Friday, October 21, 2016

How Long It's Been: The Atlanta Braves Won a World Series Game

October 21, 1996, 20 years ago: The Atlanta Braves beat the Yankees 4-0 in Game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. The defending World Champions now go back home needing to win 2 of the last possible 5 games to repeat. And up to 3 of them will be at home. And they've won their last 5 postseason games by a cumulative score of 48-3.

And yet, the Braves haven't won a World Series game since. The Yankees took the next 4, including coming from 6-0 down in Game 4, when Mark Wohlers hung a slider to Jim Leyritz to tie it in the 8th. Despite 12 postseason berths since then, including another Pennant in 1999, their record in World Series games in the last 20 years is 0-6.

October 21, 1996. Twenty years. How long has that been?

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Manager Bobby Cox (6), 3rd baseman Chipper Jones (10), and pitchers John Smoltz (29), Greg Maddux (31) And Tom Glavine (47) have all had their uniform numbers retired. Chipper will be eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018, and the others are already in. They also had Fred McGriff, who should be in the Hall; and David Justice, Marquis Grissom and Jermaine Dye, who aren't very far from serious consideration for it.

The Boston Red Sox hadn't won the World Series in 78 years. The Chicago White Sox, in 79 years. The San Francisco Giants, in 42 years -- or never, if you're only counting from their 1st game in San Francisco forward. The Yankees, in a relatively brief, but long for them, 18 years. All have since won it at least once.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and the Tampa Bay Rays hadn't begun play yet. They, the Colorado Rockies, the Miami Marlins, the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers had not yet won a Pennant. The Astros were still in the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers were still in the American League, the Marlins were still named the Florida Marlins, the Washington Nationals were still the Montreal Expos, and the Mets were still the last New York baseball team to have won a World Series. None of those facts is true any longer.

Of the 28 ballparks in use during the 1996 Major League Baseball season, 11 are still in use now: Anaheim Stadium (now Angel Stadium), Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Fenway Park in Boston, Wrigley Field and the new Comiskey Park in Chicago (now U.S. Cellular Field), Jacobs Field in Cleveland (now Progressive Field), Coors Field in Denver, Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, the Oakland Coliseum and the SkyDome in Toronto (now the Rogers Centre).

In Atlanta, the Braves were about to replace Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium with Turner Field, and are now replacing it, after just 20 years, with SunTrust Park. The Omni, after just 25 years,  was soon replaced by Philips Arena. And the Georgia Dome, after just 25 years, is about to be replaced by Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In New York, every team except the Knicks and the Rangers has since moved to a new building.

Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Warren Spahn and Buck Leonard were still alive. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez had just completed their 1st full seasons in MLB. David Ortiz would debut the next season. Jimmy Rollins was about to turn 18. Albert Pujols was 16. David Wright, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera were 13. Zack Greinke turned 13. Alex Gordon and Max Scherzer were 12. Daniel Murphy and Yoenis Cespedes were 11. Felix Hernandez was 10. Buster Posey was 9, Clayton Kershaw was 8, Matt Harvey and Madison Bumgarner were 7, Mike Trout was 5, Kris Bryant and Bryce Harper were 4, Carlos Correa was 2, and Julio Urias was 2 months old.

Joe Girardi was the Yankees' starting catcher in that World Series. Terry Collins was about to be fired as Astros manager. Alan Vigneault was an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators. Jack Capuano was an assistant coach with the Jacksonville Tiger Sharks. Ben McAdoo was an assistant coach at a Pennsylvania high school. Jeff Hornacek was playing for the Utah Jazz. Kenny Atkinson was playing in Spain's basketball league. And John Hynes was playing hockey at Boston University.

In addition to the Braves, the defending World Champions were the Dallas Cowboys (they haven't been since), the Chicago Bulls and the Colorado Avalanche. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Mike Tyson, and he was set to fight former Champion Evander Holyfield, and expected to clobber him. It would be the other way around.

The Olympics have since been hosted in America, Canada, Australia, Greece, Italy, China, Britain and Russia. The World Cup has since been hosted in France, Korea, Germany and South Africa. apan and Brazil have since hosted both.

The President of the United States was Bill Clinton, about to get re-elected. No one had yet considered that First Lady Hillary Clinton might run for office. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter attended that Series as guests of Braves owner Ted Turner and his then-wife, Jane Fonda. They are still alive today. So are George and Barbara Bush. Still alive then, but not anymore, were Gerald and Betty Ford, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan. George W. Bush was Governor of Texas. Joe Biden was a Senator from Delaware. Donald Trump was on Wife II, and the idea of doing a TV show, let alone a Presidential campaign, with him was ridiculous. Only 4 Justices then on the Supreme Court are still there: Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Hardly any American had ever heard of Monica Lewinsky or Osama bin Laden.

The Governor of the host State, Georgia, was Zell Miller. Current Governor Nathan Deal was in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Mayor of Atlanta was Bill Campbell -- not to be confused with the former Boston Red Sox reliever or the legendary Philadelphia broadcaster of the same name. Current Mayor Kasim Reed had recently graduated from law school.

The Governor of the State of New York was George Pataki, the Mayor of the City of New York was Rudy Giuliani, and the Governor of New Jersey was Christine Todd Whitman. Andrew Cuomo was an Assistant Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, Bill de Blasio was an aide to Congressman Charles Rangel, and in Clinton's 2nd term, Cuomo would be promoted to full Secretary, and de Blasio would be one of his aides. Chris Christie was a member of the Board of Freeholders in Morris County, New Jersey.

Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and José Manuel Ramos-Horta were about to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for their work to end the civil war in East Timor. (Ramos-Horta later served as its President). The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chrétien, and of Britain John Major. The monarch of Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed. Manchester United had recently won "The Double": The Premier League and the FA Cup in the same season.  

Major novels of 1996 included Joe Klein's Primary Colors (which he had published under the name "Anonymous"), David Baldacci's Absolute Power, Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary, John Grisham's The Runaway Jury, Stephen King's The Green Mile, Dean Koontz' Intensity, Terry McMillan's How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club, Jeff Shaara's Gods and Generals, David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest, and the 1st installments in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Philospher's Stone -- known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in America) and the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones, giving its name to the TV series based on the book series). Major non-fiction books included Stephen Ambrose's telling of the Lewis & Clark story, Undaunted Courage; and John Berendt's story of the weird happenings in Savannah, Georgia: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Major films released in the Autumn of 1996 included That Thing You Do!, The Glimmer Man, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Michael Collins, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (actually Baz Luhrmann's present-day version), Set It Off, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The English Patient, Jingle All the Way, Star Trek: First Contact, a live-action version of 101 Dalmatians, and the Michael Jordan-Bugs Bunny team-up Space Jam.

Major TV shows of the season (not the calendar year). Kardashians?

Major TV shows debuting that season included 7th Heaven, Everybody Loves Raymond, Judge Judy, Spin City, The Pretender, Suddenly Susan, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Early Edition, Profiler, Millennium, Arthur, Hey Arnold! and, introduced by new network Fox News Channel, The O'Reilly Factor. Some of these shows were more animated than others. Some were more cartoonish than others.

The Number 1 song in America was still the damn "Macarena" by Los Del Rio. Michael Jackson had just divorced Lisa Marie Presley, married Debbie Rowe, and begun his yearlong HIStory World Tour. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw got married, Madonna had a baby girl named Lourdes Leon, and Prince became the father of a son, Gregory Nelson, who died after 7 days due to a birth defect. Slash quit Guns N' Roses, and the Stone Roses broke up. Fountains of Wayne released their self-titled debut album, Marilyn Manson released Antichrist Superstar, and Paula Cole released This Fire (including the songs "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" and what became the theme to the TV show Dawson's Creek, "I Don't Want to Wait").

Kanye West was soon to become what he would title his breakthrough album: The College Dropout. Katie Holmes, Heath Ledger, Kourtney Kardashian, Alecia Moore (Pink), Michelle Williams (both of them), Ben Savage, Kim Kardashian, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Chris Evans, Beyonce Knowles, Britney Spears, Sienna Miller, Prince William, Kate Middleton, Natalie Dormer, Hayley Atwell and Kirsten Dunst were in high school. Matt Smith, Anne Hathaway, Andrew Garfield and Khloe Kardashian were in junior high.

Prince Harry was 12 years old. Lady Gaga and Richard Madden were 10, and Drake and Emilia Clarke were about to turn 10. Kit Harington, Rose Leslie and Rob Kardashian were 9. Kevin Jonas and Rihanna were 8. Emma Stone, Daniel Radcliffe and Joe Jonas were 7. Emma Watson was 6. Sarah Hyland was 5. Louis Tomlinson, Jack Gleeson, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas were 4. Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Zayn Malik, Ariana Grande, Liam Payne and Niall Horan were 3. Harry Styles and Justin Bieber were 2. Kendall Jenner was about to have her 1st birthday. Sophie Turner was 8 months old, and Abigail Breslin was 6 months. Maisie Williams, Kylie Jenner, Ariel Winter and Rico Rodriguez weren't born yet.

A first-class stamp cost 32 cents, and the fare on the New York Subway was $1.50. The average price of a gallon of gas was $1.29, a cup of coffee $1.79, a McDonald's Big Mac, fries and shake $5.50, a movie ticket $4.40, a new car $18,525, a new house $119,000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 6090.87.

The 1st tablet computer had been introduced, and more and more people were finding out about the Internet. But there was, as yet, no Wikipedia, no iPod, no Skype, no MySpace, no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, no Tumblr, no iPhone, no Pinterest, no Instagram, no iPad, and no Vine.

In the Autumn of 1996, in events unconnected to baseball or the Presidential election, the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Kofi Annan was elected by the United Nations to be its next Secretary-General. The last of the infamous Magdalene asylums was closed in Ireland. A cyclone killed over 2,000 people in India. The trial in the wrongful-death civil suit against O.J. Simpson began. The Sands Hotel in Las Vegas was demolished, to make way for the Venetian Hotel.

Former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, French tennis legend and shirt designer René Lacoste, and Italian soccer legend Silvio Piola died. Zendaya, and Lorde, and Jerome Sinclair were born.

October 21, 1996. The Atlanta Braves won a World Series game -- their 6th in a little over a year, and their 11th in the last 6 seasons.

It's been 20 years. They have never won another. And they lost 93 games this season, suggesting that their next one isn't coming in the foreseeable future. Curse of Mark Wohlers, anyone?

Then again, in 1990, they lost 97 games, and rebounded the next season to come within 1 run of winning the World Series, launching a quasi-dynasty. Maybe they can do it again.

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