The Atlanta Braves have been around for a really long time — 144 years, to be exact. During that time they’ve managed to rack up 10,732 wins. They’ve been to the postseason 26 times, with 17 pennants and three World Series titles. Baseball-Reference lists 2,047 players in franchise history. The team boasts multiple Hall of Famers, champions, and award winners. In all that time, they’ve experienced some extraordinary moments. From game-winning grand slams to historic pitching performances, the franchise has a lot to look back on.
Picking just five of them is a difficult task, but one that must be performed. Since there is so much to cover, we’ll be splitting things up a bit. In this installment, we’ll look at moments five through three. Next week, we’ll cover moments two and one. Of course, each of these moments could cover an essay, so the descriptions are somewhat compact. But, let’s return to memory lane and find out just which moments made the cut.
Top Five Moments in Braves History: Part One
No. 5 — A Journeyman’s Slam
(Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds: May 20, 2010)
Nothing had gone right for the Braves in this game. The Reds jumped on Tommy Hanson for eight runs in the second inning. Atlanta managed to piece together three runs. They trailed by six heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Reds sent right-hander Mike Lincoln out for the frame. Before anyone could blink, he’d given up three singles. Outfielder Nate McLouth came to bat. He cracked a single into the right-field corner that scored two. The Reds quickly pulled Lincoln, replacing him with future Brave Nick Masset. He walked David Ross to reload the bases and then dealt with Martin Prado. He got a ground ball that looked as if it would be an easy double play. But third baseman Miguel Cairo bobbled it, and another run scored.
Meanwhile, Braves back up third baseman Brooks Conrad sat on the bench. A journeyman player, he had been with the team for one season. He’d hit a mere .204 in 30 games. It was his second stop on a six-team Major League tour. After leaving Atlanta, he played for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays. Then, he went to Japan, serving a year-long stint with the Hanshin Tigers. Back in the States, he played for the San Diego Padres before ending his career with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters.
But on this day in 2010, he was called on to pinch-hit. In a countering move, the Reds put in veteran closer Francisco Cordero. On paper, this should have been a one-sided affair. Conrad was hitting .222, and Cordero would save 40 games that year. But, Conrad proved the doubters wrong. He walloped a 2-2 offering towards the left-field fence. Outfielder Laynce Nix tried to catch it, but it bounced off his glove and landed over the fence. The grand slam reverberated around the stadium, which erupted in cheers. Thus, the journeyman became a hero, and a city celebrated a victory.
No. 4 — The 29 Run Affair
(Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins: September 9, 2020)
Baseball is a game that inherently favors the pitcher. Scoring one, two, or even three runs is considered a solid performance. A six or seven-run game is a very good day. Double-digits are a rarity. But 29 runs is once in a lifetime. The Braves did just that on a warm Wednesday night at Truist Park. In a game where neither pitching staff showed up, Atlanta’s offense erupted. It’s even more surprising considering the first inning was scoreless. But the team scored 11 in the second and never looked back.
It all began with shortstop Dansby Swanson’s leadoff single. From there, the floodgates opened. A sacrifice fly from second baseman Ozzie Albies put the team on the board. Later, a replay call helped the Braves keep the inning alive. They’d continue the scoring with three homers, four singles, and a walk. From there, they’d score at least two runs until the eighth inning, when they were finally blanked.
The MVP of this particular contest was outfielder Adam Duvall. He went three for four, with all of his hits leaving the ballpark. It was his second three-homer contest of the season. He became the first Brave in franchise history to reach such an achievement. The first came in the Braves’ second inning explosion. The second came in the fifth. A grand slam in the seventh capped the night off with a bang. Other terrific performances came courtesy of Swanson (3-4), Albies (3-6, two RBI), Acuna Jr. (3-4, five RBI), and Freeman (3-6, six RBI). All in all, the team hit seven homers, hit .489 for the game, and even walked nine times. The end result: a score of 29-9.
No. 3 — The Miracle
(1914 Boston Braves)
The 1914 Braves were not supposed to win. Much like the 1991 Atlanta incarnation, they’d been put through the fire. It had been 22 years since their last world title and 16 since their last pennant. They had yet to win a World Series in The Modern Era. Fourteen consecutive losing seasons preceded the campaign. They’d gone 69-82 the previous season. They also had four straight 100-loss seasons before that. So, in short, the Braves were not built to win…or so people thought.
But then, a miracle. The team started to win, and with rather alarming frequency. They turned their fortunes around, going 94-59. Manager George Stallings had them in the driver’s seat with a first-class ticket to the Fall Classic. But their foe, the Philadelphia Athletics, boasted the best team in baseball. Their .272 team average dwarfed the Braves. They had five Hall of Famers. Once again, the Braves were not supposed to win.
However, miracles were plentiful. The Braves swept the Athletics. Not only that, but it was a dominating performance. The team only used three pitchers, compiling a 1.15 ERA. The Athletics used six, putting together a 3.41 ERA. Bill James went 2-0 with an ERA of zero. Even though the offense hit a mediocre .244, it trumped the Athletics’ .172. In the end, the moral is that miracles are not all that farfetched. Perhaps it was a lucky Rabbit Maranville’s foot that got the Braves through the door.