Teixeira relishes his curtain call
Newly acquired slugger has big day at plate in debut
ATLANTA -- While likening the Mark Teixeira acquisition to the one that brought Fred McGriff to Atlanta 14 years ago, Braves fans haven't been able to forget the stadium fire that interrupted McGriff's debut.
In fact, count Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton, who was actually playing alongside McGriff that July 20, 1993 evening, and Jeff Francoeur, who was a 9-year-old suburban Atlanta kid, among those who actually only remember the pregame press box fire and not the fact that The Crime Dog introduced himself to Atlanta with a sixth-inning homer.
"I can't even remember what I did yesterday," Pendleton said.
When Braves fans awake on Thursday, it's pretty safe to say they'll distinctly remember the fact that Teixeira's successful debut also was highlighted with a sixth-inning homer. The opposite-field, three-run blast highlighted a 12-3 win over the Astros at Turner Field on Wednesday night and set the stage for a curtain call that he gladly answered.
Fortunately for the Braves, memories of Teixeira's memorable debut won't include stories of any press box fires. But that's not to say their new first baseman didn't ignite a sense of excitement during the win.
"I've had a few curtain calls in my career and the fans tell you," said Teixeira, who was acquired from the Rangers on Tuesday. "After the at-bat, if they're still cheering and they're still yelling, they want you to do it. It was fun going out there."
As they envisioned, the Braves certainly had fun with their first experience of having Teixeira in the cleanup spot. All he did was collect four RBIs, the first of which was actually tallied before he'd even taken the first swing of his Atlanta career.
"The win was most important," Teixeira said. "I didn't want to come here the first day and have a disappointment."
When McGriff debuted in Atlanta, the Braves were nine games back in the National League West race. With him hitting .310 with 19 homers and 55 RBIs the rest of the way, they won 51 of their final 68 games and captured the third of what would be 14 consecutive division crowns.
Thus it's understood why Braves general manager John Schuerholz doesn't mind hearing his most recent mega-deal compared to the one he completed 14 years ago.
"If Mark Teixeira can help us do that, we'll be delighted," said Schuerholz, whose team trails the front-running Mets by 3 1/2 games in the National League East race.
Like McGriff, whose only hit in his debut was the two-run sixth-inning homer, Teixeira introduced himself with a 1-for-4 performance. But the three-run shot and the bases-loaded walk he drew to account for the first of seven first-inning runs against Wandy Rodriguez, were certainly enough to provide a positive first impression.
During his six-pitch, first-inning at-bat against Rodriguez, Teixeira didn't take one swing. At least it made for a more memorable plate appearance than the one that marked the beginning of his Major League career in 2003. In that instance, he also came to the plate with the bases loaded and ended up grounding out.
"You wouldn't have minded getting up there with nobody on and nobody out and a little bit calm," Teixeira said. "But with the Tomahawk Chop going and the bases loaded in the first inning, it was fun."
Coming back to Atlanta, where he enjoyed a successful collegiate career at Georgia Tech, Teixeira feels the excitement of the pennant race. His only previous experience with one came in 2004, when the Rangers finished three games out in the American League West race.
"I'm definitely lifted up," Teixeira said. "I've never been more excited about playing the last couple of months of the season and having a chance to play for a World Series."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.