The times, and players, were special


HEADLINE: Pitcher John Smoltz

“It’s interesting because I spent half of my career at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium and West Palm Beach and the other half in Orlando and at Turner Field. Turner was a great place to go to work, everything about it was great.

“You have to remember that I saved 55 games (2002) and went 17-3 there (1998) with my best ERA as a starter (2.90) so those are two highlights. There is so much that took place there for me it is a blur, but I guess I will always remember my 3,000th strikeout (2008 against the Nationals). With my shoulder problems and everything, I didn’t know if I was ever going to get there. Now there a lot of people that say there may never be another pitcher that gets there. During that game, it’s funny because I never had gone into any game trying to strike someone out. I remember early in the game when I got to a second strike the fans went crazy. I got the 3,000th (against Felipe Lopez) and Chipper Jones ran over and hugged me and so did catcher Brian McCann. It came on one of the best split-finger fastballs I have thrown.’’

“But the other big moment was when I got my 200th win (2007) and it came against Tom Glavine when he was with the Mets. I remember Tommy telling me you will never forget your 200th because it came against me. He is right.’’

HEADLINE: Pitching coach Leo Mazzone

“What I liked about Turner Field was I thought it was a fair ballpark. As a pitching coach, I loved coming from Atlanta-Fulton Country (Stadium) which was the launching pad. We went from an enclosed, cookie-cutter park where balls just jumped off the bat to a park that was open. Also, the playing surface was excellent and we played outstanding defense and pitching. And remember that pitching came during the (steroid) era of offensive baseball when balls were flying out of the park everywhere. That makes it even more impressive.

“I think what was neat about the time I was at Turner Field (1997-2005) was we were in first place about every time we took the field. Also, we had three Hall of Famers in the rotation with (Greg) Maddux, (Tom) Glavine and (John) Smoltz, a Hall of Famer at third base in Chipper (Jones), a Hall of Famer in the dugout in Bobby (Cox) and what I think will be a future Hall of Famer in the GM in John Schuerholz. I even loved that the ballpark was called Turner Field because he was one of the greatest owners in the history of the game. Somehow, SunTrust Park doesn’t have the same effect on me.

“I think the best thing I liked about the ballpark itself was that it was designed with three bullpen mounds. We always felt that it would be possible in a pennant race or even the postseason that there would be a certain time when we needed to have three pitchers up at one time. John Schuerholz made the three mounds in the bullpen happen and it made so much sense. Also, I think my other favorite part of the park was the manager’s office because that is where No. 6 (Cox) was.

“We did a lot of great things in that park but the (Arizona) Randy Johnson perfect game (2004) against us will be one I will always remember. I remember when there was one out left in the game and Maddux was sitting next to me in the dugout and said ‘Do you hope he gets it’ and I said, ‘Heck yeah, I want to be part of history.

“But I think when I look back at Turner Field and what we brought over from the stadium across the street, what I will remember most is the 14 straight division championships and most of them were at Turner Field. With perhaps the exception of Yankee Stadium, there isn’t another ballpark in baseball that has had that much success.’’

HEADLINE: Second baseman Mark Lemke

“I played only one year in that park but I remember first thinking moving over to where they played the Olympics was pretty cool. I will say at the old stadium I had a corner locker with (Jeff) Blauser next to me and when we moved to Turner it was an oval shaped clubhouse setup so there was no corner to go and set up in.

“One of the things that has kept me close to the Braves has been being part of the announcing crew and it kept me involved at Turner. Some of the big moments I remember was the home run Chipper Jones hit off (Jonathan) Papelbon and the Phillies and some of the great catches that Andruw Jones made. But I think the moment that really stands out to me was when the San Francisco Giants clinched on our field (2010 Divisional Series) but they stopped the celebration to show respect because it was Bobby Cox’s last game as a manager. They tipped their caps to Bobby. That was really cool.’’

“I will miss Turner, just like I missed the old stadium, but we will be moving on to bigger and better things and a new place. Just like the memories we had at the Fulton County and Turner, I am sure we will begin to build memories at SunTrust Park.

HEADLINE: Outfielder Ryan Klesko

“Moving into Turner Field was like getting a new toy for Christmas. I also got to move into a new stadium when I was in San Diego. Everything was bigger, everything was better.

“The interesting thing about Turner was that first year the ball wouldn’t carry at all. I remember talking to Fred McGriff a lot about that. But as soon as they blew up the old stadium, as soon as they got rid of it, the ball started really carrying.

“But I will have to say that there were also a lot of fond memories across the street at the old stadium where we won the world title.’’

HEADLINE: First baseman Fred McGriff

“I really liked the newness of Turner Field. But one of the things that I never forgot was the worker that was working on the bank of lights at the park for the Olympics that fell to his death. I always felt it was a little dark at night in Turner Field than it should have been and I recall a lot of players from other teams saying that. But then again there were always a lot of memories across the street with Hank Aaron and the world championship and everything.’’


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