I went to Atlanta this weekend, so I’m going to wax nostalgic for a moment.
One experience I needed was a tour of Turner Field, aka “The Ted”. This is the current home of the Atlanta Braves. Although I’m now a Philadelphia Phillies fan, I grew up a huge Braves fan. That’s not true. I grew up a huge Dale Murphy fan.
My fandom for the Braves ended on August 3, 1990, when Murphy was traded to Philadelphia with Tommy Greene for Jeff Parrett, Jim Vatcher, and Victor Rosario. That trade was an outrage. They could’ve traded him for a box of stale popcorn and it would’ve been a better trade than they got.
So I followed Murphy to Philadelphia. I went to Philadelphia on August 5, 1990 to see Murphy. Thanks to Murph, I found my true home and I remain a die-hard Phillies fan.
But this weekend was about reminiscing. No appreciation of Murphy’s career could exclude Atlanta. And I like stadium tours. The Skydome tour is fun, but I didn’t get to go on the field because of a Monster Truck rally. The Wrigley Field tour is the shining example of how a tour should be done. I played catch with my brother in the outfield, the single best baseball experience of my life. Maybe next time we’ll bring gloves. I digress.
These factors combined to make this tour a requirement. We arrived at the stadium shortly before 11am, since the tours are given on the hour. I was excited like a 4-year-old who’s just met SpongeBob SquarePants. I ran to the parking lot next to Turner Field, which is where Atlanta Fulton County Stadium used to be. The outline of the field is marked, which allowed me to take this picture of me standing in Centerfield, where Murphy roamed during his greatest years.
I also took this picture, which shows where I sat for the first game I ever saw Murphy play on August 22, 1987. I sat in the bleachers next to rightfield, where the #6 street lamp now stands.
The Braves played the Pittsburgh Pirates that day. Seeing Murphy was a dream fulfilled. There was another dream fulfilled, but it wasn’t mine. Tom Glavine pitched his second game in the big leagues. He’d lost his first game in Houston several days earlier, but on this day, he notched his first major-league win, pitching a beaut. Have a peek at where he stood that day.
I’ve been a Tom Glavine fan since. (I was bummed when he signed with the Mutts instead of the Phillies after the 2002 season.) Here’s the boxscore and recap from the August 23, 1987 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
After swimming in fond memories, we headed to the stadium so we wouldn’t miss the tour. Upon entering the stadium, I noticed the giant number statues for each of the retired numbers. Murphy wore #3. I spotted it and zoomed to the location of that spectacular sight. It needs no further introduction, for its glory shines through.
Beneath it was this plaque highlighting his career.
Anyone familiar with my site knows that I like to rant. Since I’m happy about my weekend, I will say that the condition of this plaque should be an embarrassment to the Braves and leave the rant to your imagination. The important thing is this: look at those stats!
It’s absurd that Murphy is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame. For an excellent examination of that issue, read Jayson Stark’s column regarding Murphy’s eligibility for the HoF, written last year. He was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame in 2000, marked by this bronze plate leading by the entrance.
As much as I despise the Braves, the tour was wonderful. Dave the Tour Guide was exceptional in bringing the stadium to life with stories and humor. I commend the Braves for doing such a fine job with the tour experience. We visited much of the stadium, including the rooftop view, luxury suites, press box, and locker room.
Besides seeing Murphy memorabilia, the reason for doing the tour was to get in the dugouts and on the field. I love this part of tours. Did you ever wonder how good the view is from the dugout? I do, and here it is:
The only view better is this one, which Braves players see when sitting on the top of the bench, where they keep their hats and gloves and sunflower seeds. See if you can figure out why this one is better. (Hint: look skyward!)
Who could ever be unhappy staring up at that majectic #3?
I believe Dale Murphy will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It will be a magical day, with sunshine and laughter and cheers. I will be there and I’ll remember all of the joy I had watching him play. He defined my childhood and allowed me to grow into the beauty of baseball. This trip reminded me that I’ll carry that with me forever.