10/04/2004 4:55 PM ET
Fans get pumped on 'Rally Monday'
Braves backers celebrate club at CNN Center
By Jon Cooper / Special to MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Braves fans packed the atrium of the CNN Center to
celebrate "Rally Monday" and show support for their team, which opens its
National League Division Series against the Houston Astros Wednesday
Among the dignitaries addressing the fans were Atlanta Mayor Shirley
Franklin, long-time announcer Pete Van Wieren, former announcer Ernie
Johnson, Braves chairman and president Terry McGuirk and executive vice
president and general manager John Schuerholz.
Johnson emceed the event, reminiscing with several former players, including
Sid Bream, Greg Olson, Mark Lemke, Jeff Treadway, and Jay Howell.
After a 30-minute autograph session for fans, Johnson took the stage.
"They got all the old folks," said Johnson with a laugh. "Old players, old
McGuirk kicked things off.
"We're so proud of this team," he said. "The watchword for this team is grit,
enthusiasm and youth."
Johnson then introduced Franklin, "our No. 1 fan" who was named an honorary
"Are we ready for a win?" prompted Franklin, who received a thunderous
"I'll be in the crowd Wednesday. I'll see you there," she said before
introducing a highlight video commemorating the Braves' 13 straight division
The fans roared loudest at the mention of current Braves, especially manager
Bobby Cox, who talked with the crowd via phone from Turner Field, where the
team was taking part in an off-day workout.
"I¹m glad they're there," said Cox. "I'm looking forward to having them at
the Ted Wednesday."
The former Braves expressed their appreciation for Atlanta's fans.
"I'll always remember the support of the fans," said Lemke, who played with
the Braves from 1988 through 1997. "Players would come in to the clubhouse
and talk about the outpouring of affection. So if you fans don't think the
players recognize you, they do."
Howell, who played with the Braves in 1993, recalled the '91 season, which
he played with the then-rival Los Angeles Dodgers. He recalled a
doubleheader at Fulton County Stadium, which the Braves swept. He stressed
that the fans made the difference.
"Sid Bream hit a grand slam in the first inning," he recalled. "I remember
the sea of tomahawks and that eerie sound [of the Braves chant]. We were
Besides the fans' support, the parallel between this team and the '91
worst-to-first team was a common theme.
"I told the players here from the 1991 team you started this," said
Schuerholz, introduced by Johnson as "a young man who came to Atlanta in
1990, the best general manager in baseball."
"The kind of team we had in '91
had the kind of youth and classy players. This year's team is a lot like
The fans in attendance certainly have gotten behind this team.
"I'm glad to see the fans come out," said Sam Bruner, of Duluth, Ga., carrying
his one-year-old son, Jack, clad in a Chipper Jones jersey. "I love Chuckie
T. and all the young players. I saw them all at a game in Richmond earlier
this year and now they're here. This is a special year. It feels like '91."
Nathan and Denise Creel of Decatur brought their 3-year-old son, Jamari,
who did "The Chop" when asked about his favorite part of the Braves.
"I've been a Braves fan as long as I can remember. Back in the days of Glenn
Hubbard and Bob Horner," said Nathan. "This team never gives up. Bobby's the
"I like the togetherness," said Denise. "We¹re going to [Games 1 and 2]
hopefully all the way."
Fans left the atrium energized whether they'd gotten an autograph, won one
of the many prizes, including autographed memorabilia and game tickets or
just enjoyed the atmosphere that featured entertainment from the percussion
group "The Heavy Hitters" and "The Walking Encyclopedia" Walter Banks.
"I hope every city had as good a turnout as we had here," said Johnson, in
reference to the seven other cities holding similar rallies for their
playoff-bound teams. "It's been a great day."
Jon Cooper is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.