He fought back a smile as he hustled around the bases, head
down, eyes glancing forward, as excitable as a sniper. Andruw
Jones, a 19-year-old kid from the Caribbean island of Curacao,
had just launched a two-run homer into the hostile Yankee
Stadium crowd in his first World Series at bat, sending the
Atlanta Braves on their way to a 12-1 win in Game 1 on Sunday
and leaving a record number of New Yorkers with nothing to say.
An inning later Jones hit a three-run homer in his second World
Series plate appearance, and again he handled it as if he were
playing Sega baseball on the team bus.
Most teenagers get excited when their favorite song comes on the
car radio, but Jones is not most teenagers. He is, above all, an
Atlanta Brave, and Atlanta Braves don't gloat. They don't dance,
they don't shout, they don't jump up and down unless the last
out of the World Series has been dutifully recorded. Rule No. 1
for any player who hopes to enter the Atlanta clubhouse: Check
your emotions at the door. The Braves may lose a game
occasionally, but almost never do they lose their cool. Their
plane could skid off a runway and the team pulse would not
budge. They could nap in a New York cab. Of the four teams that
advanced past the first round of the playoffs this year, Atlanta
is the only one that has yet to break out the champagne in the
After the Braves fell behind the St. Louis Cardinals three games
to one in the National League Championship Series, they still
took the field as if they were the odds-on favorites, as proud
and poker-faced as ever. "The only thing [manager] Bobby Cox
said was, 'I don't know about y'all, but I'm not ready to go
home yet,'" says Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones. "That's
the way we all felt." The Braves didn't run through the
clubhouse walls, set afire by some hokey Cox speech. They just
ran through the opposition.
The Braves won their next five games, including the first two
games against the Yankees in the Series, by an aggregate score
that sounds like Steve Spurrier settling a grudge: Atlanta 48,
The Other Guys 2. The Braves reached double digits in runs three
times, setting the record for runs in a five-game postseason
stretch, and cranked out 69 hits. It was one of the greatest
October weeks in big league history. The Braves won the National
League pennant last Thursday and then headed to the Bronx on
business, briefcase in hand. While New York was still aglow over
its first World Series appearance in 15 years, the Braves were
busy trying to win their second straight championship.
October 28, 1996
Atlanta opened the Series by dismantling lefthander Andy
Pettitte and the Yankees, and followed with a 4-0 victory behind
Greg Maddux on Monday to take a 2-0 advantage back to
Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. A gala baseball celebration in
the Big Apple died quicker than a fern in a frat house. The
Braves were so efficient and professional, they probably didn't
even leave fingerprints in Yankee Stadium. The New York players
and coaches dragged themselves to the airport after Game 2,
unsure if they would survive the week or the inevitable wrath of
owner George Steinbrenner.
"I believe in fate, so we'll have to see how the cards are
dealt," Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs said after Game 2.
"We're running up against some buzz saws out there."
For a week the Braves consistently put football scores on the
board, but never once did they dance in the end zone. The
Atlanta offense, forever overshadowed by the team's incomparable
pitching staff, broke out against the Cardinals and stayed hot
in the first two games of the World Series. The Braves do not
possess the power of the Baltimore Orioles or the Cleveland
Indians, but with a big game on the line they simply Lemke the
opposition to death. They rapped 23 hits in New York, which
almost seemed unfair. Giving starters John Smoltz and Greg
Maddux 23 hits is like giving Butazolidin to Cigar. The Yankees,
meanwhile, batted just .175 against Atlanta the first two games.
The drunks who ran onto the field on Monday night reached second
base more often than the fearsome Yankee hitters.
"Right now we're a little frustrated, and for good reason," New
York manager Joe Torre said. "We've had two great pitchers throw
two great games against us."
They also had a relentless Atlanta lineup that went through a
remarkable change of life after the first four games of the
National League Championship Series. Fred McGriff, who struggled
early in the St. Louis series, busted out for 12 RBIs in the
Braves' five-game rampage. Mark Lemke, a .255 hitter in the
regular season, pelted the Yankees with four hits in eight at
bats in Games 1 and 2, extending his postseason hitting streak
to 11 games.
"Beginning with those last three games against St. Louis, there
was a real change in the confidence of our hitters," says
Atlanta lefthander Tom Glavine, who personifies the Braves'
stone-cold demeanor on the field. "I think as a team we just
took on a nothing-to-lose attitude. And some things in baseball
are contagious, like hitting with runners in scoring position.
The guy in front of you drives in a run, and you want to drive
in a run."
There is another thing that seems to be contagious among the
Braves--that cool demeanor. The players come from different
backgrounds and different generations yet meld into one
collective personality: confident and calm, as professional as
surgeons. Even a kid like Andruw Jones, who played leftfield for
Durham in Class A ball five months ago, strolled into the Bronx
for his World Series debut as if he were walking onto a beach in
Curacao. He didn't know much about the long, lean guy who threw
out the first pitch in Game 1, but why would he? Joe DiMaggio
retired from baseball 26 years before Jones was born. He is even
too young to remember DiMaggio's Mr. Coffee TV commercials.
Jones is younger than Tiger Woods and just seven years older
than Jeff Maier.
When Jones crushed Pettitte's pitch into the leftfield seats on
Sunday, he became the youngest player to homer in a World Series
game, knocking Mickey Mantle out of the record books on what
would have been Mantle's 65th birthday. Jones's second home run
landed in front of a wall that features all the retired Yankees
numbers, including Mantle's number 7. The baseball memories
rained down on the venerable stadium, and Jones, bless his
teenage heart, was oblivious to each and every one of them. "I
know those guys were great players," he said of Mantle and
DiMaggio. "But I didn't really follow the Yankees when I was
"He has no idea what he just did," Braves shortstop Jeff Blauser
said of Jones. "He doesn't realize how important the World
Series is to American society. To him it was was just another
game, except it was a game seen all over the world."
The Braves discovered Jones when he was 15 and signed him a year
later. His bonus: $46,000. "They kind of pulled me aside and
said don't sign with anyone else," he says. "Other teams came to
see me, but I wanted to play for the Braves."
This season Jones went from Class A ball to the big leagues in
less than two months, which is about as long as it took the
Braves' team bus to get from their Manhattan hotel to the Bronx
for Game 1. In his three minor league stops in '96, Jones hit a
combined .339 with 34 homers and 92 RBIs in 116 games. Baseball
America named him Minor League Player of the Year for the second
The Braves were in the market for a righthanded power hitter
when they decided to give the kid a shot. He came to the big
leagues on Aug. 15 and is expected to stick around for a while.
"He had been through four leagues and proved himself each time,"
says Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz. "There was nowhere
else to put him. We didn't promote him. He promoted himself."
"My favorite stat on him is that when the season starts next
year," Braves president Stan Kasten says of Jones, "he'll still
He won't be of legal drinking age, but that's O.K. The Braves
don't break out the champagne often. Once a year, tops.