Braves mark special anniversary
Festivities celebrate 1995 World Series championship
ATLANTA -- Take away the crowning moment, and the Braves' accomplishments are still remarkable. But the fact that they have one World Series championship to go along with their 13 consecutive division titles strengthens their case to be considered a dynasty.
It was 10 years ago that David Justice hit the memorable home run and Tom Glavine provided the masterpiece that allowed the Braves to win the 1995 World Series against the Cleveland Indians and give the city of Atlanta its first major professional sports championship.
A little older and a few more World Series experiences later, Justice was reunited with many of his 1995 Braves teammates on Friday at Turner Field. They were there to celebrate the 10th anniversary of a moment they and many of their fans will never forget.
"This is the 10-year celebration of the greatest time in this city's professional sports history," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "You can just tell by the look in guys' eyes, no matter what they've achieved, that this is a special accomplishment and always will be special."
During an on-field ceremony before Friday night's game against the Padres, Schuerholz stood proudly behind the World Series championship trophy, flanked by many members of that World Series team. Among them were Chipper Jones, John Smoltz and Eddie Perez, the only players on this year's team who were around 10 years ago.
"The memories will never be forgotten," Smoltz said. "It was a fun team. It's hard to believe it's been 10 years."
Others former players who attended the day's festivities, which began with the club's annual Hall of Fame induction luncheon, included Steve Avery, Jeff Blauser, Rafael Belliard, Charlie O'Brien, Mark Lemke, Greg McMichael, Mike Devereaux, Alejandro Pena and Dwight Smith, who sang the national anthem before Friday's game.
Braves manager Bobby Cox enjoyed the opportunity to see some of his former players. And he was pleased to see former trainer Dave Pursley and former coaches Jimy Williams and Jim Beauchamp.
"It's always nice to have days like this, where you can see the guys," Cox said.
After some reluctance, Ryan Klesko, who hit a home run in each of the three road games in Cleveland that October, participated in the pregame on-field ceremony. When his name was announced, the current Padres outfielder received a loud ovation and many hugs from his former teammates.
"My most enjoyable World Series was with the Yankees, because everything was going great in my life," said Justice, who was a part of New York's 2000 World Series championship team. "But the one with the Braves was a special one, because I did it with my brothers. I did it with my family."
It was Justice's sixth-inning solo homer and Glavine's eight innings of one-hit ball that helped the Braves claim a 1-0 Game 6 victory and clinch the World Series against Cleveland. But as the group reminisced, they remembered there was a lot more that had taken them to their goal.
Devereaux, whom Schuerholz picked up in an August waiver deal, won National League Championship Series MVP honors. On his way to a fourth consecutive Cy Young Award, Greg Maddux went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. And Mark Wohlers posted 25 saves and proved to be the reliable closer the team needed.
"Everybody on our team could go home at night, look in the mirror and say, 'I helped this team win,'" Justice said. "As a player, there's nothing better than that."
Maddux, Glavine and Javy Lopez, who are playing with other teams, sent videotaped messages to their teammates, wishing them well and reminiscing about their championship together.
"I wish I was there," Maddux said. "But, no, I really don't, because I'm still playing."
With Jones still in Atlanta and serving as an elder statesman, he believes this year's young team is similar to the one in 1995. During that year, he, Klesko, Lopez and Brad Clontz were all rookies who made significant contributions.
As Jones looked back on his rookie season, he remembered sharing an area of the locker room with O'Brien, Lemke and Blauser, the former double-play combo that was known to take a few puffs off cigarettes.
One day, O'Brien told the rookie third baseman, "You've got to get out of this area. Lemke and Blauser are going to kill you with second-hand smoke."
Jones, Smoltz and Perez aren't the only members of that team who are still around. Coaches Pat Corrales, Leo Mazzone and Bobby Dews, director of team travel/equipment manager Bill Acree, trainer Jeff Porter and clubhouse attendants Chris Van Zant, John Holland and Fred Stone are all still Braves as well.
"I've been a lot of places," Justice said. "But I'm always a Brave and will always be a Brave. This is where my heart will always be."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.