Twenty years ago, Atlanta fell in love.
If you didn’t live here in 1991 you can’t understand. The city was never more fun, with everyone unified around the worst-to-first Braves.
Forget the ’96 Olympics, a memorable two weeks, to be sure, but it’s hard to rally around the global corporate entity that has become the Olympics, especially when you have a miserable fascist lackey like then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch bad-mouthing your city at every turn.
There was nothing but good vibes surrounding the ’91 Braves, just three years removed from a 54-106 season. By August of that year the bandwagon was filling up, and as the pennant race tightened even the most casual fan was checking box scores. Football became a mere afterthought for one glorious month.
This week 20 years ago the hysteria reached its most fevered pitch when the Braves played in Atlanta’s first World Series, deemed by even objective observers as the best Fall Classic ever.
You want tense? Three games went into extra innings. Three games ended with the winning run scoring on the final pitch. Four ended with a team scoring the winner in its final at-bat. Five games were decided by one run. …
And best of all, the series didn’t involve a single New York team, instead bringing together the previous season’s last-place teams, the first time even one team had gone from worst to first in modern major-league history. Rather than leave fans nationwide despising the victors and thinking their favorite teams could never compete against the Yankees’ riches, it left fans with the most important feeling of all: hope.
After the Braves heartbreaking 1-0 loss in Game 7 I got in my car and drove around aimlessly. I couldn’t listen to the post-game show — too painful. Then, two days later, nearly a million people swarmed downtown for a parade welcoming home the Braves. Never has the loser been treated with such reverence, but that team deserved it.
It was a bittersweet celebration, as everyone assumed it couldn’t get much better than 1991. Then, a year later, it did.
I was there and it still ranks as the most euphoric moment of my life — sober or otherwise. It was like 1991 never ended. Unfortunately, ’92 concluded the same way, with the Braves coming up short in the World Series. Still, the good memories far outweighed the bad.
The best thing about 1991? No trendy Red Sox fans in Atlanta (I’m looking at you, guy on Virginia Ave. with the Red Sox mailbox). Those people should be rounded up and relocated to Orlando.