In all my years of writing for The Brunswick News and Bulldawg Illustrated, I was able to cover only one World Series.
Several reasons for that, I guess. For one, the Atlanta Braves played in only five fall classics in all that time … the 1991 World Series when they lost to the Minnesota Twins, the ’92 Series when they fell again to the Toronto Blue Jays, the 1995 World Series when they brought the first championship to Atlanta by dispatching the Cleveland Indians in six games — Tom Glavine and Dave Justice providing the heroics in the clinching sixth game win — and in the 1996 and 1999 World Series when the Braves were toppled by the imperial New York Yankees.
Due to the fact most of my time was spent covering the local high school sports in Glynn County, as well as the Georgia Bulldogs, the only Series I could make was that 1999 Braves-Yankees III meeting. Actually, though, it was the fourth World Series engagement between the Bravos and Bronx Bombers, if you go back to 1958 when the Yankees defeated the then Milwaukee Braves.
But despite not being present at the 1995 series and ‘96 World Series featuring these two teams, I was simply ecstatic of being able to take in the 1999 reunion of Atlanta and New York. Because here’s the deal: As a young boy, the New York Yankees were the only baseball team for me. See, in those years of the 1950s and early 1960s, the Braves were still in Milwaukee and each Sunday afternoon via CBS-TV, it was pretty much the Yankees all the time being beamed into the television sets throughout the deep south. With Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese providing the commentary from Yankee Stadium.
And, very quickly, as a youngster playing baseball myself, I became enamored with the exploits of NY centerfielder Mickey Mantle, what with his mammoth home runs being hit from both sides of the plate and his great speed, both out in center field and on the basepaths.
But as I headed for the opening game of the 1999 World Series in Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 23, at the Braves’ Turner Field, I was truly pulling for our state of Georgia major league representative to take down my favorite boyhood baseball team.
A couple of hours prior to the start of the 8:05 p.m. game, the media was allowed to go down on the field to mingle with the players and watch the Yankees and Braves take batting practice.
And as I watched New York stars Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez and Bernie Williams in the batting cage propelling baseballs into the outfield stands, my mind went racing back to the 1961 and 1965 seasons. In ‘61, the year Mantle and Roger Maris were chasing Babe Ruth’s coveted major league home run record of 60, I watched those two along with Yogi Berra put on a home run display in batting practice at Los Angeles’ old Wrigley Field, when the Yanks met the Angels in August on the west coast. Then in ‘65 while serving in the U.S. Army in Fort Dix, N.J, I again saw Mantle, Maris, and Yogi pepper the outfield seats of the old and mammoth Yankee Stadium in batting practice.
And as Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Brian Jordan, and Javy Lopez took their turns in the cage for Atlanta, I pictured hammering Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Dale Murphy and Bob Horner belting ‘em out of the park for the Braves in BP years earlier.
But then the first game of the World Series itself got underway and unfortunately for the Braves, things turned out even worse than they did in the 1996 meeting with the Yankees. While Atlanta fell four games to two to New York that autumn, it was a four-game sweep for the Yankees in 1999.
At the outset, you didn’t feel good about the Braves’ chances to win the series when Atlanta ace Greg Maddux was beaten by the Yanks by a 4-1 tally. The Braves, who had advanced to the World Series by defeating the Houston Astros in the NL Division Series and then the New York Mets in the NL Championship Series, did get on the board first when Chipper Jones launched a home run down the right field line in the fourth inning.
But that would be the only hit that Yankee pitcher Orlando Hernandez would allow through seven innings while striking out 10 Atlanta batters. Maddux pitched scoreless ball into the eighth before running into major trouble when the Yankees struck for all four of their runs.
Game 2 at Turner Field on Sunday would prove more of the same as the Yankees rolled the Braves again, 7-2. Indeed, the only highlight for Atlanta fans that night was the presentation of the All-Century baseball team. The Braves were represented on the team by Hank Aaron and pitcher Warren Spahn while the Yankees, as one might expect, dominated the team with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra all being named. There was controversy over the inclusion in the All-Century Team of Pete Rose, who had been banned from baseball for life 10 years earlier for gambling. Some questioned Rose’s presence on a team officially endorsed by Major League Baseball, but fans at the stadium gave him a standing ovation. And all living members of the team were present that night at Turner Field.
The Yankees would then return to Yankee Stadium and complete the sweep of the Braves by nipping Atlanta in a hard-fought third game, 6-5, and then toppling the Braves again in the fourth game, with another 4-1 win. New York reliever Mariano Rivera was named the World Series MVP.
So, for this sportswriter, the 1999 World Series was a bittersweet one. I was elated to see the Braves go against the team I grew up cheering for but disappointed Atlanta couldn’t make a better showing and somehow find a way to beat a Yankees team that hardly resembled the Bronx Bombers I followed in my teen years and most of the 1960s.
Next Week in Kentucky Issue, No. 7, A Similar Super Bowl Result for Another Atlanta Team…