Bill Shanks

Time to say goodbye to Turner Field

In this April 4, 1997, file photo, former Atlanta Braves great Hank Aaron looks on as pitcher Tom Glavine places down home plate from Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on top of the plate at Turner Field before the Braves opened their new home against the Chicago Cub in Atlanta. Turner Field began its brief life as the main stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics. After just two decades as the home of the Atlanta Braves, it's headed for another transformation. The Braves are moving to the suburbs next season, leaving the Ted to Georgia State University.
In this April 4, 1997, file photo, former Atlanta Braves great Hank Aaron looks on as pitcher Tom Glavine places down home plate from Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on top of the plate at Turner Field before the Braves opened their new home against the Chicago Cub in Atlanta. Turner Field began its brief life as the main stadium for the 1996 Summer Olympics. After just two decades as the home of the Atlanta Braves, it's headed for another transformation. The Braves are moving to the suburbs next season, leaving the Ted to Georgia State University. AP

Something will happen Sunday that might stir the emotions for some, but surprisingly it’s not getting much publicity. It’s football season and the Braves aren’t very good, but you’d still think people would be talking about it a little more.

Turner Field will close for the final time, at least with the Atlanta Braves as the tenant. The Braves are packing up and traveling north to Cobb County, where SunTrust Park is under construction. Next April, it will be ready to be the new home of the Braves.

Twenty years in one stadium is not a long time. The Braves are moving closer to the people, and that’s not good for us south of the city of Atlanta. The population of that melting pot is nowhere near Middle Georgia. It’s north of the city.

Where there are people, there is potential revenue. And that’s why the Braves are moving.

So Sunday’s game will be it at Turner Field, and unlike the classic sendoff of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1996, this ceremony will likely not have as many special memories.

If you went to your first baseball game at Turner Field, you likely will feel something. It likely means more to you, and you’ll miss the place you first walked in to see a major league game.

When they closed Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1996, I was crushed. Since 1978, when I was 8, I had seen the Braves there. Sometimes I was part of only a handful of friends, with a lot of empty blue seats. But I was there, soaking in every minute of it.

I was there for the big brawl with the San Diego Padres in 1984, for Dale Murphy night in 1990 and a year later when Greg Olson jumped in John Smoltz’s arms after the Braves won the NL West. I was there for Game 6 in 1995 when the Braves won their only World Series in Atlanta.

So it was special. I have a few memories at Turner Field. I saw Ubaldo Jimenez throw a no-hitter in 2010. Bobby Cox’s final game as manager was special later that same year, as was Chipper Jones’ final game two seasons later.

But from a game perspective, the Braves had more bad memories compared to what happened at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. After getting spoiled with plenty World Series games in Atlanta (12, to be exact) from 1991 through 1996, we saw only two at Turner Field. The New York Yankees took both games and clinched the series in 1999.

The Braves were in the playoffs in 12 of the 20 seasons they were at The Ted. Amazingly, the Braves were knocked out on their own home field in 11 series (including eight straight years from 1997 through 2004). I was there to watch nine of those teams celebrate at Turner Field. To see another team clinch a playoff series on your home field is really gut-wrenching.

Atlanta’s postseason record at Turner Field was 15-23, so it’s not like we saw Sid Bream slide across home plate to win the pennant or saw Marquis Grissom grab the final out to clinch the World Series.

You could say Turner Field was Chipper’s house, as the future Hall of Fame third baseman had all but two of his seasons at the Ted. There was some great pitching there too, as Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and especially John Smoltz ruled the mound for many seasons.

Compare the Braves to a family. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium was their first home, so it was special. Then Turner Field was the house inherited from the parents after they moved away (the Braves got Turner Field from the Olympics). And now SunTrust Park will be that shiny beach house with all the amenities.

The Braves are rebuilding, and with the strong second half are moving into a new phase of that process. Now they’ll move into a new home, with the hope of stronger memories and more postseason games (and victories) to come.

But for one last time Sunday, we tip our hat to Turner Field. The sound of the tomahawk chop and the chant was always special, and if you ever had a good time there, Sunday will bring up good memories for watching the game of baseball.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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