You fall in love

It was exciting even before the game started! October 1991

It was exciting even before the game started! World Series Game 3, October 1991

“You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat. Losing after great striving is the story of man, who was born to sorrow, whose sweetest songs tell of saddest thought, and who, if he is a hero, does nothing in life as becomingly as leaving it.”Roger Kahn

For fans of baseball and/or underdogs, 1991 was a great year.  In an unprecedented turn of events, both teams in the World Series that year had finished last in their divisions the previous season.  This “worst to first” fairy tale produced what some historians call the greatest World Series ever.

I didn’t know we’d be witnessing that sort of history when Drew, Matt and I boarded a plane at Santa Barbara, CA in October 1991, bound for Atlanta and World Series game three, the first-ever World Series game to be played in my hometown.  I only knew that seven-year-old Drew and his Dad had been having a baseball feast all year, with Drew’s beloved Oakland A’s just slightly more esteemed by him than his baseball-loving Granny’s favorites, the Atlanta Braves.

My mom had gotten us some tickets from a scalper a business contact, and my nephew Ryan joined us for what was more like a massive party than a ball game.  The game lasted twelve innings and a then-record time of four hours, four minutes, with never a dull moment.  I will always remember how it felt to watch David Justice slide into home plate in a close call for the winning run.  The stadium erupted into elated screams as total strangers hugged each other amid a deafening roar.

The Braves went on to lose the series in seven games, after winning all three home games and losing all four of the away games.  There must have been something extra-special about that “worst to first” hometown spirit that made the difference for both teams that year.

Having grown up in Atlanta, I was more than accustomed to watching the Braves lose, despite Hank Aaron’s thrilling, record-setting home runs and a stadium affectionately known as “the launching pad.”  But no defeat was ever as heartbreaking, yet still exhilarating, as the well-played loss of the 1991 World Series.  Nearly 23 years later, I still feel the way I did then; despite the agony of a close defeat, it was just as good as if they had won.

To this day, some say the series was lost on a bad call.  But none of that matters now; the loss was far more edifying a lesson for Drew and me — and I suspect, for many others too. To watch these players, so disappointed yet magnificently graceful in defeat, was to fall in love with a team that would go on to win a record 14 straight division titles.  For all their victories, though, it was their 1991 loss that won even the most jaded hearts of Atlanta, and much of the baseball-loving world.

Have you ever experienced a bittersweet loss that felt almost as good as a win?  Do you know anyone who has seemed more heroic in defeat than they might have seemed in victory?  In the poetic toast of George L. Scarborough, ” ‘A hard-fought failure is a noble thing! Here’s to the men who lose.’ ”

One year ago today:

A playful utopia

26 Comments

  1. raynard

    Julia, you look happy and not like some people” in a tizzy about their favorite teams. I live 45 minutes from Philadelphia and people around her go”Coo- Coo /Nurse Ratchet for their Eagles, Flyers, 76ers, Phillies . (i ‘m still a NYer So go Knicks, Nets , Giants, Jets, Mets& Yankees.. My bucket list( next to ballroom dancing is to attend a professional sports outing) Dont watch it much on TV and I might be “one of the last dinasoars to listen to it on the radio.. To me baseball is still a young mans game and they get paid alot of money for it. Bottom line you have to love what you do or you wont give your all and all.Got 2 request for cakes yesterday but i might have to turn them down and go joint venture with my wife. I still have other commitments baking and I dont want to”overcommit..’ Be blessed

    • Raynard, baseball gives me something to be interested in that is not worth getting into a tizzy over, since I am very tizzy-prone. It’s very exciting but ultimately no matter what happens it’s just a game. It’s funny you mentioned listening to games on the radio. Drew and I were talking recently about how listening to a game is an entirely different experience than watching it on TV, and in some ways is more fun, we think. I can remember sometimes listening to the Braves games on the radio after we went to bed at night. I loved the sounds of the bats cracking and the way Milo Hamilton would go haywire when something exciting happened. If you ever decide to go to a live baseball game, Drew would tell you to get tickets on the third base line close to the plate. 🙂 All four of us think that AA and AAA games tend to be more fun than the major leagues. Jeff, Matt and I love going to the Norfolk Tides game once each year near the beginning of the season. Good luck with your cake decision!

  2. Rene

    As a Broncos fan, I have a few. Some other fans might disagree with me, but I thought the Tim Tebow season was magical. Losing to the Patriots in the playoffs wasn’t quite a surprise, but I was just so happy that the team had made it as far as they did & really seemed to be enjoying themselves while they did it. I was broken-hearted when Denver traded Tebow to the Jets. I don’t care whether or not he was a “great” quarterback, he was great to watch.

    • Rene, I don’t follow football at all but I totally love Tim Tebow and during that amazing game with Pittsburgh that put them into the playoffs, I was online and saw a news comment about how the game was going…I did something I hadn’t done any other time in recent decades except for presidential election debates: I turned on the TV. I watched the rest of that game and it was incredible, what a great win. That was the first and last time I turned on the TV for fun in recent memory. I don’t know whether you are familiar with these funny “Hitler finds out…” videos but this one is one of the funnest.

      I can imagine how sad you must have felt when Tebow was traded. He has what Jim Abbott and David Eckstein had (both of the Caliornia Angels, different eras) – HEART. In my book, that’s what makes a player great to watch.

  3. You both look so excited. Interesting pic!

    • Bindu, that was one of the most fun things I can ever remember doing. Kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience!

  4. singleseatfighterpilot

    “East of Eden”

    • OK, I can’t even come close to figuring this one out…

      • I quoted John Steinbeck. Then posted a second comment citing the source. Who knows what happened to the first comment?

        • I don’t know – it wasn’t in the spam filter. Sometimes these comments disappear before they post. I hate it when that happens.

  5. MaryAnn

    Julia! You & Drew look terrific! Hats off to the photographer. Paul’s mother was a HUGE Braves fan. She lived in NC in “furniture making” country, like Lenoir Mirror & Broyhill. Paul’s brother took her to the Atlanta games many times. We took her to see the Braves play the Giants in San Francisco. She was here for our 25th Anniversary in 1988. She stayed a month. One day when Paul came home from work & asked who was playing (since she watched every Braves televised game); she said, “New York”. Then she explained that Atlanta was NOT playing baseball that day is why they lost so badly! We have laughed about that so often.
    I get a lot of heat in Northern CA, because I am a long time Lakers FAN! Shane played basketball at Armijo High School 1980 to 1984. That is when I got interested in the game. At that time, it was the “Showtime Lakers”: Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Byron Scott, Michael Cooper, AC Green, Kurt Rambis, James Worthy. Shane took me to see them at The Forum. What a joy! In Jan. 2013, he & I went to The Staples Center to see the current Lakers. Great memories.
    Sadly, my Lakers are NOT in the playoffs this year. My 2nd favorite team is still in it & doing well. OKC Thunder rock on!!!
    Continuing to ask God for peace, healing & good health for “my” Denton Family!

    • Thank you, Mary Ann, I’m glad to know you have some people with good taste in baseball teams. 🙂 You and Jeff should go see a basketball game together sometime. I’ve never been able to get into that sport at all, though I can enjoy football occasionally if I really try. But nothing ever comes remotely close to baseball for me. Thanks for your continued prayers! We all need and appreciate them.

      • MaryAnn

        As I was telling Paul the cool story I related to you about his mom, I realized that I laid a lot of groundwork & then forgot to finish. His mother had been such an avid fan, with so many visits to the Braves home games, that they honored her there. She was on the Jumbo-Tron, given a VIP tour & lots of Braves memorabilia. It was a special highlight she cherished & talked about to any & all.

        • Wow, a Jumbo-Tron star! I think that is so cool. I can imagine it was a great memory for her and everyone who loves her. This is the kind of thing I love about baseball. Thanks for sharing this memory!

  6. “He had an idea that even when beaten he could steal a little victory by laughing at defeat.”
    John Steinbeck

    • Oh, that’s a good one. I’m glad you re-sent it! Of all the games where failure is important, baseball is perhaps the best example. But learning to fail is a great lesson for almost any part of life.

  7. An exciting picture. My home town is Waycross Georgia, where the Braves trained in the spring. It was exciting when the Braves came to town. 🙂 My brothers were sports fans but I liked swimming.
    My husband is a big baseball fan, the Chicago Clubs.

    • Merry, I had forgotten (or maybe never knew) that you were a Georgia girl too! No wonder I like you so much. If your hubby is a Cubs fan, he totally understands what it was like to be a Braves fan all those years. Kindred spirits.

  8. Ya bit it? Nudge, nudge. . .

    • OK, I don’t get this one, either. I guess I’ve been hanging around the hospital too long…

  9. What a lovely story, Julia and an even lovelier photo!

  10. Michael

    Aren’t they building a new stadium down there for the,”launching pad” or was that just a rumor?

    • Michael, I don’t know about the football stadium that is planned. The Braves are leaving Turner Field, which was located where the old “launching pad,” Fulton County Stadium, used to be. The new Braves stadium is supposed to be in Cobb County, near the Cumberland/Galleria area.

  11. Michael

    I got to see a Brave’s game on one of our first trips to Atlanta when we first met out future daughter in law–Jen. I don’t know much about baseball having grown up doing individual sports. My son Kris is a huge soccer fan- Seattle sounders FC- and wishes his son a future career in professional soccer.
    ” Launching pad,” i.e. a good place to hit home runs?
    Callaway gardens was listed last week in Parade Magazine as one of the top ten public gardens in the nation. Supposed to be spectacular. I had never heard of it.
    Good luck with blueberries. Ours are starting to leaf out. “The Western Garden Book” has a list of deer resistant plants. I think Rosemary might be one of them. And these are great hummingbird attractors.

    • Michael, some people thought the stadium was called the Launching Pad because of its circular shape, but most reliable sources (including this interesting article that brings back a lot of happy memories for me) attribute it to the fact that a lot of home runs were hit there, due to factors related to its construction and elevation.

      I agree with the high assessment of Callaway Gardens, and I think the popularity of the Azalea among Georgia homeowners might have increased significantly from the dazzling beauty of the springtime displays there. Bo Callaway, a graduate of Georgia Tech and West Point, helped his father develop the gardens. He later (1966) ran for governor against the legendary segregationist Lester Maddox, and lost to him in a very close election. Callaway was the first Republican to even attempt running for governor since 1876. I can remember wearing my “Go Bo” button even though I was just a little kid at the time. I later met Maddox in person when our school class visited the state capital. Like George Wallace and many another southern Democrat, he did an about-face politically regarding segregation when it became politically expedient to do so. As Raynard says, “I digress” which is not too unusual for me!

      One of my goals for retirement is to read up on different plants and shrubs and do various projects around our yard and wooded lot. Jeff enjoys that type of work and really hopes he will be able to get back to it soon. We have a lawn service taking care of the York home right now, which is a first-time-ever situation for us.

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