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BRIDGES: Postseason baseball with the Braves: now and then
Chris Bridges
Chris Bridges

Postseason baseball is back and once again the Atlanta Braves are in the mix for what hopefully will be a World Series run.

The Braves won its series against the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday 3-1 in a best of five series to advance to the National League Championship Series.

Atlanta fans have been pretty spoiled, to say the least, since the early 1990s. Division titles, World Series appearances and even one World Series trophy have been on display during the past three decades.

Certainly, the Braves have underperformed at times in the postseason. In some ways Atlanta seems snake-bitten when it comes to postseason play. Still, at least more times than not our Major League Baseball team is in the mix. That’s really all you can hope for season after season.

With each postseason appearance it’s hard not to think back to 1991 (for those of us who remember back that far) when the Atlanta Braves went on a last to first ride and came within inches of winning the World Series. It was a season when the team was the talk of baseball despite finishing as runner-up after one of the most entertaining World Series matchups (against the Minnesota Twins) in postseason history.

Going back one more year, the 1990 season showed no signs that the Braves were about to embark on an incredible run which would give fans something truly special.

Atlanta went into the 1991 season with a new general manager and some key new players including Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream. With those two anchoring the infield at third and first, the Braves certainly had the potential to be better than the previous dreadful campaigns which became all too common.

However, the additions to the 1991 roster, along with a strong returning pitching staff, had many believing Atlanta would certainly climb out of the cellar. With names fans still remember such as David Justice, Jeff Treadway, Ron Gant and Rafael Belliard, the team was embarking, we would later learn, on a magical season.

I was a sophomore in college when the season began and often sat watching the afternoon Braves games in between morning classes and then working into the night as editor of the student newspaper. 

It didn’t take long to see that this Braves team was going to be different. There was a different attitude and even the losses were competitive often coming by a run or two.

I won’t try to convince you I knew Atlanta was going to eventually finish the season one run away from winning it all. In reality, I felt the Braves would make that type of run in 1992.

However, in addition to improving defensively and with their standout pitching staff, Atlanta now had legitimate speed on the base paths and in the outfield with Otis Nixon and Deion Sanders.

All the ingredients were there and as the 1991 season progressed the Braves were no longer in last place. In fact, they continued to hang around the top of their division and fans and media began to wonder if they could actually make the postseason.

Remember this was still during a time when only the four division winners made the playoffs. A team could win more than 100 games but if it didn’t win its division, it would not continue playing.

Atlanta won 94 games in the 1991 regular season and it was just enough to get into the postseason. The Los Angeles Dodgers finished with 93 wins in what was a tough National League West which also included an 84-win San Diego Padres team.

The historic season continued all the way to the World Series against the Minnesota Twins, the American League’s last to first story.

It is not sour grapes to point out the 1991 World Series had some controversy as the umpires missed numerous calls that hurt Atlanta. Many still recall the infamous play where Ron Gant was pulled off first base and still signaled out.

While disappointed with the final game, fans could not be disappointed in the 1991 season as a whole. It was something completely unexpected and the start of a long postseason run in which fans eventually began taking for granted.

Chris Bridges is a former sports editor for The Walton Tribune and The Covington News. He welcomes feedback about this column at pchrisbridges@gmail.com.