Friday, October 10, 2014



(June 16, 1978)


Now established as a last place team, 1978 saw the Braves use their first draft pick that summer on a barely twenty-year-old slugger from Arizona State named Bob Horner. For a team that had crowned a new home run champion just four years earlier, here seemed like a potential candidate to take his place! A perfect compact swing playing in the launching pad? A lot of hype surrounded this selection and it was decided to bring Horner right up to the majors and start the third baseman right away. He made his debut against the Pirates and the tough Bert Blyleven. The Braves lost the game, but Bob deposited a Blyleven curveball over the left field fence in the 6th inning for a two-run homer! Bob hit 23 home runs that year in only 89 games to beat out Ozzie Smith for rookie-of -year.

Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth combined was what I thought!

Spoiler alert: Bob's career can only be considered a disappointment after his initial debut. On the plus side, he did have three 30-home run seasons and helped lead the Braves to their first division title in thirteen years in 1982. On the down-side, 218 career home runs can only be considered as falling under expectations after his initial splash. Being injury prone and not always seeming to be at the peak of condition are what led Bob's career to being  over by the age of 30.

(July 5, 1978)

Darrel "Nort" Chaney with chaw in cheek, slings one to first

The 1978 Braves under new manager Bobby Cox showed a little improvement over Dave Bristol's 101 loss team. But they were still clearly a second division team, falling far behind the Reds and Dodgers as it seemed they always did. They certainly didn't win much at Dodger stadium. Those too late games playing against a team at their peek and on their way to a second straight pennant seemed to always end in disappointment. But I still watched the games.

The July 5th game at Dodger stadium started the way a lot of them seem to. The Dodgers hammered the Braves Adrian Devine, Eddie Solomon and Jamie Easterly to grab and 8-0 lead after 5 innings. Why did I even keep watching? These west coast games were on so late. Didn't I have anything better to do? But I kept watching, because that's what I did. 

And the Braves scratched for three runs in the sixth. Well, a moral victory I guess. It was 8-3. Better than 8-0 and they at least had the satisfaction of knocking all-star pitcher Tommy John out of the game. But Lance Rautzman came into pitch for the Dodgers and killed the Braves rally and shut them out in the seventh and eighth.

It's the top of the ninth. The Braves are still trailing 8-3. Barry Bonnell flies out. Two more outs to go and no one on. Shortstop Pat Rockett (hitting well under .200) and Darrel Chaney (hitting barely over .200) are coming up. Why am I still watching again? Well, it will be over in a mintue. But Rockett gets a hold of one and singles! And pinch-hitter Chaney raps a single! Hey, this is getting almost interesting. Jerry Royster singles a run home! Bob Beall singles and loads the bases! A now befuddled Tommy Lasorda brings in knuckleballer Charlie Hough to face a rejuvenated Braves attack. But the knuckler can't find the plate and Gary Matthews draws a bases loaded walk to make the score 8-5! But then Hough gets Cito Gaston to ground out to sure-handed first baseman Steve Garvey...who boots it! 8-6! Rookie sensation Bob Horner comes up and...can't handle the knuckleball and strikes out. One more out to go. Terry Forster comes in and it's up to future star Dale Murphy who singles! Two runs are going to score! Tied at 8-8! Barry Bonnell comes up again and singles home the go-ahead run! Pat Rockett makes the last out of the inning.

Incredibly, there is a bottom of the ninth. Gene Garber comes in and retires the Dodgers in order and gives the Braves the most improbable win that I can ever remember. 

The Dodgers did go on to win the 1978 pennant and the Braves finished in last again, but the July 5th, 1978 game will go down in history! (At least in my history book)

Pat "Rocketman" Rocket turns a psychedelic double-play 

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