For many years, Bobby Cox has been referred to as one of the game’s most influential figures to ever manage a baseball club. Cox was born May 21, 1941 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He began his major league career as a player in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a minor leaguer after signing with them out of free agency in 1959, although he never played a game in a Dodgers uniform. Bobby was traded from the Los Angeles organization to the Atlanta Braves in 1966, the first year the Braves were known as the Atlanta Braves after spending time in Boston and Milwaukee. He never played a game in an Atlanta uniform, he was then acquired by the New York Yankees following the 1967 season and played in The Bronx from 1968-1969. However, he would become one of the most highly-respected managers the game has ever seen. At just 30-years-old, Cox began his managerial career at the minor league level in 1971 with Yankees’ farmhand, Fort Lauderdale of the Florida State League. In 1978, Bobby Cox was hired as the manager of the Atlanta Braves, even though the Braves didn’t want to hire him due to his lack of major league managerial experience. He led the Atlanta club from 1978-1981 and then was hired as the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, where he stayed from 1982-1985. In 1990 however, he was called on by Braves executives to manage the team one again. This is where Bobby Cox found a home and stayed from 1990-2010. During that span, Cox led the Braves to an unprecedented 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005. Well-respected by players, managers, executives and fans all across the sport, Cox made sure he earned respect of umpires by getting ejected from a Major League record, 158 games. In his managerial career, Bobby Cox coached in 4,508 games with a record of 2,504-2,001 and a winning percentage of .556. Before his retirement in 2010, he was immortalized in Braves history as his number 6 was retired by the club. In 2017, when the Braves opened SunTrust Park, the team honored him with a bronze statue that depicts him standing on the top step of the dugout with one arm on the rail. In April 2019, Cox suffered a stroke a day after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of Atlanta’s home opener vs. the Cubs but has since been released from an Atlanta-area hospital and is in a local-rehabilitation facility and is expected to make a full recovery. Hats off to a legend.
We all know that there is absolutely nothing to do in Southaven, Mississippi, but 22-year-old Austin Riley, a Southaven, Mississippi native, born in Memphis, Tennessee, begs to differ which leaves Braves fans all over the country wonder “Could this “kid” be the next big thing to come out of Atlanta?” While only in his early 20s, Austin Riley has made the quite the impression on the Atlanta fanbase over his his first five games in a Braves uniform. Going 1-for-3 in his Majors debut, that one hit? A massive 438-foot homer, 3-for-3 with three singles in his second game with three singles, 2-for-5 in his third game, 2-for-3 in his fourth game and 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in his most recent game in Atlanta. I refuse to say he’s in a “slump” after his most recent game based on his early-career numbers, maybe it was just a bad game. There is almost nothing to be mad about with this kid. Some refer to the Braves as the “Baby Braves,” as they are one of, if not the youngest team in baseball. He’s getting it done at just the right time. Not to mention, he started his first four games in left field and got the nod at third base today. Does that remind you of anybody. Coming into the series with Milwaukee, people were saying “The Brewers are on a 3-game winning streak and I just don’t see how the Braves can stop that.” Atlanta put a quick stop to that with a historic 9-run sixth inning on Friday, at one point, they were up 12-0 and saw some ninth inning troubles but came away with a 12-8 win, Saturday’s game was much closer as it lasted 10-innings but Freddie Freeman came in clutch, as he has done most of his career, turning out the lights on the Brewers 4-3 with a walk-off homer to give the Braves the series win. Sunday, Atlanta wasn’t quite as fortunate dropping game three, 3-2 in 10 innings thanks to a Ben Gamel homer to lead-off the 10th off of Wes Parsons. Atlanta finished the 6-game home stand with a 4-2 record. The 9-run sixth Friday was something that had just been done 11 times in the past 30 years. The last time the Braves scored 9 runs in an inning was May 20, 2009 vs. Colorado. I think the Braves are getting hot at just the right time with a seven-game road trip looming. The first four of which are on the West Coast against San Francisco, the West Coast has not been kind to the Braves this year, the last three are in St. Louis. The seven-game road trip kicks off tomorrow night at 8:45pm Central Time.
Wednesday night, the Braves called up top prospect, Austin Riley, a 22-year-old, first round draft pick out of Mississippi State University in 2015. The Atlanta fanbase has been buzzing about him for weeks, even months on in and finally the Braves front office heard the echoes of the Braves faithful around the country. The move did come with a cost though, that cost? Placing Ender Inciarte on the Injured List with a lower back strain prior to yesterday’s second game vs. St. Louis. Austin Riley, a rookie, looked as if he was in mid-season form, going 1-for-3 with his first Major League home run coming in his second-career at-bat. A ball that traveled 438 feet with an exit velocity of 109 MPH and a launch angle of 27 degrees. He was a force to be reckoned with. Austin Riley has 14 homers in his last 70 at-bats including the minor leagues and last night, that’s a .200 average. This man will be a legend. Get used to his face, he’ll be here a long time. I would be surprised if he isn’t still in an Atlanta uniform after Inciarte returns from injury. He definitely has a future in Atlanta and something tells me he’s just heating up. Only time will tell.
If you had told me back in 2016, when Dansby Swanson, known for his time playing shortstop at Vanderbilt University, joined the Braves after being drafted as the number 1 overall pick in the MLB First-Year Player Draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, I would’ve called you insane. As he had career lows in home runs with three and RBI with 17. But his numbers have improved exponentially since his rookie 2016 season. In 2017, he finished with a .232 average, 6 home runs and 51 RBI. In my opinion, 2017 was his breakout season in Atlanta but I’m no expert so we’ll see what the future holds. In 2018, his third season in Atlanta, he wrapped the season up with a .238 average, 14 home runs and 59 RBI on his way to helping the Braves win the 2018 National League East title. So far in 2019, Dansby has a .346 average, 3 home runs and 9 RBI. It’s early in the season but that doesn’t change the fact that he leads the team in home runs and delivered when his team needed him in a series clinching 4-3 win over the Miami Marlins. Look for these numbers to rise if he can stay healthy. He’s just heating up. After all, he did work with Chipper Jones on his plate approach this past offseason. .
Ahh, it’s finally baseball season again, my favorite season of the year. Normally when people are asked which season is their favorite, they make references to either Winter, Fall, Spring or Summer and sometimes people choose multiple seasons. For me, I’ve spent nearly all my life around a diamond in one aspect or another. In fact, before I became a broadcaster, I played the game until I was eight years old when I broke my finger trying to bunt a ball. Instead of the ball hitting the bat, it took a painful detour and hit my pointer finger on my right hand. I wound up playing the remainder of the game in the outfield. Ever since then, I’ve spent my time in the broadcast booth. While I enjoy being a broadcaster, nothing can compare to Atlanta Braves baseball. I’m like a little kid on Christmas morning when it comes to the Braves. In fact, I will be watching the game today against Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies from my phone when the first pitch is thrown at 2:05pm CT. Today, baseball fans around the world will be glued to their televisions and mobile devices patiently waiting on their respective team’s season to start. Yes, I will be one of those fans.
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.