NOTE: I wrote the following near the end of Bobby Cox's final season in a Braves uniform. I'm republishing it today to celebrate Bobby's induction into the Hall of Fame. Here's hoping that he will be joined in Cooperstown by his pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. (The comments are from the original post. The post itself hasn't been edited.) I've also replaced the baseball cards from the original post with some great videos of Cox ejections. Enjoy!
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Like most Braves fans, I spent more than my fair share of time criticizing Bobby Cox. I've yelled at him through the television screen. I've called people on the phone to complain about a move he made. I've cursed his name. (In my defense Bobby, in 1994, you kept playing Dave Gallagher! Why?) Through it all though, for every damn second of it all, I loved Bobby Cox as much as any fan could possibly love the manager of his team.
Did anyone think when Bobby Cox first wore the Braves uniform as manager in 1978 he would become the face of the franchise for the better part of three decades? He won after Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz left. He won before Chipper arrived. Through it all, Bobby Cox was our constant.
When Ted Turner dismissed Bobby Cox after the teams mediocre performance during the strike shortened 1981 season, he was asked what he was looking for in a manager. He said someone just like Bobby Cox. After four seasons at the helm of the Blue Jays, where he took them from the cellar to the ALCS, it was no surprise that Ted chose him to build the Braves franchise. It was Bobby Cox who traded Doyle Alexander for the young fireballer from Detroit. It was Bobby Cox who shepherded the young left-handed hockey player from Massachusetts through the Braves minor league system. It was Bobby Cox that rebuilt our organization around pitching by drafting young arms like Kent Mercker and Steve Avery. It was Bobby Cox that improbably turned Todd Van Poppel's rejection of the Braves into gold when he selected a young shortstop out of Florida with dreams of Ripken in his head with the first pick of the 1990 draft.
It was not enough for Bobby to put the pieces in place. He wanted to work directly with the young players around which he had built the organization. It was Bobby Cox who stepped aside allowing the Braves to hire John Schuerholz. When Schuerholz gave him a 3rd baseman whose career looked to be on a downswing, a tiny, light hitting shortstop with a good glove, and a solid if unremarkable first baseman, Bobby Cox turned it into gold. If not for a Lonnie Smith base running blunder, a Ron Gant weak ground ball to first and a Sid Bream double play, Bobby Cox would have turned the 1991 Braves into World Champions.
That day would come of course when Bobby led our team to 14 straight division championships and would win the 1995 World Championship. For many of us who were their in the late 80s, we never lost our excitement at what Bobby Cox had built. Gone were the days of wondering if the Braves would finish last or simply next to last. Gone were the days of empty stadiums where every cat call could be heard over TBS. Year after year we had HOPE that our ball club would win it all. For all the criticism leveled at Bobby Cox over winning only a single World Championship during that 14 year run, you have to wonder, what team other than the Yankees wouldn't have wanted to trade places with the Braves? Sure, the Blue Jays may have won two World Championships, but are you telling me they wouldn't have traded one of those championships for 14 straight seasons of division championships, considering that they haven't played in the post season since the 1993 championship year? The Marlins may have won two World Series in their only two playoff appearances, but are you telling me that their franchise wouldn't have been better off winning one and hitting the playoffs for 14 straight seasons? (Don't forget, for all the criticism leveled at Braves fans, we haven't drawn less than 2,000,000 fans since the start of the streak. There's something else for which we can thank Bobby Cox.)
I'm certainly not qualified to defend Bobby Cox against the legion of haters out there, especially those who are so narrow minded as to think you either win the World Series or you might have well finished last. I'll leave that to guys like
. Here's what I do know: before Bobby Cox rebuilt our franchise and returned to the dugout to lead our team, Braves fans didn't have a lot of hope. Every year since we've had hope. Even after the playoff streak ended, we've had HOPE. As a fan, I don't think I can ask for anything more.
Here's hoping that the Braves give Bobby Cox one last post season run. Here's hoping that Bobby Cox enjoys his well-earned retirement. Here's hoping that the Braves franchise and the Braves fans never forget what this great man has given us as baseball fans. I'll be there tomorrow afternoon to say goodbye along with a huge crowd of fellow Braves fans.
We'll miss you Bobby.