October 28, 1995. It was an overcast Saturday morning in Atlanta. On my way in to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution downtown I stopped for breakfast at the Silver Skillet on 14th Street, near Georgia Tech. While there I occupied myself with coffee, eggs, grits, biscuits and that morning’s edition of the AJC.
There was news on the business pages that the newspaper would be getting a new publisher soon. Roger S. Kintzel would take Dennis Berry’s place with Berry moving to Cox Headquarters north of the city. Unlike others who got “promoted” to Cox, Berry would actually accomplish great things for the sprawling company. Some saw a move to Cox as a step closer to retirement while Berry saw it as a collection of enticing challenges.
But the big news that day wasn’t the corporate carousel at the local newspaper; not hardly. What truly captivated Atlantans was Game 6 of the World Series, to be played in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium that evening. The Atlanta Braves had a 3-2 edge over the Cleveland Indians, needing just one more victory to be World Champions of Baseball for the first time since 1957 when they played in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
David Justice, the Braves’ brilliant but sometimes-controversial right fielder, married to actress Halle Berry at the time, contemplated how local fans would react if the Braves failed to win a fourth game. The Braves coming up short again, just as they did in the 1991 and 1992 World Series. It was the top story in that day’s paper.
Justice was quoted in the headline as asking,”What Happens If We Don’t Win?” He then answered the question, “They’ll Run Us Out of Atlanta.”
We had another 40 hours or so to see if the city would lose a ball club in such rare fashion. In the meantime, Atlantans could spend their anxieties as that evening’s game approached.
“Hooray For The Bulldog” …. Advertising sales people rarely worked Saturdays, usually just once a year. That day I was assigned “dog duty,” meaning I would assist in reviewing the ads in the early edition of the Sunday newspaper, referred to in the business as the “bulldog.”
Normally it was a routine task. One might find a half dozen incorrect or off-kilter ads in the 200-plus pages but as technology improved, there were seldom that many. Doing the dog some ten years earlier was a different story, but production changes had made the Saturday morning task much easier.
But this was a different Saturday morning. The Atlanta Braves were in a World Series that they were likely to win, even though Cleveland had a daunting lineup. The AJC not only had additional Braves coverage; the paper had daily special sections throughout the Braves’ post-season.
Advertisers came in big-time, purchasing additional ads throughout the paper and especially in the sports and Braves sections. So there were dozens of more ads to check out. Not only that, but on that day, we had to work with the composing department in coordinating which ads ran in the Sunday and Monday papers, based on whether the Braves won or lost the games — and the series itself.
If the Braves won the World Series, headlines in the ads would read something like “Congratulations to Our World Champions.” If they failed to win the series again, the ads would be headline with “Thanks Braves for Another Great Season,” or something along those lines.
Joe Winter, a manager at one of the suburban offices, worked with me on aligning the ads. After a time, it all looked simple enough, just a bit tedious. The people in composing were on top of it. They had been through similar situations before. The guys back there could be a cantankerous bunch at times but they were pros and most helpful. Many a time they would pull my butt from a sling, making a correction on an ad just before the papers rolled.
The October 29, 1975 edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution rolled off the presses perfectly. There were no complaints about any of the ads and there certainly weren’t any about the front page news of the day. The headline said it all: WORLD CHAMPS!
The Braves won the sixth game, 1-0. Tom Glavine pitched a masterful game, allowing only one hit in eight innings. Mark Wohlers pitched the ninth inning, getting the save as center fielder Marquis Grissom made a running catch of Carlos Baerga’s fly ball.
“Atlanta, the Braves have given you a championship,” Braves radio announcer Skip Carey joyfully proclaimed. It was the first major professional sports championship ever for the city.
Atlanta Braves 1. Cleveland Indians 0.
By the way, just to make sure the Braves would not be “run out of Atlanta,” David Justice belted a home run to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Justice knew his baseball and he had obviously learned a bit from his wife about dramatic flair. What great and crazy days those were.
The Braves now play by Cumberland Mall. The real “Atlanta” Braves are sorely missed.