Remembering the Braves of the 90s

Published 6:47 pm Monday, May 4, 2020

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It’s easy to fall into the “what-could-have-been” trap.

The 1990s were a stunningly successful time for the Atlanta Braves, who enjoyed a run that will likely never again be duplicated in baseball.

From 1991 to 1999 (the 1994 season didn’t end because of a strike), the Braves won eight division titles, five National League pennants, and one World Series title.

Yet there could have been so much more.

The word “only” comes up often with the Braves, as in how did they “only” manage to win one World Series?”

It’s a valid question, and being limited to the lone title does separate the Braves from other dynasties like the Patriots, Yankees, or Celtics.

Those teams had similar runs of success during a decade, or longer in some cases, but they won a bunch of titles.

Should the Braves of the era have won more than one championship?

Probably.

Does it diminish what they accomplished?

Absolutely not.

Like so many other Braves’ fans, I watched the replays of the 1995 World Series last week, and that was a fantastic trip down memory lane.

After losing the World Series in 1991 and 1992 and dropping the NLCS to the Phillies in 1993, the Braves had the weight of the world (and a starved fan base) on their shoulders in 1995.

The Braves shrugged off that pressure and beat the Indians, with Tom Glavine delivering a mound masterpiece in a 1-0 victory in Game 6 to clinch the championship.

At the time it seemed inconceivable that the Braves wouldn’t win another title, but they didn’t.

The Braves had a 2-0 lead in the 1996 World Series against the Yankees, but they lost four in a row.

After losing in the NLCS in 1997 and 1998, the Braves made it back to the World Series in 1999, but they flamed out and were swept.

The run of success continued into the 2000s and the Braves reached the National League Championship Series in 2001, but they haven’t appeared in the World Series since 1999.

So how do we view that era?

You can focus on the failures, and there were plenty of them, but that’s not how I look back at those days.

While the endings weren’t always happy, the ride to get to the end never disappointed, and how much fun was it watching Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, David Justice, Fred McGriff, Andruw Jones and company do their thing each summer.

Every spring, summer and fall for nearly 15 years the Braves made their way through a 162-game schedule in first place, and from 1991 to 2001 they made it least as far as the NLCS in every completed season but one, and that was in 2000 when they lost to the Cardinals in the division series.

There were so many special moments.

There was the unforgettable first-to-last team in 1991, and Francisco’s hit and Sid’s slide to win the 1992 NLCS, that unbelievable pennant race between the Braves and the Giants in 1993, the wild NLCS victory over the Mets in 1999, and of course the conquest of the Indians to win it all in 1995.

Watching Game 6 on Saturday night brought back some brilliant memories.

There was David Justice’s clutch home run to give the Braves the lead, and of course Tom Glavine’s impeccable performance, which remains one of the great starting pitching outings in World Series history.

When the ball nestled into the glove of Marquis Grissom for the final out of that World Series, the Braves had their title.

I remember watching that game with my dad, and it was awesome to be able to share that with him.

You know the rest of the story.

The Braves didn’t win another championship, but they kept churning out division titles until 2006 when they were finally unseated in the National League East by the New York Mets.

After some down years the Braves started winning again, and now they’re in the midst of another revival, having won back-to-back division titles with young superstar Ronald Acuna, Jr. leading the way.

I look back on those 90s Braves with a smile.

I wish they’d won more championships, and some of those losses (I’m looking at you 1996 World Series) still sting, but what a ride it was.

They were, even with the disappointments, the best of times, and thanks to skipper Bobby Cox and all the players for the memories.