Bradley’s Buzz: Will our love for these Braves be everlasting?

Tom Glavine, the World Series' Most Valuable Player, acknowledges some of the estimated half-million fans who turned out for the Braves 1995 victory parade. (AJC photo/Renee Hannans)



Tom Glavine, the World Series' Most Valuable Player, acknowledges some of the estimated half-million fans who turned out for the Braves 1995 victory parade. (AJC photo/Renee Hannans)

From 1991 through 2005, the Braves were division champs over 14 consecutive completed seasons. The beginning of that run, the climb from worst to first, saw a fervor unprecedented in Atlanta annals. The peak came in 1993, when Fred McGriff arrived and the press box caught fire and the Braves’ 104th win clinched the last great pennant race on the season’s final day.

The ‘93 Braves drew 3.88 million. The average gathering at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was 47,960. Team president Stan Kasten said his club couldn’t have sold another ticket, which was almost true. Only once in 41 games did the gate dip below 41,000, that on a Monday in April.

The run’s end saw empty seats at playoff games. This prompted national ridicule, but what could we say in rebuttal? Attendance for Game 1 of the 2005 NLDS at 50,000-seat Turner Field was 40,590.

Said Don Waddell, general manager of Atlanta’s second NHL franchise: “The Braves won too much.” This wasn’t a criticism. (Waddell’s Thrashers didn’t win much at all, leaving for Winnipeg after 10 seasons.) His point was that, while the Braves’ era of excellence made the club the envy of industry professionals, the paying public got spoiled.

We mention this because the contemporary Braves are almost halfway to 14. They got good again in 2018. They’ve locked up so much young talent they should stay good. Last season wasn’t especially gripping – they took first place for keeps on April 3 and won the NL East by 14 games – but it might have been the most enjoyable of all Braves summers.

The postseason, alas, was a dud. For the second straight October, the Braves were done in four games. That’s not dissimilar to what happened at the end of 14-in-row. The Braves made the NLCS every year from 1991 through ‘99; they won at least one playoff series every year except ‘93. (The Phillies were the culprit then, too.) From 2000 on, the October fun ceased. Only in 2001 did they advance past Round 1.

This batch of Braves has won its division six years in succession. It won the World Series on its fourth playoff try – same as the 14-in-row Braves did. It’s hard to imagine the Braves of Acuña/Strider/Olson/Albies/Riley not winning it all a few more times. In 1995, nobody would have believed the Braves of Glavine/Maddux/Smoltz/Chipper would have gotten stuck on one, either.

The dynamics are a bit different. The players strike of 1994 set MLB back everywhere, nowhere more than in Atlanta. (Remember how the ‘93 Braves couldn’t have sold another ticket? You could buy tickets for the ‘95 World Series at a stadium window during the NLCS. I know because I did.) The Braves of that decade moved into a new stadium, but Turner Field didn’t have a Battery attached.

Also: The Braves of the ‘90s were built around pitching; the 2023 Braves hit 307 home runs and had a slugging percentage of .501, numbers no MLB team have ever bettered. As essential as pitching is, the paying public still digs – borrowing from the Glavine/Maddux/Locklear Nike spot – the long ball.

Also: The Braves are spending money again.

Also: With the expanded-to-12 playoffs, the playoffs are easier than ever to make. This wouldn’t have changed things for the 14-in-a-row Braves, who were never reduced to relying on a wild card, but it means the current Braves would have to mess up royally not to play beyond September.

The Braves have it going in a way few teams ever have. They’ve won their division six times in six years; the Mets have won their division six times ever. Atlanta and the South – there’s a reason the Braves call it Braves Country – have again embraced this team. Who wouldn’t embrace a team like this?

The thought of these ebuillient Braves leaving their constituency cold seems laughable today. But, just to be sure, they might want to win the World Series another time or two. Or three.

The above is part of a regular exercise available to all who register on for our free Sports Daily newsletter. The full Buzz, which includes extras like a weekly poll and pithy quotes, arrives via email around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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