By Baker Owens –
On a day when Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz were in attendance, the Braves season – and the tenure of the team at Turner Field – came to a fitting end on Sunday in a 1-0 shutout of the Tigers by the Braves ace Julio Teheran. After twenty years at “The Ted”, the Braves will be moving up the road to SunTrust Park next year. The game began with the “All Turner Field” team taking their respective positions and Glavine, Maddux and Smoltz all throwing out a simultaneous first pitch. A flag covering nearly the entire outfield was rolled out for the national anthem sung by Atlanta opera tenor Timothy Miller and the game got the Blue Angels’ treatment with a jet flyover.
The team had many giveaways for the game, including the requisite tomahawk but also souvenir tickets and the t-shirt cannons were out in full force. Many fans decided they would try for some other souvenirs from the stadium, including signs, bunting and even bricks from the pavement in the plaza. The number of security personnel manning the exits though was likely more than at Hartsfield-Jackson airport and they stopped a number of people before they made it outside.
The game finished in just under three hours, as the Braves played spoiler to the Tigers who were counting on a win to make the postseason, and then the final celebration began shortly after. Before the speeches began, Hank Aaron came out for a final “first” pitch and given home plate. He then stepped on a bus parked at home and the bus made its ways around the field and drove to SunTrust Park where home plate would find its new home. The scoreboard carried live footage of the bus as it made it way up the Connector and I-75 to Cobb County. A “Parade of States” took place where fans from all over “Braves Country” – the 16 states that make up the Braves broadcast area – marched around the outfield and settled in as an audience in front of the stage by second base. Braves announcer Joe Simpson hosted the ceremony and introduced Braves legends to give speeches – former manager and now Hall of Famer Bobby Cox, former General Manager John Schuerholz, Braves announcer Don Sutton and Smoltz. The feeling shared by many of the speakers and fans at the game was a little bit of sadness but general excitement with the new stadium.
Despite never winning a World Series at Turner Field – the one title for the Braves was in 1995 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium – there were plenty of good memories at The Ted. Nine of the team’s 14 consecutive division titles were won there and four National League Championship Series were played, winning one of those and playing in the World Series in 1999. Since the division streak ended in 2005, there haven’t been quite as many great moments, but they did win the division in 2013 and the team seems to be on the upswing after hitting a low last year and earlier this season. The Braves hope to carry the momentum from the second half of this season into the new stadium and make sure fans like what they see on the field as well as liking the new space.