The incredible Braves - and their fans - make one last memory

Fans cheer the 2021 World Series baseball champion Atlanta Braves during a victory parade in Atlanta, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Caption
Fans cheer the 2021 World Series baseball champion Atlanta Braves during a victory parade in Atlanta, Friday, Nov. 5, 2021. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Andruw Jones, five times an All-Star, was a Brave for 12 years. He didn’t ride in a victory parade. Brian McCann, seven times an All-Star, was a Brave for 10 years. He didn’t ride in a victory parade, at least not here. (He did with the 2017 Astros.) Chipper Jones, eight times an All-Star and once an MVP, was a Brave for 19 years. He rode in a victory parade as a rookie and never again.

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Jorge Soler, a Brave for three months, rode in a victory parade Friday. Same with Eddie Rosario, now known as Super Rosario. Same with Joc Pederson, wearer of pearls. There’s a chance none will be a Brave come 2022, but at this moment, who cares?

Over their first 55 seasons in Atlanta, the Braves won it all once. Then Soler and Rosario and Pederson – and Adam Duvall, too – showed up, and this sub-.500 bunch became kings of the world. Pederson would have been MVP, were such an award given, of the Division Series. Rosario was MVP of the League Championship Series. Soler was MVP of the World Series. That’s a trifecta that hadn’t happened and won’t again.

But it happened once. It happened here.

The Braves having relocated from downtown to Cobb County, their parade became a logistical wonder. It began at Centennial Olympic Park and headed up Peachtree. After a pause to regroup, it took the Downtown Connector to Cobb Parkway. (Yes, these ramblin’ men were in buses rollin’ down Highway 41.) The long journey ended at Truist Park, where speeches were made.

“Flags fly forever,” said Alex Anthopoulos, general manager, speaking from his suite because of COVID-19 quarantine. “2021 will fly forever!”

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Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman waves to fans during the Truist Park ceremony celebrating the World Series win on Friday, November 5, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman waves to fans during the Truist Park ceremony celebrating the World Series win on Friday, November 5, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman waves to fans during the Truist Park ceremony celebrating the World Series win on Friday, November 5, 2021. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Said Freddie Freeman, franchise cornerstone: “I’ve been saying since we won that it hasn’t hit me yet – I was numb. It hit me today. We’re world champions forever.”

Said Pederson, style influencer: “Guess what? We are those ...“ This being a family newspaper, we leave the rest to your imagination.

Once upon a time, the word “parade” was a local punchline. Manager Chuck Tanner cut a radio promo promising “a parade down Peachtree” for his club. Tanner’s Braves went 72-89 in 1986, 69-92 in 1987 and started 12-27 in 1988, whereupon Bobby Cox – then the general manager – fired him for allowing the 22-year-old Tom Glavine to absorb a frightful beating in Pittsburgh. Glavine lost 17 games that season. The Braves lost 106.

Back to now. Pederson spent the downtown part of the parade tossing strands of pearls to onlookers. Mardi Gras, sort of, in the ATL! Austin Riley, breakout star, held an unlit cigar. Terry McGuirk, team chairman, told Nick Green of Bally Sports: “This city has lost its mind.”

(McGuirk did lose his cap – to the wind. This procession was moving fast.)

The ‘91 ride was unforgettable because nobody saw it coming. This championship will resonate forever because the Braves spent four months at/below .500. The great Ronald Acuna suffered a torn ACL the weekend before the All-Star break. As Freeman said early Wednesday in Houston: “We lost the guy who in my opinion is the best player in the National League – and won the World Series.”

Even over the lean years of the rebuild around pitching, nobody forgot about the Braves. Still, these three months have brought a rediscovery – of how much fun baseball can be, of how crazy October baseball can get. These rebuilt Braves have won the National League East four times running, and somehow this crew found a way to surprise us. Anthopoulos, worker of wonders, remade his outfield on the fly. Those outfielders kickstarted a team. That team recaptured a city, and not just a city.

Explore2-page photo of the Atlanta Braves parade published in Saturday AJC
Caption
Braves players pose in front of the championship trophy. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Braves players pose in front of the championship trophy. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Braves players pose in front of the championship trophy. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Sports editor Chris Vivlamore did a stint Friday selling commemorative editions of the AJC in a drive-through across from Perimeter Mall. He reported one customer from Arkansas, another from Kentucky. Average wait time was an hour. As manager Brian Snitker said during the playoffs: “Braves Country is real. It’s a powerful, powerful part of our team.”

On Friday, as he waited to take the field at Truist Park, Snitker told Kelly Crull of Bally Sports: “Insane. This is just insane.”

Even those who expected massive crowds were, yet again, shocked. The scenes as the parade exited Cobb Parkway and entered The Battery Atlanta were astonishing. Area schools were out Friday because of the Braves, but still: Of the thousand memories made over the past month, this final memory beggared belief.

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