Opinion: The AJC tells the story of Braves’ historic season

AJC's commemorative book on World Series
caption arrowCaption
AJC's commemorative book on World Series

Credit: contributed

BRAVES’ WORLD SERIES WIN

We’ve been here before.

A Super Bowl. A national title. And countless other big events.

When the playoffs started, we began to wonder whether this could be the year — the year a team’s destiny and all of our ambitious plans, from a celebratory book, to keepsake posters, to souvenir editions, to keepsake sections, aligned just so.

On paper, at least, it appeared impossible:

A team riddled by injuries.

A team facing obstacle after obstacle.

A team staring down the Los Angeles Dodgers in a pivotal series to decide who would represent the National League in the World Series. Let’s not forget that Los Angeles had the second-best record in baseball and were nearly unbeatable in Dodgers Stadium.

By now, we all know how this story ends: The Braves defy baseball logic and inspire us all. They win the World Series in 6 thrilling games. They bring a championship to Atlanta.

What you may not know is what happened behind the scenes, as our newsroom prepared – and hoped – for the very best.

So, I wanted to share some “insider” secrets on how we pulled it off.

Let’s begin with the “field edition” — a special section that we distributed outside the stadium after the Braves defeated the Astros in Game 6 of the World Series.

Plenty of readers have asked how we produced it in such a short amount of time.

The truth of the matter is that we printed those sections more than a week in advance. We took great care in selecting the perfect photos — and writing a headline that would capture the magic of this season. We even produced one in Spanish, triple-checking it to make sure that nothing was lost in translation.

These sections were guarded under lock and key, and we had small teams ready to distribute them outside the stadium on Sunday night and again on Tuesday night, but only when the Braves won.

What would have happened if the Braves — let’s not say it — lost the World Series?

Those sections would have been destroyed.

I can tell you it’s heartbreaking to watch your work — and a city’s dreams — go up in flames.

We know because we’ve had to do it before. (We won’t mention the Super Bowl.)

In the meantime, our sports reporters and photographers were scrambling around the country – flying from Atlanta, to Milwaukee, to Los Angeles, to Houston, to document it all. Back in the newsroom, we were amazed at their commitment and personal sacrifice.

Given that, we knew it was important to showcase their memorable stories and photographs — all the while creating keepsake souvenirs for our readers.

As a first step, we entered into an agreement with a book publisher just before Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Over the next several weeks, we began selecting our best feature stories from throughout the season and sending our game stories and columns from throughout the playoffs to the book publisher.

For this celebratory book to work, it would have to go on sale the moment the Braves won the World Series. So, 50 percent of it was written and designed long before World Series even began. And late at night, after each game, we sent more stories, more columns, more photographs.

At 4 a.m. Wednesday morning, just hours after the Braves had clinched the World Series, we sent over the last of our stories and selected a picture for the cover. At 6 a.m., we were back at it, “proofing” the last pages of the book, making sure that everything was just right.

Throughout the night, editors and others were also hard at work on updating our ePaper — the digital replica of our newspaper. Because of the late start of each of the games, that replica had to work extra hard, as it was the place where readers could find the score — and so much more.

Through the playoffs, we produced 136 extra pages of content on the ePaper.

Along the way, we ended up writing some of the most creative and most memorable headlines in this newspaper’s history. HOUSTON, YOU HAVE A PROBLEM. HOUSTON ROCKET. SOLER POWER. IT’S OURS! (with a picture of the Braves hoisting the World Series trophy). The list goes on and on.

We also knew it was important to produce a hard-copy keepsake — a piece of history that you could hold in your hands and pass down to your children as the story of this amazing season was retold again and again.

So, we took the unusual step of taking those pages from the ePaper and combining them into a special section that we printed and distributed at select stores around metro Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon.

Even we were surprised by the demand.

People lined up waiting for the newspaper to arrive. When it did, some snagged up bundles at a time, leaving others high and dry.

So, we printed more.

We also set up a drive-thru location where readers could buy that edition, as well as the souvenir section that we published in Thursday’s newspaper. That section included a touching cartoon by Mike Luckovich, as well as some of our best stories recapping every thrilling game of the World Series.

We printed extra copies of that section, too, and TV cameras captured footage of this long-awaited memento rolling off our presses.

None of this would be possible without plenty of help from across the organization: The student journalists at Fresh Take Georgia who helped us cover the festivities. The hard-working men and women in our pressroom and on the delivery side, who never said no to a single request, and who did their very best to get these mementos into the hands of our readers. Our advertising representatives, who met the demand and whose brainstorming inspired these special sections and editions.

It truly takes a village, and it’s all part of our commitment to celebrate the moments, milestones and people that make this place we call home so unique.

Given the year we’ve all been through, this championship came at just the right time, for the Braves, for their fans and for our city.

We were thrilled to be a part of it.

Mark A. Waligore is the AJC’s managing editor.

WHERE TO FIND YOUR BRAVES SOUVENIRS

We’re offering collectible pages to celebrate this moment at ajc.com/bravespages. These limited-edition pages chronicle the team’s winning season and can be proudly displayed in your home or office.

Each full-color page is displayed in an acrylic or wooden frame — the perfect gift for you or the Braves fan in your life.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of our 128-page exclusive book, AGAINST ALL ODDS, visit www.triumphbooks.com/BravesWin or call 1-800-888-4741.

About the Author

Editors' Picks