Long World Series appearance drought finally ends for Braves


The 1999 World Series between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves was expected to be a classic.

Most baseball experts readily agreed that the winners of this series would be crowned as the “Team of the Decade.”

After all the Yankees had won the 1996 Series in six games over the Braves and the 1998 Fall Classic in four games over the San Diego Padres. The Atlanta Braves had already played in four World Series, beating the Cleveland Indians in 1995, while losing to the Minnesota Twins in seven games an all-time classic in 1991, the Blue Jays in 1992, and the Yankees in 1996.

But by the time Keith Lockhart’s fly ball to left field had nestled safely in Chad Curtis’ glove for the final out of Game 4 on Oct. 27, the World Championship had long been decided. The Yankees had won in four games, and once again the Braves had been turned away on baseball’s biggest stage.

After winning three consecutive division titles in the NL West, then what would eventually be 11 more straight in the NL East (the streak finally came to a halt in the 2006 season) there was not even a smidgen of a thought that the Braves would not get back to the World Season until 22 seasons later.

But, it happened.

The Braves went from 2007 though 2017 without winning a division championship, before finally breaking through with the title in 2018. It was the first of what has turned into four consecutive NL East titles.

Atlanta entered the 2021 postseason with the fewest wins (88) of any of the playoff teams but all closed out the year as one of sport’s hottest, going 36-18 over the last third of the season.

Atlanta was a clear underdog in the eyes of the baseball experts going into the National League Divisional Series against the Milwaukee Brewers, but won in four games. Even after jumping out to a 3-1 series lead over long-time rival Los Angeles in the National League Championship Series, the pundits still hadn’t given their full nod to the Braves.

When the Dodgers won game 5, you would have thought the series was lost for the Braves, but Ian Anderson gave Atlanta a solid start in Game 6, Tyler Matzek pitched like he owned the mound in relief, and Will Smith closed out the game in the fashion he was signed to do.

Then, of course, there was that Eddie Rosario guy who hit his way to the NLCS Most Valuable Player award. So here we are: The Atlanta Braves are back in the World Series, this time facing the Houston Astros. Games one and two were in Houston on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with the Braves hosting the middle three games of the potential seven game series on Friday through Sunday.

The final two games, if necessary will be in Houston this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. In the early 1990s I told my wife Barbara that if Atlanta ever won the World Series, that we would for sure be there for the Braves first home game of the following season when the World Series rings would be handed out to the World Champions.

That opportunity came when the Braves won the 1995 title. So on April 1, 1996 my wife Barbara, our sons Ryan and Bradley, and our friends Leon, Pam, and Jared McKee all headed to Atlanta Fulton County Stadium to see the Braves receive their rings on a very cold day before taking the field to take a 10-8 win over the San Francisco Giants.

That was the first time the Braves were ever able to have that special type of ceremony and they have never had one since. Maybe this is the year. And if is, then Barb and I plan to be in Atlanta on Thursday, April 7 when the Cincinnati Reds come to town for the Braves’ 2022 home opener to once again see those exclusive rings handed out.

Maybe the 2020s can finally be the decade of the Braves. The next eight years should be a blast.

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