I’ll be right back, stay here.” So I sat in my seat watching Walter head down to the Braves dugout just rows away. He came back with a baseball and said “This one’s for you.” I immediately thanked him and asked if I could have my picture taken with him, delightfully, he agreed and then said he has to get on his way. So I thanked him again and settled into my seat still in awe of what had just taken place. If you ever get the chance to go to a Braves game, ask for Walter Banks, you won’t regret it.
The year was 2008, and I had often heard that fandom wasn’t real until you named your pets after your favorite player.
On June 4, 2008, I looked outside to see this cute little Sheltie-Chow mix happily wandering up by the road under pecan trees. He seemed lost, we tried for days to find the owner of this quite literal fur ball (You’ll see what I mean at the bottom of this piece). But we were unable to find his owner after a few days and I begged my mom to let us keep him. She agreed with little hesitation but insisted he must be an “outside dog” meaning we had to keep him outside. We agreed and we sat down in the sunroom that night thinking of a name for the dog. At first, I asked mom “Can we name him Langerhans?” In reference to a Braves player. Her response “No, we are not going to call him Langerhans, it will sound ridiculous when we go outside to call him.” I sat there a few minutes and began thinking of a new name for the four-legged animal that reminded me of the Energizer Bunny…the one that runs around beating a drum constantly. “What about Sheffield?” I asked in reference to a past Braves player. Her response “That’s better but no.” Then it hit me “What about Chipper?” I asked confidently thinking “Surely she’ll let me name him after Chipper Jones.” And it stuck. I didn’t know until after the fact that “chipper” also meant “happy.” He was nothing short of happy and also very energetic. I can remember watching him jump from the top of the yard into the front pond with all four of his legs stretched out perfectly straight. Just last year, Chipper Jones was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame for his illustrious 19-year baseball career, all of which was spent in an Atlanta uniform. I even took off work to watch the ceremony that day (with parental consent). So, I guess that means my dog is a Hall of Fame dog. Congratulations buddy, you made it to the place where all dogs strive to be. Chipper, (my dog), was killed somewhere around 2014 after being hit by a car. I wasn’t sure what I had gotten myself into at the time in which he showed up at the house, but one thing is for sure. He NEVER ran out of energy. I think the Energizer Bunny was his spirit animal and he showed me why on a daily basis.
Next entry: My First College Broadcasting Trip.