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!
Ahh Turner Field, the place where I first saw Chipper Jones in person and where I spent more summer days in the sweltering Georgia heat. In the early 2000’s I had gone to visit relatives that live in Georgia with my parents. While in Georgia, we decided to catch a Braves game which I had only seen on TV at the time. Back in those days Vinny Castilla was the third baseman, Chipper Jones, who later moved in to play third, Rafael Furcal was the shortstop with insanely athletic movements. Andruw Jones was in center field, Javy Lopez, the catcher, Bobby Cox, the manager etc. as I mentioned before I had only seen them play on TV but I had spent many years studying the players and the game. So I was anxious to finally catch a game in person. The morning of the game, I jumped from the bed in excitement as I knew today was the day that I had waited on my entire lifetime. Atlanta was playing their arch-rival the New York Mets and as a Braves fan, it’s only right to hate “the team from Queens.” I still don’t like them to this day. When we pulled up and I saw the Turner Field marquee in the distance, chills were sent down my spine. Then we pulled our car into the parking lot and immediately I blurted out the ESPN SportsCenter theme. You know, the highlight song. In fact, that day Chipper Jones, my favorite player, hit a home run over the center field wall that measured 400 feet from home plate that gave the Braves a lead that they would not relinquish. In 2016 however, Turner Field stopped operating as the home of the Atlanta Braves, it serves the Georgia State University Panthers football program as their home field. That place is where I met so many people and had so many memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. Like that one time in 2013, when I met legendary Braves usher Walter Banks who has served as an usher for the Braves since they moved to Atlanta from Milwaukee in 1966. In fact, he can tell you anything you want to know about the Braves just by being asked about a number. The Braves have since moved to Cobb County, Georgia and SunTrust Park, which I intend to visit in the near future. They say every good thing must come to an end. But to me, Turner Field will always be the Home of the Braves. So long, old friend thanks for the many, many memories.
Next entry: The Time I Named My Dog after Chipper Jones.