Few things bond folks in the South quite like the Atlanta Braves. People who can’t agree on grits agree on Chipper Jones.
That includes South Carolina and Clemson football fans gathering peacefully to hate the New York Mets.
Most of Paul Finebaum’s radio show callers — like Jed from Auburn, Matt from Tuscaloosa — clash on War Eagle vs. Roll Tide. They absolutely concur on the need for steady middle relief.
Reports of Duke and North Carolina basketball fans standing back-to-back in bar fights to defend the honor of Hank Aaron are as believable as Dale Murphy’s smile.
SEC fans (except Missouri and Texas A&M) and ACC fans (Southern tier) can insult Bobby Cox all they want.
But if Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac 12 fans do so anywhere from Gainesville to Charlottesville, it’s dangerous.
That’s why a FOX Sports Southeast replay from April 27 to May 2 of the six original television broadcasts from the 1995 World Series — the Atlanta Braves’ only World Series championship — is such a cool idea.
Only on Zoom.
But during a prolonged coronavirus war that unfortunately unprecedentedly unites the world, it’s timely to have an extended replay of Braves glory that brought sports fans in the South together like nothing else before or since.
If such serious and frivolous things don’t belong in the same sentence, well, that’s the whole point of a sweet, necessary distraction.
At least for a few hours for six straight nights. The silver anniversary is a silver lining.
Sports networks have responded to “stay home” orders with some clutch programming. That includes ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (10-part documentary on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls) and MLB Network’s rollout of full World Series games dating to 1968.
The FOX Sports Southeast plan (also available on the FOX Sports GO app) comes with appetizers before each Braves-Cleveland Indians clash: two of the Braves’ three Hall of Fame pitchers from that 1995 rotation, 1995 World Series MVP Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, join Chip Caray for a preview.
The only thing missing is insight from Greg Maddux.
Alas, the former Braves’ staff ace was probably too busy playing pranks in his native Las Vegas (none better than the one pulled on Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant as Maddux played the role of bearded old dude who could still throw batting practice).
A retro-oddity about 1995 World Series telecasts:
• Games 1, 4 and 5 were aired on ABC featuring Al Michaels, Jim Palmer and Tim McCarver on the call.
• Games 2, 3 and 6 were on NBC with Bob Costas, Joe Morgan and Bob Uecker.
The split offers a nice variety of the best in the biz.
With the Indians still without a World Series title since 1948, it’s easy to forget the talent on that 1995 Cleveland team.
Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Eddie Murray, Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel, plus pitchers Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez and Charles Nagy. Also three former Charleston minor leaguers: Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Tony Pena.
No need for a spoiler alert. If you’ve been in the South long enough to try the fried okra, you know what happened.
Jimmy Carter, Mark Wohlers
That Saturday night so chilly and enchanting on Oct. 28 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium soothed a lot of heartbreaks.
From 1969 (damn those Miracle Mets).
Back to 1982 (a 13-0 start to the season and a Cardinals three-game playoff sweep to end it).
Of course, 1991 (10th inning loss to the Twins in Game 7) and 1992 (those Toronto Blue Jays).
The first pitch at Game 6 came from Jimmy Carter. The former U.S. president (and still a diehard Braves fan) threw a ceremonial hard strike before hopping over the railing into his box seat next to Jane Fonda, then the wife of Braves owner Ted Turner.
The last pitch shook Georgia.
Closer Mark Wohlers pitching to Baerga, trying to preserve a 1-hit, 1-0 shutout starring Glavine.
Costas on the call: “Left-center field … (Marquis) Grissom on the run … The team of the ‘90s has its world championship!”
The line is bittersweet. Atlanta’s glory-era Braves won 14 straight division titles, a sports record that will stand throughout your life even if your life just started. They made it to five World Series.
Just that one ring.
But for the purposes of this indoor exercise – a deep-dive distraction - six full games leading to a dramatic, wonderful, long-awaited conclusion is ideal sports entertainment for the whole South.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff