Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Benediction for the Braves

OK, it's official. Cue Don Meredith: "Turn out the liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiights, the party's over..." It's been a good run. Thanks for the memories.

The Atlanta Braves are no more.

At least not the Braves we once knew. No division title for the first time in 15 years. No postseason appearance. Nope, that's all behind us now. Good-bye to all that.

One last wisp of childhood finally wound its way up the chimney and out into the sky, gone forever like the ash of last winter's fire.

Frankly, it doesn't hurt that much.

I've been detached from the Braves virtually all year. It happened that late April evening that I eased into the easy chair to watch the game on Turner South. Instead of hearing Skip's nasal baritone or Pete Van Wieren's cigarette-enhanced deep tones, there was the obnoxious, "shoulda been in a vaudeville show" Bob Rathbun, calling the game with the knowledgeable but stilted Jeff Torborg.

I couldn't do it. In the past, you only had to put up with Rathbun on Wednesday nights. Skip, Pete, Don, Joe (and later Chip) had the games the other nights of the week on either TBS or Turner South.

FOX bought Turner South and changed all that about the time TBS announced it wouldn't even carry Braves games by 2008.

So I was without a childhood love, content to follow the surprising Tigers when I did manage to catch a TV game.

I guess it's time to put baseball away. Time to put it on the shelf with the Lee Majors lunchbox, the He-Man figures and all the other toys from youth collecting dust in a closet.

The game's not the same anyway. Favorite players change teams like underwear. MLB's 30 teams (way too many) have diluted pitching. Too often the games are now slugfests instead of chess matches.

It's just as well. There are other priorities. Work, for one. Reading. Going to the lake. Hanging out. Music. Football.

Here's to you, Atlanta. Thanks for everything:

Murph. Bob Horner's four dingers in one game. Skip complaining over the infield fly rule.

Powder puff blue unis. Nobody in the stands at the old park. Worthless rain delays. Losing 100 games a year. The game that went on forever against the Mets in '85.

Bobby's back. Worst-to-first. Sid's slide. Leo rocking back and forth. John Smoltz v. Jack Morris, in the most exciting World Series game of my generation. Crime Dog. The Lemmer. Mercker's no-no. World Champions at last.

Special thanks to Skip and Pete. You wouldn't know me if you saw me on the street, but I feel like that you two are old friends. It hurts like hell not having you all around every night for six months a year. You deserve to be on TV every night of the week. You'll never know how much you both meant to a young, skinny kid in love with the game.

Here's one last tomahawk chop.

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