Archive for July 18th, 2010

I don’t know how much I really enjoy Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game anymore.  Rather than an actual game that the teams try to win, it’s become more of a juggling act where two managers attempt to balance the desire to win with the egos of highly-paid, highly-visible players.  I watched a bit of this year’s game, then turned the TV off just at Brian McCann stepped to the plate.  As a long-time Braves fan, it was probably sacreligious to do so (McCann is currently the Braves starting catcher), but the All-Star Game isn’t a big deal to me, even though the powers-that-be, having tied home-field advantage in the World Series to its outcome, have tried to make it important to the players.

Anyways, I missed McCann’s game-winning three-run double.  I’m glad the National League finally won again (they hadn’t do so since the last millenium), but it didn’t matter much.

I tell this long-winded bit of personal information because this year’s game got me thinking back to the All-Star Game in 1993…well, actually just after it.  I don’t even remember if I watched the game, but I vividly recall the following weekend.  I drove to Chicago to visit my younger brother, who was attending seminary there.  That Saturday morning, he and I made our regular trip to Walker Bros. Pancake House in Lincolnshire for their chocolate-chip pancakes and hash browns.

It’s a pity that we don’t have a Walker Bros. around here, and it’s a shame they’re not where you are (unless you’re in the Chicago area).  It’s been a while, but as I recall, an order of chocolate-chip pancakes came on a plate about two feet in diameter.  Six (or was it seven?) huge pancakes stuffed with melted chocolate, dusted with powdered sugar, and smothered with whipped cream…I hope the drool doesn’t short out my keyboard here.  Anyways, a second plate of hash-browns and a big glass of orange juice (breakfast is all about nutrition) rounded it out.  If you ever get the chance…what was I talking about?

Oh yeah…so we were eating and David asked me how the Braves were doing.  The night before, the Braves had blown a big lead in the 9th inning to lose a game, and I was kind of bummed (though the pancakes were helping).  But worse, they had fallen to either 9.5 or 10.5 games back in the National League West.  Yeah, this was the year before expansion and realignment, so the Braves (on the East Coast) played in the West with the Dodgers and the Giants.

And it was the boys from San Francisco who were having a phenomenal year.  Barry Bonds, having been signed from the Pirates during the winter, was having a monster year, their pitching was solid…they were very good.  I told David that the Braves simply didn’t have the horses to compete…we were good, but (and I could probably quote this) there was no way we could come back and win the division now, even with half of July and all of August and September left.  A 10-game lead was pretty much insurmountable.

Boy those pancakes were good…

But Braves GM John Schuerholz was going to give it a go.  It turns out the San Diego Padres were having an “everything must go” sale, and very quietly, Schuerholz put together a package of players and offered them up for first baseman Fred McGriff.  The names are fuzzy now…Vince Moore, who I don’t think ever played at the top level.  Melvin Nieves, who had a small career as a bench player.  And Donnie Elliot, a pitcher I don’t know anything about.  So basically some fringe players for one of the premier sluggers in all of baseball…and the Padres accepted.

It hardly seems feasible, but again, the Padres needed to unload payroll in the worst way, and every team knew it, so they were dealing from a position of weakness.  Schuerholz pitched the offer, and on July 18, 1993, the deal was completed.  The Crime Dog (as McGriff was known) was headed to Atlanta, though it would take a couple days for him to arrive and get properly fitted out.  But would his arrival be a spark to the team?  Was there any way the Braves could make up that monumental gap between themselves and the Giants?

Let’s revisit it in a couple days

Recommended Activity:  Visit Walker Bros. Pancake House – By all means, help yourself to an order of delicious chocolate-chip pancakes.  You won’t be sorry.

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