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Fans get pumped on 'Rally Monday'
10/04/2004 4:55 PM ET
ATLANTA -- Braves fans packed the atrium of the CNN Center to celebrate "Rally Monday" and show support for their team, which opens its National League Division Series against the Houston Astros Wednesday afternoon.

Among the dignitaries addressing the fans were Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, long-time announcer Pete Van Wieren, former announcer Ernie Johnson, Braves chairman and president Terry McGuirk and executive vice president and general manager John Schuerholz.

Johnson emceed the event, reminiscing with several former players, including Sid Bream, Greg Olson, Mark Lemke, Jeff Treadway, and Jay Howell.

After a 30-minute autograph session for fans, Johnson took the stage.

"They got all the old folks," said Johnson with a laugh. "Old players, old announcers."

McGuirk kicked things off.

"We're so proud of this team," he said. "The watchword for this team is grit, enthusiasm and youth."

Johnson then introduced Franklin, "our No. 1 fan" who was named an honorary Atlanta Brave.

"Are we ready for a win?" prompted Franklin, who received a thunderous response.

"I'll be in the crowd Wednesday. I'll see you there," she said before introducing a highlight video commemorating the Braves' 13 straight division titles.

The fans roared loudest at the mention of current Braves, especially manager Bobby Cox, who talked with the crowd via phone from Turner Field, where the team was taking part in an off-day workout.

"I¹m glad they're there," said Cox. "I'm looking forward to having them at the Ted Wednesday."

The former Braves expressed their appreciation for Atlanta's fans.

"I'll always remember the support of the fans," said Lemke, who played with the Braves from 1988 through 1997. "Players would come in to the clubhouse and talk about the outpouring of affection. So if you fans don't think the players recognize you, they do."

Howell, who played with the Braves in 1993, recalled the '91 season, which he played with the then-rival Los Angeles Dodgers. He recalled a doubleheader at Fulton County Stadium, which the Braves swept. He stressed that the fans made the difference.

"Sid Bream hit a grand slam in the first inning," he recalled. "I remember the sea of tomahawks and that eerie sound [of the Braves chant]. We were done."

Besides the fans' support, the parallel between this team and the '91 worst-to-first team was a common theme.

"I told the players here from the 1991 team you started this," said Schuerholz, introduced by Johnson as "a young man who came to Atlanta in 1990, the best general manager in baseball."

"The kind of team we had in '91 had the kind of youth and classy players. This year's team is a lot like that team."

The fans in attendance certainly have gotten behind this team.

"I'm glad to see the fans come out," said Sam Bruner, of Duluth, Ga., carrying his one-year-old son, Jack, clad in a Chipper Jones jersey. "I love Chuckie T. and all the young players. I saw them all at a game in Richmond earlier this year and now they're here. This is a special year. It feels like '91."

Nathan and Denise Creel of Decatur brought their 3-year-old son, Jamari, who did "The Chop" when asked about his favorite part of the Braves.

"I've been a Braves fan as long as I can remember. Back in the days of Glenn Hubbard and Bob Horner," said Nathan. "This team never gives up. Bobby's the man."

"I like the togetherness," said Denise. "We¹re going to [Games 1 and 2] ­ hopefully all the way."

Fans left the atrium energized whether they'd gotten an autograph, won one of the many prizes, including autographed memorabilia and game tickets or just enjoyed the atmosphere that featured entertainment from the percussion group "The Heavy Hitters" and "The Walking Encyclopedia" Walter Banks.

"I hope every city had as good a turnout as we had here," said Johnson, in reference to the seven other cities holding similar rallies for their playoff-bound teams. "It's been a great day."

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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