Lately, I’ve found myself writing off the topic of sports and a little bit more about personal stories. This one might be my favorite. Earlier today, I pulled up Google Earth and searched for 7 Yankee Trove, where my late grandparents lived during my childhood. You might ask ‘Why would you do that?‘ Or ‘Why would you do that?Well, I didn’t do it just because. I did it because I wanted to see if one special structure was still standing in the yard since the home has different occupants now. Many of my childhood memories were made here, from playing “waiter” to playing baseball in the backyard with Big Ken and my brother to hide and seek around every inch of the yard, including the ditch and picnics at the stone table located in the backyard. The structure I was looking for was a bridge that Big Ken built for my brother and I in the early 2000s. We spent many hours, days and years walking across that bridge during my childhood. So I typed in the address and panned over toward the house on my right hand side, as I glanced at the house, I looked down and low and behold, the wooden bridge that my grandaddy hand-built, was still standing, the bridge named after my brother and I was still standing in the middle of the yard in what looked to be perfect condition. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but to my brother, my family, and myself, it means the world. It truly is life’s smallest things that hold the most weight and mean the most. Picture: Google Earth.
The date was September 14, 1938, 81 years ago tomorrow my grandfather, whom I affectionately called ‘Big Ken’, due to his massive stature, was born. But his stature wasn’t the only thing that was big. His heart was even bigger than his stature. He would do anything for anybody, not because he wanted to brag, he wasn’t that type, but because he simply knew that it was the right thing to do. I can’t recall a time that he didn’t do what was right at any time. Growing up in Bascom, Florida, in the 30s and 40, he didn’t have much, but he was thankful for what he had and didn’t complain about what others had that he didn’t. My dad and aunt often talk about how mean Big Ken could be. But I never saw the mean side of him (thankfully). I think that is because as a person ages, they tend to mellow out. So by the time my brother and I were born 1997, he must’ve been pretty mellow. As we grew up, we would go down to Spanish Fort, Alabama, where Big Ken and Grandma Sherry lived while we grew up. Every time we saw them until Big Ken was in his last days with us in 2006, he and Grandma Sherry always had surprises for us in the back of their black Crown Victoria and my brother and I would run to the car anxiously awaiting the surprises that were inside. When our grandparents visited Wetumpka, we would often go to Fort Toulouse, a battleground which is famous for its history, including being the site where Creek Indian Chief, William Weatherford, known as “Red Eagle” to members of the tribe, surrendered to General Andrew Jackson on August 9, 1814, to have lunch. Well, there’s moss in the trees down at Fort Toulouse, which was built in 1714, but my brother wasn’t aware of that, so he often asked “Why is there ‘hair in the trees?'” Big Ken and I would often laugh and laugh. I also recall lots of time spent playing baseball in the back yard of their Spanish Fort home, the land that their home sat on was used as battleground in the days of the Civil War if I remember correctly. Big Ken even built a bridge for us in the front yard and named it ‘B & B Bridge’ in our honor. If I’m not mistaken he built the bridge somewhere around 2002. I often find myself wondering if the bridge is still standing since the house has since been handed to new owners. In his final days, he worried about us not remembering who he was, I’m sure he went to heaven worrying about that, but that’s far from the case. Almost 13 years after his death, we still talk about him and all of the good times we spent with him, while dad informs of some good times and some not so good times spent with Big Ken. At 6’4″, 200-plus pounds, he surely seemed larger than life and his impact on our lives is still felt today. Happy 81st Birthday, Big Ken, we haven’t forgotten you.
The date was September 3rd, 1939, exactly 80 years ago today, when my Grandma Sherry first saw the light of day. I was blessed to spend 19 of my 21 years on earth with her. I often catch myself thinking about she would say or do if she could see where my life is today. I often reflect on the many conversations that the two of us shared on the back porch of both her days in Spanish Fort at 7 Yankee Trove and Wetumpka, where she lived when God called her home on December 30, 2017, six days after she fell ill on Christmas Eve of that year. I remember her saying multiple times “I love Kid Rock, I just wish he didn’t talk so ugly.” Many of our conversations involved some sort of life-lesson or one of her many sayings that should’ve been trademarked. One of those many sayings was “Nobody goes hungry under Mama’s watch.” One of her many valuable life-lessons that also should’ve been trademarked was “There is never a right time to do the wrong thing and never a wrong time to do the right thing.” She was always preaching about treating people with respect, no matter how wrong they were. In fact, recently a family friend came over to the house and said that she had talked to my aunt and my aunt said I needed to go with them to see Hank Williams Jr. and Kid Rock. I immediately began to think of how many times Grandma Sherry and I had talked about seeing Kid Rock if he was ever close. Sadly, she never got to see him, so I will go see him for her on September 21. Even though I selfishly wish she was still here, I know that she is not suffering and that she is finally back with Big Ken after 11 years of being apart, when he died of pancreatic cancer in 2006. I will write a piece dedicated to him at a later date. But for now, Happy 80th Birthday, Grandma Sherry, give Big Ken a hug for me. We will meet again one day soon.
For the first time since 2003, Rod Bramblett, the longtime Voice of the Auburn Tigers, will be absent from the broadcast booth at Jordan-Hare Stadium. You may remember Rod by his many memorable calls or possibly by a personal interaction with Bramblett. Whether Rod was on the air or not, he never seemed to change a bit. Bramblett was always so sincere and energetic. Rod genuinely cared for every person he came in contact with over the many years that he broadcasted Auburn Athletics. He treated you like family and made sure you felt at home during your time with him. When you left, you would feel as if you had known Rod the entire time. There was just something about him that caught the attention of people from all over the country. His raspy, versatile voice was like none other. He didn’t try to imitate anybody, Rod simply had a velvet voice. Regardless if you were a fan of Auburn or not, you knew the sound of Rod’s voice. This Saturday, hearing the voice of Andy Burcham, although we are familiar with Burcham, will take getting used to as we were welcomed into radio broadcasts for years by the late, great Rod Bramblett. Nevertheless, Auburn Football broadcasts will take some getting used to.
It had been a long time since the Atlanta Braves won a series in San Diego against the San Diego Padres, eight years to be exact. Their last series win in San Diego was back in 2011, when I was in the eighth grade. Eight years might not seem like a long time to us now, but in the sports world, it’s an eternity. The Braves snapped that eight-year drought with a 7-5 win in 10 innings on Saturday thanks to Nick Markakis, who leapt from the right field warning track to save the Braves 56th win of the year. On Sunday, it wasn’t much different, in the fifth inning, All-Star centerfielder, Ronald Acuña Jr. played the role of Superman as he left his feet on the center field warning track, landing almost over the wall, robbing Padres slugger, Manny Machado of a two-run home run that would’ve given San Diego a 2-0 lead. Mike Soroka was his usual self, shutting out the Friars through 7 innings. In the eighth inning, the Atlanta Braves plated four runs. In the bottom of that inning, Touki Toussaint surrendered a run, but held Andy Greene’s club right there and turned things over to AJ Minter to slam the door and preserve the Braves first series sweep in San Diego in 13 years, yes 13 years. I was eight the last time Atlanta swept the Padres on the road, I was also in the third grade. Atlanta has now won four-straight games and boards a plane bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to begin a three-game set at Miller Park with the Milwaukee Brewers, Monday through Wednesday. Tomorrow’s game starts at 7:10pm CT and will pit Max Fried against Adrian Houser against each other. The Braves are now (57-37) on the season. Good things are worth waiting for my friends.
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!
June was in fact a month for the ages. During the month of June the Atlanta Braves (50-35) compiled a record of (20-8) after Sunday night’s 8-5 loss to the New York Mets. In the 28 games last month, the Braves clubbed a franchise-record 56 homers over the course of the calendar month. That surpassed the previous record of 55, set by the 2003 Braves in May of that year by one. The previous record stood for 16 seasons. Also in the sixth month of 2019, the Braves tabbed Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr. and Mike Soroka as 2019 National League All-Stars. Soroka and Acuña made Major League Baseball history when they were named to the team. As they are the first pair of players younger than 22-years-old, to be named to the same All-Star team in the same season. But that’s not all Acuña did in June. He will also be the eighth-youngest Brave to ever play in the Midsummer Classic at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on July 9th. Acuña launched the record-breaking 56th home run in June 437 feet into the orange Flushing, New York skyline. Ronald will also participate in the 2019 MLB Home Run Derby. It’s only fitting that he hit the record-breaking homer. A few weeks back I received a text from a family member asking who I thought would break the franchise-record. My response? Ronald Acuña Jr on June 30th. They seemed to disagree as they thought Vanderbilt alum Dansby Swanson would club the historic homer. I responded to them with “I don’t care who hits it, but I’ve got a feeling it’ll be Ronald Acuña Jr., but either way we’re breaking it.” Little did I know that my prediction would be absolutely spot-on. What a month June was. If June was a prelude into July, then what should we expect in the seventh month of 2019? The next Braves game is Tuesday, July 2, 2019 vs. Philadelphia at 7:20pm ET. The Phillies haven’t named a starter as of right now. Dallas Keuchel makes his third start in a Braves uniform on Tuesday.