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Tail of the Weak 3.23

Updated: Jan 25


Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.

At the time of this writing, the Atlanta Braves sit tied with the Washington Nationals at the unexpected pinnacle of 1st Place in the National League East Division. Unexpected because, at the end of the 2014 baseball season, the team fired their general manager, Frank Wren, and hit the reset button, beginning a tortuous rebuild that saw big money pieces of the team traded for untested minor league hopefuls—the majority of those, pitchers.

If you were walking and breathing in south Georgia in the Nineties, you were unable to avoid the Tomahawk Chop—the FSU Seminole-inspired war chant—and the future Hall of Fame pitching triumvirate of Smoltz, Glavine, and Maddux. It was a magical time to be a Braves fan.

Bobby Cox fixin' to be ejected.

The 14-year division championship run—led by Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox—is spit on consistently by Brave haters and snide ESPN commentators, yet is an unheard of feat, unequaled by any major sports franchise in history.

The one World Series title, in 1995, was glorious—but images of what could have been in '91—Lonnie Smith's baserunning blunder against the Minnesota Twins. '92—a lackluster series between continental foes, the Toronto Blue Jays.

'96—despite winning the first two games in New York against the heralded Yankees, the Braves' hopes melted in the 6th inning of the fourth game after Jim Leyritz's home run off closer Mark Wohlers, losing the next two games and the World Series. '99—swept by the Yankees in four games and outscored by 12 runs.

It ain't easy bein' a Braves fan. Known for their late inning dramatics that often leave you on the edge of your uneasy chair—curled up in a pitiful heap of half-eaten fingernails, disheveled rally caps, and uprooted hair follicles—we still find ways to love our “Mylanta” Braves.

We soldier on, loving those memorable moments—like Sid Bream's locomotive chug around third base, culminating in the slide to wrest the NL pennant from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1992—Hank Aaron's 715th home run blast, edging Babe Ruth as the Home Run Champion of all time (the record books give that title to Barry Bonds; but, I don't recognize cheaters).

On July 24, 1992, a year before Lynne and I were married, we took my daughter, Megan, and her sons, Justin and Matt, on a weekend vacation jaunt to Six Flags Over Georgia, the popular little theme park west of Atlanta. The first night found us in a cheap motel with saggy mattresses and some menacing roaches—so big they could've bred a Chihuahua flat-footed.

The Varsity, home of the famous Fried Peach Pie.

We did a 180-degree turnaround the next day, finding a wonderful little motel on I-20 with the swimming pool right outside our door. That evening, we took the kids to the Varsity Jr. for a taste of the South since 1928. When they ask you, “What'll you have? What'll you have?”, you'd be smart to answer, “A Glorified Burger, fries, Coke, and one Fried Peach Pie, please, thank you.”—classic drive-in fast food.

As we were eatin' outside the Varsity Jr. in my well-traveled Ford Econoline van, I had the radio dialed in to WSB, listening to the game between the Braves and Pirates.

It was a tight one—vintage Braves—winning 1-0 in the top of the ninth, when the Pirates' Andy Van Slyke, with one man on, drilled what was a sure home run over the centerfield wall, only to have Spiderman, dressed like Otis Nixon, plant his left foot in the center of the padded wall, stretching elegantly over the fence with his left glove hand, to catch the ball for the out.

I've seen the Atlanta Braves over the years—at the old Fulton County Stadium in 1967 with Coy Crews, Ricky Thornton, Johnny Rowland, and several other players from the Memorial Drive Elementary Wildcat baseball team—and most recently, in 2008, when Lynne and I bought tickets in the All-You-Can-Eat seats of Turner Field. A short elevator ride up, we were welcomed to the private left field section—with tables full of pulled pork, potato salad, baked beans, slaw, hot dogs, popcorn, peanuts, ice cream, sodas, and kegs of beer.

Uncle Dave and Aunt Lynne, just before the eating began. May 20, 2008

That would have been enough to hold anyone over at a professional baseball game—but this was a double-header against the New York Mets—and I returned again and again and again to the overflowing well of sustenance. The Braves won both games; and, lucky for me, our motel was just across the street from the stadium, within walking distance—though, I could barely walk—so, Lynne just rolled me to the room.

The Braves now have a brand new home, SunTrust Park, opening in 2017. The only two veterans remaining on their roster from 2014 are Freddy Freeman and Julio Teheran—the rest are trade pieces and youngsters—Ronald Acuña, Jr., Ozzie Albies, Mike Soroka, Max Fried, Dansby Swanson, Sean Newcomb—pulled up from the rich farm system, all making an immediate impact.

The baseball season is long and brutal. But, if this year's Braves, league leaders in most categories offensively, keep hitting and pitching like they have over the first two months of 2018—come October, it'll be time to dust off that ol' foam tomahawk, break out that Chipper Jones jersey, and smuggle a Varsity fried peach pie into SunTrust Park for perhaps another magical run.

American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns

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REFERENCES

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Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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