This year there is still another item on my list. It is the move by the Atlanta Braves to a new stadium to be built at Interstate 75 and 575 in time for the 2017 season opening. When the news broke two weeks ago, I said it was a homerun for Cobb County. After all the objections and debate, my view has not changed.
The late, great Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. of Atlanta had the vision to bring major league baseball to his city in the early 1960s. He had a lot of help from Furman Bisher, the pro-active sports editor of the Atlanta Constitution (and later the Atlanta Journal and the combined newspapers). Allen turned to another Atlanta giant of those days, banker Mills Bee Lane, for financing to build a stadium on speculation. It was said that Atlanta built a stadium with money it did not have on property it did not own for a team it had not signed. But it happened. The Braves came in 1966. The stadium also was the first home field of the Atlanta Falcons.
That daring venture by Mayor Allen and what was then called the Atlanta power structure fanned the emerging “spirit of Atlanta,” the can-do attitude that put Georgia’s capital on the map as the leading city in the Southeast. That spirit made Atlanta a mecca for civil rights in the midst of racial turbulence all around. Again, thanks to Allen and the city’s power structure.
The Braves brought the prestige of major league baseball at a crucial time and gave our region of the country a team to cheer for and take pride in, finally, after all those years of enjoying pro sports from afar.
Can anyone fortunate enough to have been among the fans forget the excitement of the Braves’ opening game? And the incredible team that went from worst in 1990 to first in 1991 under legendary manager Bobby Cox with the three best young pitchers in the NL, the mesmerizing Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and John Smoltz, who led the Braves to the World Series? The Braves lost in seven games to the Minnesota Twins but what a Series, one of the greatest, if not the greatest ever.
Who can forget 1995? The team added the fourth mesmerizing pitcher, Greg Maddux, and went to the World Series, winning it all from the Cleveland Indians. Icing on the cake over the years is the record 14 straight division titles racked up by the Braves.
Thanks for all the good times, Braves, and welcome to your new home in Cobb County!