Boggling Braves Facts

‣‣ Braves Pitcher Tony Cloninger is one of six players tied for the Major League record for most career Grand-Slams by a pitcher with 2. He is the only player to hit both in the same season; surprisingly he hit them BOTH in the SAME GAME. On Sunday, July 3, 1966 at Candlestick Park, Cloninger went 3-5 with 2 grand slams- one in the first inning & one in the fourth. He also pitched a complete game and Atlanta won 17-3. Cloninger also holds the Braves franchise record for most RBI in a game thanks to that day. ‣‣ Chipper Jones is the only player to hit 6+ Home Runs vs. Randy Johnson, Steve Trachsel (7) is the only pitcher that has given up more career home runs to Jones. ‣‣ The Braves franchise is the only professional baseball club to win a World Series in 3 different cities- Boston, Milwaukee & Atlanta. They also hold an American Major League Sports record for most consecutive division championships (14 years from 1991-2005). ‣‣ Brooks Conrad captured two All-Time Major League Records in 2010: Most Grand-Slams in a Season by a Pinch-Hitter (2) and Most Errors in a Divisional Series Playoff Game (3). ‣‣ #44 Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career HR record on 4/8/74. Aaron did it on the fourth pitch of the fourth inning in the fourth game of the fourth month in a year divisible by 4. The pitcher that gave up the homer also wore #44 (Al Downing). Hank won the HR title 4 times; he also hit 44 homers in a season 4 times.  Only four HRs were ever hit over the CF wall in the Polo Grounds; Aaron, you guessed it- was one of them. ‣‣ Two players were involved in both the opening and closing games at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. Tony Cloninger and Joe Torre were the Atlanta battery when the Braves and opened the 1966 season in Fulton County Stadium against the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 12 before 50,671. Cloninger pitched all nine innings but lost 3-2. Torre was 2-4 and accounted for both Braves runs with a two-run HR. The final game in Fulton County was Game 5 of the 1996 World Series. Torre was the manager of the Yankees with Cloninger was his bullpen coach. ‣‣ The Braves are the only team in MLB history to have a player hit a homer in his first big league at-bat in consecutive seasons on opening day. Jordan Schafer & Jason Heyward did so exactly 1 year apart- Schafer on April, 5 2009 & Heyward on April 5, 2010. ‣‣ Tim Hudson compiled a record of 165-87 during the first 12 years of his Major League career; exactly the same record compiled by Sandy Koufax in his 12-year career. Koufax compiled 2396 K during that time, while Hudson only had 1541 K. ‣‣ Only one Braves player has been ejected from a game & suspended for another- during a game in which they never played; the player wasn’t even on the active roster. Chipper Jones was dismissed after arguing balls and strikes with umpire Doug Eddings on September 5, 2010. He had to serve a 1 game suspension once he returned to the active list. ‣‣ The Atlanta Braves are only one of three franchises to win over 10,000 wins in its history (Cubs/Giants). Atlanta & Philadelphia are the only teams in MLB history to also LOSE 10,000 games. The Braves are the only team ever to be 500 games above AND below 500. ‣‣ The Braves haven’t been considered great in recent history, but over the past three years- only one team has spent less money and won more games than Atlanta (Tampa Bay Rays). ‣‣ In 1982 the Braves won the Western Division on the last day of the season. The media asked team owner Ted Turner what made this club different from the losing teams of the seventies. Turner replied, “We have no crazies, flakes, or drug addicts.

Braves Autographs – My Secret

I used to be a pretty hardcore autograph collector, I don’t really do it any longer because it can be very tedious and time consuming. I’ve had a lot of success, I was featured in the AJC for Braves autograph collecting in 2007 and a lot of people ask me- “What’s the best way to get Braves to sign?” The secret is to separate yourself from the masses, a player is 100x more likely to sign for 1-2 people instead of 100 (this is pretty obvious, makes a lot of sense). Section 109 Since I don’t do it much anymore, it’s time I revealed a little secret. (NOT SAYING) this has worked for me 100s of times, I have (not) gotten hundreds of players to sign over the years and although this may or may not be to your taste (or really legal ha) it is pretty much a full-proof way to get yourself in the best position possible. Before I go into the details here are a few basics of autograph seeking 101 at Turner Field. GET THERE EARLY: The gates open 2.5 hours before first pitch; the side gates (entrance to box seats-they block off people from going anywhere except centerfield for some reason) open 2 hours before first pitch. If you get there that early I would highly recommend getting a $1 ticket, they sell them at the far right ticket window at Turner Field (near right field) beginning 2.5 hours before game-time. They only have 186 tickets available, you may only purchase 1 ticket (for yourself, can’t say your buddy is in the parking lot and you’re getting him one) and they are available on a first come-first serve basis (can’t be reserved/purchased elsewhere). CHOOSE GAME WISELY: Your autograph odds dramatically increase during weekday games, during non-premium games & vs. the teams that no one else wants to go to (less competition). You may get 10 players to sign when the Braves are playing the Padres on a Tuesday school-night in May, but you may only get 0-1 players to sign on a Saturday night ESPN game vs. the Phillies. BE VOCAL: Call a player out you want to sign, don’t be soft-toned when you speak to them and don’t expect a player to come up or sign something for you if you don’t ask them to. Don’t be shy, a player will never come over if you don’t appear all that eager to have their autograph. DO YOUR RESEARCH: Know their FIRST name (and last name) and politely use it when you ask them to sign… You can even use the GameDay booklet they give you when you walk in the gates if your not exactly sure, but DO know this. A player is much more likely to sign if they think you know about them (it’s an ego booster-especially for the younger players), think about how you would feel if someone only wanted you to sign because you were a Brave- or just wanted anyone to sign anything, you would kind of feel stupid. A player is never going to sign for some saying their name incorrectly (ex. Eric Hinske- Hey “Hin-sk” sign for me!) or by just a jersey number (Hey #4 sign my ball!) that’s not only embarrassing for both of you, but totally disrespectful. If you call a rookie/fairly random player by their first name (and it’s not a upcoming superstar- like Heyward, Francoeur back in the day) your almost a lock to get them to sign- they appreciate someone that really knows who they are.  Chipper signing a ball for me HAVE REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: Don’t hold out for the huge stars, especially if you only try to obtain their signature one time. Chipper Jones has signed MILLIONS of autographs, he gets asked to sign something everyday- no matter if he’s getting coffee, at the ballpark, at the mall, etc. They get tired of it, especially after a long career, and frankly you would too. Don’t give me this “it’s his JOB to sign for the KIDS,” sorry no its not; his job is to play baseball, these players commit to countless off-season public appearances, charity events and other community work. You can expect the guys that aren’t asked as much to sign for you instead of the big names, that should be common sense. Finally, if you want to get a bunch of players to sign, keep coming back and trying again- a player may pass over you, he could have signed 20 balls outside, he could have had a bad day or maybe he is in a huge slump and wants to stay focused on the game- respect them saying no, they have a game to prepare for. You will undoubtedly see results over a longer period of time trying. Ok here it is… THE BIG SECRET that (may/may not have) worked for me and got me best results: When you enter Turner Field and try to get Braves autographs, the Ushers will funnel the general masses to the first base side by the tarp (no chance-1/50 games will a random player come over there to sign, just way to many people). Your best bet is to ask players right above the Braves dugout (where they enter after BP to go to the clubhouse), the catch is only people that have tickets in section 109 are allowed in that seating area, it DOES NOT matter if no one is there yet, if you are 3 hours early, etc. They DO NOT care and will tell you to go to section 119 (by the tarp). This is not exactly…let’s just say… legal ha! but if you do it correctly, no one will care and no one will notice. The day before the game, get a cheap Ticketmaster ticket and choose the “print your ticket at home” option. Get on your word editor on your computer and match the font size/style to that of the ticket (you may have to play around with it a while, it needs to be pretty close to the real font size and type). Print out a few different things section “109” & a higher price for the ticket (look it up, what the actual cost would be). Once you have it matched print that out- cut out the new section & price and cleanly TAPE it to your original ticket. Once you have it looking legitimate, go somewhere and make a PHOTOCOPY of the entire sheet, that way it won’t look too sketchy. You should have a good enough copy to make it look good to an usher. Don’t alter the Bar-Code obviously, better yet print another copy of your original ticket and use it to get into the main gate at the stadium. Only use the altered ticket when you are trying to show the usher who will grant you access down into the main box-Braves dugout area. Don’t push your limits, once BP is over go to your real seat, you won’t be at risk of getting in any trouble that way. The reason it works is because there will only be a handful of people that have tickets in that section that early/when gates open. Be careful! If you do it correctly you’ll never get in any trouble and you will have the upper hand vs. anyone else in the stadium. Good luck and happy collecting!

The Case For Andruw

After reading today that John Smoltz will have his #29 retired by the Braves on June 8 of this season, it got me thinking about other Braves in recent history that deserve that honor. Andruw Jones was the one name that came to mind- and after asking several others about their opinions, the overall consensus was “No, Atlanta SHOULD NOT retire his number” for a variety of reasons. I did a little research and disagree, although I see the argument from both sides, I found a few stats that show Andruw not only deserves to have his number retired- but that he deserves to be in Cooperstown someday. The biggest things that factor against Andruw are time (people forget), he moved to another team (he was not tendered a contract at all, no offer by the Braves once his deal expired-forced to sign elsewhere), his career now is bad (short prime of career). Those all, maybe even rightfully so, play against him a great deal- but the truth is Andruw had one of the best primes of a career as anyone in Braves history. From 1998-2007 (10 years) he won 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards. He undoubtedly is one of the best defensive outfielders of all-time. According to baseball reference, Jones defensive WAR (wins above replacement, the average amount of wins that would be lost if the player was replaced by defensive player that is at the league average) is ranked 2nd ALL-TIME by ANY player at ANY position with a rating of 23.9 behind only Brooks Robinson. Chipper is considered to be a unanimous first-ballot HOF’er, but people forget that Andruw was once just as much the “Face of The Franchise” as #10 during the 00s. Andruw has only 35 HR less than Chipper in about 1300 fewer AB and only 250 fewer RBI. He was also a 5x All-Star, Silver Slugger Award winner, 2005 NL HR Champ & 2005 ML POY. Jones was also incredibly durable during his tenure with the Braves; in his first 4 full ML seasons- he missed a TOTAL of 5 games, he never missed more that 8 games in the same time (10 year) span. Some argue his offense was inconsistent or not HOF worthy, but again from 98-07- he AVERAGED 158 games per yr (insane for a CF), 30 doubles, 34 HR and 103 RBI. He ranks #45 All-Time in MLB history in career HR, and again keep in mind he won a Gold Glove during EVERY season he put up those offensive numbers. The only center fielders in the HOF with more homers than Jones are Mickey Mantle & Willie Mays. *Top player is HOF Brooklyn Dodgers Centerfielder Duke Snider; bottom player is Andruw Jones. Blind Resume: Think about who’s been the only Brave that most would consider to have jersey number POSSIBLY retired (other than Chipper) someday in recent Braves history? Undoubtedly that would be Brian McCann. B-Mac has played 6 full ML seasons and was an All-Star each of those 6 years, (ok, I realize he’s a catcher) he has NEVER driven in 100 RBI- only got to 90 in 3 of 6 years and has never hit 25 HR. Andruw Jones AVERAGED 30 HR/100 RBI for 10 CONSECUTIVE seasons. The last Brave to drive in 100 RBI? who was that? Jeff Francoeur…in 2007…5 years ago. Me & AJ in 2006. Hall of Fame voters have elected several elite defensive players before, Brooks Robinson and Ozzie Smith are guys that come to mind who were also first-ballot selections; Andruw was more valuable offensively than either of the two at the peak of his career. Unfortunately the things that stick with most fans are his “image” toward the declining portion of his career and the period/market in which he played in (lack of WS title). If Ozzie Smith is worthy Andruw should be too. If Jones was in New York winning WS titles during the prime of his career, I believe his story would written a little differently and his career would be seen in a different light. The truth is Atlanta has no plans to retire AJ’s #25, they have allowed others to wear it already- even the season right after he left. To me that’s a shame, image is everything in Atlanta… that’s why they marketed Francoeur so hard and you still see so many of that bums jerseys around the Ted. What have you done for me lately? In my opinion, Andruw won’t ever be replaced in center field, he made so many plays look too easy and he deserves more respect than he ever got credit for.

Atlanta’s Best – Jersey Numbers

This is my list of best Atlanta players by jersey number (1-60), over the past 40-50 years. Honorable mention and/or notes in parenthesis. #1 Rafael Furcal, Braves#2 Joe Johnson, Hawks (Matt Ryan, Falcons)#3 Dale Murphy, Braves#4 Spud Webb, Hawks #5 Morten Andersen, Falcons (Josh Smith, Hawks)‘The Great Dane” holds the distinction of being the all-time leading scorer in NFL history, as well as being the all-time leading scorer for two different rival teams; the New Orleans Saints, with whom he spent 13 seasons, and the Atlanta Falcons, with whom he spent a combined eight seasons. #6 Bobby Cox, Braves#7 Michael Vick, Falcons#8 Javy Lopez, Braves#9 Marquis Grissom, Braves#10 Chipper Jones, Braves (Steve Bartkowski, Falcons)#11 Jamal Crawford, Hawks (Kenshin Kawakami, just Kidding)#12 Sid Bream, Braves#13 Billy Wagner, Braves#14 Julio Franco, Braves (Martin Prado, Braves)#15 Tim Hudson, Braves (Al Horford, Hawks)#16 Brian McCann, Braves#17 Ilya Kovalchuk, Thrashers#18 Marian Hossa, Thrashers#19 Yunel Escobar, Braves #20 Allen Rossum, FalconsAtlanta’s All-Time Career Punt Return Yards Leader (1,723) Falcons’ All-Time Career Kickoff Return Yards Leader (5,489) #21 Dominique Wilkins, Hawks#22 Jason Heyward, Braves#23 David Justice, Braves#24 Deion Sanders, Braves (wore #21 with Falcons) #25 Andruw Jones, BravesAndruw won 10 consecutive Gold Glove Awards, went to 5 ASG, an NL HR title in 2005 and the 2005 Silver Slugger Award during his time with the club. #26 Erik Coleman, Falcons#27 Fred McGriff, Braves#28 Warrick Dunn, Falcons#29 John Smoltz, Braves#30 Jeff Bennett, Braves (yeah…its a bad number)#31 Greg Maddux, Braves #32  Jamal Anderson, Falcons (Mike Hampton…not so much)The original dirty-bird led the Falcons to their first and only Super Bowl appearance in 1998, carrying the ball an NFL single-season record 410 times for 1,846 yards and 14 touchdowns. #33 Michael Turner, Falcons#34 Ovie Mughelli, Falcons#35 Phil Niekro, Braves#36 Lawyer Milloy, Falcons#37 Jo-Jo Reyes, Braves (ugh…hated to type that)#38 Darren Haydar, Thrashers#39 Rafael Soriano, Braves#40 Lance Cormier, Braves#41 Eddie Mathews, Braves#42 Karl Stewart, Thrashers#43 Brent Grimes, Falcons #44 Hank Aaron, BravesEveryone knows Hammerin’ Hank is the true HR Champion; he was also a 25× All-Star, World Series champion (1957), 3× Gold Glove Award winner, 2× NL batting champ, 4× NL HR champ, 1957 NL MVP and made the MLB All-Century Team. #45 Patrice Cormier, Thrashers (yeah…dunno who that is either)#46 Manny Acosta, Braves #47 Tom Glavine, Braves#48 Tommy Hanson, Braves #49 John Rocker, Braves (Jair Jurrjens, Braves)Rocker was, let’s face it, an idiot to put it nicely. His Braves career was short & dominant- saving 38 games for the club in 1999. #50 Curtis Lofton, Falcons#51 Mike Gonzalez, Braves#52 Coy Wire, Falcons#53 Mike Peterson, Falcons#54 Stephen Nicholas, Falcons#55 John Abraham, Falcons#56 Keith Brooking, Falcons#57 Jeff Van Note, Falcons#58 Jessie Tuggle, Falcons#59 Michael Boley, Falcons#60 Tommy Nobis, Falcons

More ‘Stuff’

Some say PE careers are very low paying, which is actually not true. ADs at schools like Parkview, Brookwood, etc. make 100+ K easily… Not that I will ever/really trying to get to that level- but it’s at least something to shoot for and see it’s there if you are really successful. $$$ has never been a driving force for me lol quality of life as far as enjoyment and liking what I do has always been my priority, I don’t want a high stress-high volume job where I work 60 hours a week and don’t ever have time to spend all the money I would make. There have been times in my life where my parents made six figures and times where they were both really broke…. I’ve had both lots of stuff and not very much stuff… but i’ve learned a long time ago that nothing for me personally ever changes, the “stuff” has never made me happier… either way I’ve been about the same. The video on George Carlin’s act on ‘stuff’ is one of my favorites, it’s both funny and true at the same time.

Appreciate #10, While You Can

Larry Wayne Jones Jr. and his legacy goes without saying, he will forever be one of the greatest athletes in the history of Atlanta professional sports. 2012 is his last year, but their is still time to look back and acknowledge his legendary career. Here are 4 reasons to appreciate Chipper Jones; what he’s accomplished as a player, what he’s meant to the Braves organization, baseball fans and the city of Atlanta. Career Stats & Accomplishments Chipper has a career batting average of .304 and a career OBP of .402; he has slugged 454 HR and swiped 149 SB. Only two other players in Major League Baseball history have ever retired with an BA > .300, OBP > .400, 450+ HR and 100+ SB. Those two players? Babe Ruth & Lou Gherig. Jones was in retrospect, the ultimate No. 1 pick & ultimate franchise player. Among No. 1 overall picks, only Alex Rodriguez has compiled more career Wins Above Replacement, but no player has accumulated more value with his original team than Chipper according to ESPN: Chipper Jones, Braves, 1990: 82.7Ken Griffey Jr.. Mariners, 1989: 67.6Alex Rodriguez, Mariners, 1993: 37.1 “He just looks like a ballplayer, you know? Hisactions, his mannerisms, everything he does,I really can’t say enough good things about him.The way he’s gone about his business, hisconsistency, how he took care of himself, whathe means to the team. He could flat-out hit. He’sa Hall of Famer, for sure.” Derek Jeter Jones has represented the NL at the All-Star Game 7 times, but should have been elected to more. He was snubbed multiple times, thanks to the voting philosophy of the game as being a popularity contest. The biggest snub was in 1999, when he instead finished with the NL MVP Award. He was also hurt by his move to left field, a time where Barry Bonds was a staple for the NL squad. His consistency is also remarkable; Chipper hit 20+ HR in 14 consecutive seasons to start his career, hit 25+ HR in 10 seasons and drove in 100+ RBI in 9 seasons. Jones also never reached 100 strikeouts in a season, an incredible stat for a power hitter. He won 2 silver slugger awards and 1 NL MVP Award, but finished in the top 12 in MVP voting in 9 seasons. When many began to say that he was entering the twilight of his career, he won his first batting title in 2008- finishing the year with a batting average of (.364). He has been the key producer of the team on offense, leading the Braves to the playoffs 12 times during his career; helping capture 11 of Atlanta’s 14 consecutive division titles and 1 wild-card berth in 2010. Among third basemen with at least 5,000 career plate appearances, Chipper Jones owns the second-highest on-base percentage (.402) and the HIGHEST slugging percentage (.533) all-time. Jones is also regarded as one of the top 3 switch-hitters in baseball history, alongside Mickey Mantle & Eddie Murray. Chipper only trails Mantle in HR, having surpassed him in hits, RBI and batting average over nearly the exact career span. You can make several arguments about which numbers are better, but keep in mind Murray had 600+ more plate appearances than both Mantle & Jones. Checking the stats below, Chipper ranks 1st or 2nd in 11/14 categories: Loyalty to The Franchise Loyalty is sports is extremely rare these days, you can find only a handful of players that are willing to make sacrifices, are committed and dedicated to playing for only a single organization. When you think of Atlanta, the first players that usually come to mind are Smoltz, Glavine, Maddux, Andruw & Chipper; the first four moved on to play for other teams in their careers at some point. Chipper could have made more money, taken a deal in a larger market, grown his legend in another uniform surround by a bigger media, but he didn’t- he was once quoted in saying– “There were times when I could have went out on the FA market and see if the grass was greener, but I really didn’t think it was, I never wanted to play anywhere else. I’m a Southern kid, I wanted to play in a Southern town where I felt comfortable, and I felt comfortable from day one in the Braves organization. I bleed red, white and blue, The first professional uniform I put on 16 years ago was a Braves uniform and I wanted to try to make sure it’s my last. when I was coming up, guys like Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn who were able to work with their organization so that they could stay in one place, they knew how important it was to stay in one place and be the face of the franchise. While I don’t consider myself to be in their realm, I’m awfully proud to say I’ve been a part of this organization for so long.” Team First Attitude Chipper Jones has ALWAYS put the team before his own needs. In 2005, he restructured his contract in an attempt to keep the Braves competitive in the free-agent market. Jones agreed to reduce his salary for the season from $17 million to $11 million and saved the Braves about $15 million over the next three seasons.  Most guys these days, even without the career to earn the right to do so (re: Hanley Ramirez), aren’t happy about the idea to move away from their primary position. When the Braves signed Vinny Castilla in 2002, Chipper supported the signing and willingly agreed to move to left field. Chipper had the resume to be upset about the move, he was in the prime of his career and had been named an NL All-Star at third in 5 of the previous 6 seasons. Chipper had earned the right to be selfish, but instead opted to do what wasn’t in his best interest, but what was best for his team. How many guys these days would do that? Played Clean in The Steroid Era A large part of what Chipper has accomplished has been watered down due to the inflation of numbers during the steroid era. Jones will go into the Hall of Fame with a special group of players who have done things the right way, playing clean. His career follows a very precise mathematical trend of playing career rise/decline; there’s no outrageous jump or spike in production that would be seen as a red flag. Never has there been any allegations against Jones, no rumors, no notes about him in a Jose Canseco book and no grand jury testimony. Chipper said at one point he considered it; largely due to the achievements of his peers around the league, but never was tempted to explore further for a variety of reasons, citing life after baseball and his family. Me & CJ: Stopping to sign with a caston his arm, signing a ball for me at‘gettaway’ day & FanFest 2008. According to Chipper, the elder Larry Jones asked him point blank if he had ever cheated, saying “Please tell me you never did that; I can’t think of anything that would disappointment me more than finding out that you did something like that.” Jones Jr. replied, “Well, I never did, you don’t have to worry about that.” Jones is one of the few players, likely first-ballot, to go into the HOF with a clear conscience. Although Chippers numbers have been under appreciated and overshadowed by guys that were “juiced”, his resume is still extraordinarily impressive. In conclusion, franchise players aren’t easy to find, sometimes they don’t stick around. The Braves had a great one. The only thing left to decide is if his statue outside Turner Field with have him batting right or left handed.

Be The Light

Today, give a stranger one of your smiles; it might be the only sunshine he sees all day. An email I came across today as I was monotonously going through my daily tasks was enlightening and got me into my deep thinking philosopher mode; which doesn’t like to make an appearance all too often. We have one parent in our soccer program that constantly does these amazing things for everyone without being asked or expecting anything in return. Last October he hosted a (free) very elaborate haunted hayride & cookout on his property and invited every kid in soccer. On a Saturday at the fields several weeks ago he had a whole (free) spread of very good food laid out and invited parents & players of our teams and visiting teams to come and help themselves to lunch. I just got an invite to a flashlight Easter egg hunt that he has put together and plans to this Saturday. This guys not running for office, he has no motive other than to do something nice for someone else. Which got me thinking- Why is this such a rare thing these days? I’m as guilty as anyone, my priorities are usually made up of things that will benefit me first and foremost, things that make ME happy- and not someone else. I would imagine sometimes people that do these things are bringing to attention that very point, not on purpose, but by a higher power. Does everything happen for a reason? Does one event occur just to impact another? Are their messages to be deciphered by almost everything that we come across in life? I don’t know the answer to all these, but I do know that once our time here is done- we can either quietly fade away as an individual, or live on through the people of whose lives we’ve made a difference in and impact to throughout our years, for better or for worse. A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble. ~ Charles H. Spurgeon