Dan's Dugout: Braves began record streak 25 years ago • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Braves began record streak 25 years ago

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The 1991 Atlanta Braves remain the only team in baseball history to jump from worst in the majors to World Series overnight.

Both those Braves and the Minnesota Twins, who beat them in a World Series that stretched to the tenth inning of Game 7, were also the first teams to jump from last place to first place — a feat that has occurred quite a few times since.

Though the Twins proved to be a flash in the pan, the Braves were built to last. In fact, they lasted 14 straight seasons — a professional sports record that has never been challenged.

For three years in the National League West and 11 years after their move to the National League East, Atlanta finished in first place. The team won more pennants (5) in the ’90s than any other team and more games during their streak than any other team.

Dan Schlossberg's new book documents the 14-year title streak

Dan Schlossberg’s new book documents the 14-year title streak

To celebrate the 25th anniversary, this writer crafted a 292-page hardcover book called When the Braves Ruled the Diamond: Fourteen Flags Over Atlanta.

Divided into two major sections — personalities and performances — the title features a foreword by Bobby Cox and individual chapters on Cox, general manager John Schuerholz, pitching coach Leo Mazzone, star pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz, and the bookend MVPs, Terry Pendleton and Chipper Jones (both third basemen whose won batting crowns).

The book reveals that only three men — Cox, Mazzone, and Smoltz — wore Braves uniforms throughout the 14-year streak. It covers in detail the exploits of the three main starters, all of whom went to the Hall of Fame without ever throwing a no-hitter, and such supporting cast members as Kent Mercker, who was involved in two of them.

It also delves into the enigma of Schuerholz, a former Baltimore schoolteacher whose became the

GM John Schuerholz and manager Bobby Cox formed a winning team

GM John Schuerholz and manager Bobby Cox formed a winning team

first general manager to win world championships in both leagues and a doo wop enthusiast who let down his suspenders to dance to rap music as the team plane headed to Minnesota for the World Series.

It was Schuerholz whose imports of Maddux and Fred McGriff in the same season sparked the last pure pennant race: the 1993 NL West battle between the Braves, whose last-season comeback ended with 104 wins, and the San Francisco Giants, who finished with 103.

There were other great races too, several decided on the final weekend (notably 1991), by a team whose pitching was so strong that it rarely lost three games in a row. Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz won a combined six Cy Young Awards en route to Cooperstown, where Cox is already enshrined and Chipper is certain to follow when he becomes eligible in 2018.

The Hall of Fame might also find spots for Schuerholz and Andruw Jones, the gifted centerfielder whose resume includes a club-record 51 homers in a season and 10 straight Gold Gloves. Both will be inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame this season.

Andruw Jones won 10 Gold Gloves in center field

Andruw Jones won 10 Gold Gloves in center field

Fourteen Flags also tells the stories of Andres Galarraga, the Venezuelan first baseman whose power did not diminish after leaving Denver but disappeared after cancer sapped his strength; Julio Franco, an ancient infielder rediscovered in the Mexican League; John Rocker, a talented closer who talked his way off the team; and the two Braves who married Hollywood legends, slugger David Justice (Halle Berry) and club owner Ted Turner, a mercurial television magnate whose marriage to Jane Fonda played second fiddle to the collapse of the Soviet Union on the same day.

The book was fun to write, from the saga of the Tomahawk Chop to the record number of ejections slapped on Cox, a passionate partisan whose clubs won 100 games six times. Mazzone, his unorthodox rocking pitching coach, uses the F word more often than Tony Soprano but his record speaks for itself.

Things have changed in 25 years. Schuerholz is team president, Cox is a trusted advisor, Glavine is

Current Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez was 1999 NLCS MVP

Current Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez was 1999 NLCS MVP

an occasional broadcaster, 1999 Championship Series MVP Eddie Perez is bullpen coach, Chipper and Andruw Jones are spring training instructors, and the only player left from the streak years is Jeff Francoeur, one of 18 rookies who helped Cox stagger to the last of his 14 titles in 2005.

Readers of this column who want signed copies of the book can find me at Bookends in Ridgewood, NJ on April 23, Englewood (NJ) Library on May 17, the Yogi Berra Museum on May 22, Springfield (NJ) Library on June 7, and Turner Field on June 11, and Bergino’s Baseball Clubhouse in New York on June 23. Otherwise, the $24.95 book may be ordered from amazon.com.

Elsewhere in baseball:

The Toronto Blue Jays believe they bolstered their bullpen by signing Rafael Soriano, the former Yankee closer who still throws bullets at age 36 . . .

No surprise that the Los Angeles Dodgers have named Clayton Kershaw to start his sixth straight opening game . . .

Johnny Cueto returns to the NL with San Francisco

Johnny Cueto returns to the NL with San Francisco

After pitching in hitter-friendly Great American Ballpark last year, Johnny Cueto is confident his record will improve now that he’s in San Francisco’s AT&T Park . . .

To protect the young arms in their rotation, the New York Mets are strongly considering switching to a six-man rotation when Zack Wheeler returns from Tommy John surgery in July.

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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