Call it a 90s Braves reunion featuring Frenchy.
Bally Sports South’s telecast Thursday featured three Baseball Hall of Famers – a first in franchise history – with Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. The final member of the quartet - Jeff Francoeur - is also a Hall of Famer, but in a different sport: Georgia high school football.
The group of beloved former Braves shared the booth at Truist Park for the team’s finale against the Mets. And it was a wild one: Shortstop Orlando Arcia hit a game-tying homer in the ninth to even the game, 10-10, and send it to extra innings. Second baseman Ozzie Albies’ walk-off three-run homer won it in the 10th - and the Braves swept the Mets despite trailing by at least three runs in each of the three games.
“And that’ll do it,” Smoltz said as the ball soared into the seats. “Start the buses.” Among the highlights of the final home-run call: Francoeur yelling, “Pour Larry (Chipper) a Crown (Royal).”
“It’s always fun getting together with those guys,” Glavine told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “A lot of us who played as long as we did together will tell you that you can go months, sometimes years without seeing guys, and when you’re together again, it’s like you saw them yesterday. So that’ll be the case with these guys. Certainly hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen all of them. So you know that familiarity is still always going to be there.
“There will be some laughs. I’m just trying to not get fired and it’ll be a good night.”
The pitching matchup of Spencer Strider versus Justin Verlander, two of the best strikeout artists in baseball, certainly fitted the occasion, even if both starters were far from their best.
“To have Tom and Smoltzie up here talking about Verlander and Strider, then Chipper to break down some hitters, I’ll just try to steer it in the right direction and keep it moving forward,” Francoeur said.
The quartet sat, from left to right: Francoeur, Smoltz, Glavine and Jones. They were treated to an exciting first inning in which the Braves scored three times. Third baseman Austin Riley blasted a two-run homer, which prompted Jones to clap – how could he not appreciate a third baseman tormenting the Mets?
New York quieted the enthusiasm in the second, however, with a five-run inning that included Brandon Nimmo’s two-out grand slam – which left the four-man booth silent for a few seconds. Francoeur mentioned the surprise of eight combined runs in 1-1/2 innings with Strider and Verlander on the mound. “We may be looking at both of these boys being spectators,” Jones said. Verlander completed three innings. Strider finished four.
As the broadcast progressed, Bally Sports showed highlights of the four players - some that prompted quips and laughter, like during the third frame when clips aired of Glavine striking out Jones and Francoeur. And during the fourth inning, the quartet spoke with a guest caller -- Braves legend and Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, who joined Smoltz and Glavine to form the “Big Three” that helped the Braves create the greatest era of franchise history.
Before the bottom of the fourth, the broadcasters were shown on the video board at Truist Park and received a lengthy ovation from the crowd. Among other key moments: Jones calling a Travis d’Arnaud homer.
Francoeur is part of Bally Sport’s regular Braves broadcasts, while Glavine occasionally appears as an analyst. This was a treat for Francoeur, too, as he watched the trio of Hall of Famers growing up, long before he wore the hometown uniform himself. He had plenty of fun, calling home runs like Hawk Harrelson. “Put it on the booooard, yes!”
“It’s really cool because there hasn’t ever really been anything done like this,” Francoeur told The AJC. “For three guys that I grew up watching, rooting for and going to (their games), and now having played with all three and become friends with all three, and having the opportunity to do this, it’s a really neat experience and something you don’t have a chance often.”
Smoltz is a national baseball voice, serving as a lead analyst for FOX, which has had him covering All-Star Games and postseason games, including the World Series, since 2014.
“What excites me the most is that we all played together and will get a unique chance to talk about this current Braves team, which is very good, and will enjoy a different style of a broadcast,” Smoltz said via Bally’s press release.
Jones, who has some broadcasting experience, is a major-league hitting consultant for the club. The Braves’ opponent was only appropriate given Jones’ well-documented dominance against the Mets. He hit .309 with 49 homers, 159 RBIs and 168 runs scored in 245 games against New York. He even named his son Shea after the Mets’ old home, Shea Stadium.
The rivalry has been rejuvenated in recent years. The Braves and Mets produced a memorable division race in 2022, one that the Braves won thanks to a final-week sweep. The Mets, under owner Steve Cohen, are sporting MLB’s largest payroll. They’ve underwhelmed this season, but history says they’ll be long-term contenders because of their commitment to spending to such lengths.
“The Braves-Mets rivalry has so much history and importance for the guys in the booth (Thursday),” Jones said (Glavine notably pitched for the Braves and Mets) via Bally. “Now, that rivalry has really been renewed with Mr. Cohen investing in the organization in a meaningful way, trying to build a team that can sustain a winning tradition. Obviously, we know what our organization has done over the last 25-plus years, sustaining a level of competitiveness that is not often seen in today’s sports world. It is always fun and rewarding to have our biggest rivalry on that stage with us going toe to toe. It (is) a very special night for me.”
This might not be the final time these players appear in a broadcast together this season, though that’s yet to be determined. It will be up to them. Braves manager Brian Snitker suspects it’s an experience the quartet might want again.
“I’ve known them all their whole life, pretty much,” said Snitker, who coached for decades in the Braves’ minor-league system. “It is neat to know I met all those guys when they were 17, 18 years old. … I’d be real surprised if it doesn’t go over really (well) where they’ll want to do it on an every-now-and-then basis.”