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The importance of the one

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Photo courtesy of Braves Archives

As Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium rocked around him, the roar of 51,875 fans mushrooming up, out, and over a success-starved city, a breath after Atlanta-born Marquis Grissom ran down Carlos Baerga’s drive in the gap, Bob Costas delivered his line.

“The team of the nineties has its world championship!”

Everyone who heard his words the night of October 28, 1995 understood. They remembered the gut-wrenching Game 7 loss to the Twins that ended 1991’s magical run, and falling to Pat Borders and the Blue Jays in ‘92, and seeing the 104-win ‘93 season go for naught with an NLCS loss to the Phillies. 

Disappointments all, even within the context of a team and a city that had accomplished little of note in the decades leading up to its first major professional sports championship. 

But now? A spellbinding performance from Tom Glavine, a solo home run from David Justice, and it was done. It was theirs.  

“It was a breath of fresh air. It was exultation,” said Wayne Coleman, who watched the celebration unfold from the same seat in the front row behind the third-base dugout he had held since 1982. “It was just delirium. It was joy.” 

A reflection of place: The story of WNEG

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Cathey Arbitter

Admittedly, it probably wasn’t a good idea.

But here was Jennifer Cathey Arbitter making her way through a wooded area in White County, Georgia to capture some b-roll footage for an upcoming segment. There had been a stabbing in the area, and the local sheriff wasn’t available for an interview at the moment. 

No matter. She asked where she could get some shots, and the folks at the police department told her where to look.

The limited resources of her television station — they cobbled together their newscasts with “shoestrings and paper clips” as she recalled some 20 years later — meant here she was, alone with a camera in the woods.

And that’s when the truck stopped by.

The gentleman behind the wheel seemed sincere and non-threatening. Mostly, he just seemed puzzled why there was this young woman lugging around a bulky camera so close to where he lived.

He checked to see if she was OK and what she was doing, to which Arbitter responded she was a reporter, letting him know there had been a stabbing in these very woods, and she was getting some footage for the 6 p.m. broadcast.

Kathleen Kelly would be proud: The story of The Bookshelf

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Photo courtesy of Annie Jones

There’s a scene in You’ve Got Mail, about halfway through the film, where Meg Ryan’s Kathleen Kelly begins to realize that it’s just not working.

The day is coming to an end. The last customers file out. She flips the sign from “Open” to “Closed” in the storefront window, retreats to table — a children’s table — to get an update from Birdie, a character played so wonderfully by Mary Stapleton.

You see, in the film she and her small-yet-merry band of staffers have taken their fight with Fox Books — F … O … X — to the airwaves and streets and everywhere else in between. Yet, despite the crush of attention, the humble bookstore’s foot traffic continues to fall and its sales trend downward.

It’s a sobering blow to Kelly as she starts to wrestle with the reality that this store, this charming Shop Around The Corner, just might not make it through after all. Birdie kisses her on the cheek, leaving Kelly to do what she feels is best.

COVID Vacation, Vol. 1: Freeways & Face Masks

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Photo of the Batesville (Arkansas) Speedway courtesy of Joe VanHoose

This was supposed to be a big vacation year for me.

After moving back to Athens in February, I had laid out a fairly long list of festivals, three-day weekend vacations and races to go see this year: the Shaky Knees and Sweetwater music festivals, my annual trip to the Indy 500, visits to Martinsville and Darlington for some NASCAR races, and a few days out in Colorado at the end of summer to play some golf with a few of my oldest friends.

So much for best-laid plans. By the end of May, it was clear that most all of these events and trips were off. From March through June, I hardly ventured outside of my house. And it was eating at me.

I was ready to cancel the Colorado trip, too. As a guy with Crohn’s Disease (an autoimmune disorder) who takes bimonthly doses of an immunosuppressant drug, I thought flying may be a bad idea.

Then, one night, it hit me: I could just drive there. Man, what a trip that would be. I could eat a lot of good takeout food, check out a lot of state parks and see plenty of sights that I had not seen before. Heck, I could take a full two weeks off to do it.

Conversation With A Creator: Matt Brown

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Our latest conversation is with Matt Brown, the driving force behind the Extra Points newsletter and a longtime writer at SB Nation. Extra Points is a newsletter that focuses on the forces that shape college athletics beyond the field, such as media rights, trends in higher education and more, and it operates in partnership with The Intercollegiate. This interview has been lightly edited for style and brevity.

BTT: One of the things that I hear a lot of writers say is there was some point when they were growing up where they realized ‘hey, I can do this, and I think I can be pretty good at this thing.’ Did you have a moment like that?

MB: This was a running joke in my family, ever since I was a little kid, that this would eventually be the career I would end up in. I remember when I was playing Little League, so I must have been nine — so I’m a nine-year-old, 60-pound second baseman — and I’m getting yelled at by my mom in the stands and by my coaches because I’m sitting there in the infield and everybody else is doing “hey batter, batter!’ and I’m doing Howard Cosell and play-by-play, like loud.

I grew up in rural Ohio where there weren’t really a ton of opportunities to get into this, and even though sportswriting and sports journalism and the behind-the-scenes stories were a passion, coming into college I didn’t really feel like that was a career you could actually do. So, I have this really weird, unique pathway to journalism. I went into school thinking I was going to work in politics.

The Legend of The Hoosehead

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Joe VanHoose looms over ESPN's "College Gameday" crew

ESPN’s “College Gameday” road show is bringing its production to Athens this weekend for Georgia’s home opener against Auburn. While COVID-19 restrictions will shift the broadcast inside Sanford Stadium, meaning no throngs of fans with outrageous signs, this does offer an opportunity to tell a story involving two of your humble editors here at BTT. On September 28, 2013, ESPN visited Athens to host its popular football preview show in advance of a Top 10 matchup between Georgia and LSU. 

The game itself was heralded as one of the biggest ones to be played Between The Hedges in years with LSU bringing Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to the Classic City to tangle with Georgia and its All-American running back Todd Gurley. 

At the time, Joe and Johnathan were working at a regional public relations and marketing agency with an Athens office known for its own brand of shenanigans and hijinks. Joe was knocking on the door of his 30th birthday, and the team in Athens decided to celebrate the only way they knew how — by printing out a massive photo of Joe’s face and getting it on “Gameday.”

Say it ain’t so

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Photo courtesy of Clemson University Libraries

A century later, the details are a bit murky. But one thing we can say with relative certainty is that in the third inning of a game at Comiskey Park on September 26, 1920, Joe Jackson went all out to make a catch on the dead run, robbing a Detroit Tigers batter of extra bases. 

In I.E. Sanborn’s Chicago Tribune account, Jackson stole a hit from Ty Cobb. According to Harry Bullion in the Detroit Free Press, the play was a “phenomenal running catch that killed a certain triple” for Bobby Veach, who batted behind Cobb in the Detroit order. 

Either way, there was little doubt that the pride of Greenville, South Carolina still had it, at the plate and in the field. At age 33, he was in the midst of his best season since joining the White Sox five years earlier. He would end up among the American League’s top five in nearly every offensive category, including his .382 batting average, 218 hits, 20 triples, 12 home runs and 121 RBIs. 

Though the White Sox still had four games left to play after that 8-1 win over the Tigers, the teams’ matchup the following day would finalize all of those remarkable stats. For on Monday, September 27, 1920 — though he couldn’t have imagined it at the time — Shoeless Joe Jackson would play his final major league baseball game. 

The redeye(s) to Mississippi

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Photo courtesy of Joe VanHoose

I had no good reason to check into a king suite at the Hampton Inn in Tupelo, Mississippi the evening of Friday, Sept. 23, 2011 — well, the morning of Sept. 24. I still had tickets in my pocket to the Florida-Kentucky football game in Lexington scheduled for that evening. I didn’t even have a change of clothes. 

Nevertheless, I slid in the room key, used the complimentary toothbrush and toothpaste to scrub away the lingering taste of fried chicken and beer, and slid into the king-sized bed. I looked at the clock on the nightstand. It was way too late. 

But as my head hit one of the five pillows on the bed, I was entirely too awake.

Huh, so that’s what Adderall does.

“Bream to the plate!”

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Photo courtesy of the Atlanta Braves

For the past few weeks, we’ve shared a Thursday essay or story with our full email list that we intend to provide exclusively to our Patreon subscribers. Last week was the time we’ll be sharing that content with our full list, transitioning it solely to our BTT Backers starting this Thursday. In that spirit, we did want to share this brief article that was featured last week for everyone to see what we typically include in this special newsletter for our supporters. 

Supporting BTT through Patreon is important because, yes, it shows us you appreciate the stories we’re trying to tell, but also because that money goes toward our writer’s fund so we can properly and justly compensate our guest contributors for their time, effort and work. As such, if you aren’t already, we’re asking you to consider pledging just $5 a month at our Patreon site so we can build up a healthy, recurring base of funds to support our contributors, and you can keep getting unique, interesting stories through our Thursday newsletter.

Seeing the Braves in first place heading into the final 10 days of the regular season — yes, we’re there already — inevitably gets me thinking about Octobers past. 

And when it comes to the Braves, one October memory inevitably stands out above the rest: Sid Bream rounding third, torso bending forward in an I-think-I-can chug, willing himself down the baseline before sliding across the plate as Mike LaValliere lunges for the tag.

Skip Caray: “He is … SAFE! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! … Braves — WIN!

If you look closely at video or still photos of that spellbinding sequence that ended Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, you can see that the right leg of Bream’s uniform pants is bulkier than the left, an unnatural framework visible around the knee.

A safe space

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This is a guest feature article from Donnell Suggs, who is a staff writer for the Southern Cross and a freelance writer living in Savannah. An active member of the National Association of Black Journalists, his work has been published in the Savannah Morning News, ESPN’s The Undefeated, Atlanta Magazine, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Newnan Times-Herald and The Atlanta Voice.

Riverdale, Ga. – Charles R. Drew High School Assistant Principal William Silveri’s silver SUV pulled up outside of Southern Crescent Stadium on a hot afternoon in September. He’s there to meet me to talk about his position as the assistant executive director of the Minority Coaches Association of Georgia (MCAofGA), and it just so happens to be time for the Drew Titans football team to practice.

Titans junior linebacker Kalen Justice walked by wearing a HBCU camp cut-off t-shirt when Silveri pointed his way, “See that shirt,” he asked me. “Come here Kalen.” The shirt was from last year’s Historically Black College and University (HBCU) camp held at Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta. Justice was one of hundreds of players invited to the camp in order to demonstrate their abilities in front of dozens of coaches.

Coaches from Florida A&M University to Fort Valley State University to North Carolina A&T University and Savannah State University were in attendance to name a few.

“We had commitments from almost every HBCU program,” said Silveri, himself a former high school coach who also worked as a guidance counselor at Riverdale High School. He knows kids and understands what motivates student-athletes at this level.

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