10/07/2002 9:06 pm ET
Braves fans show their support
By Paul C. Smith / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Roger and Angie drove in from Snellville, Ga., for the Giants-Braves game Monday night for one very big reason.
"This is the last game of the season, maybe" said Roger. "I mean, I don't think it will be. Not with [Kevin] Millwood going. I saw the look in his eye with the way he pitched the last time."
Besides, Roger said, he felt challenged to attend Game 5 of the NLDS.
"I was hearing all the press on the radio, with them saying Braves fans aren't there when it matters," Roger said. "And the Giants fans were there, filling their park every night. So, being a big Braves fan, I felt like we needed to be here. It was a spur of the moment decision."
Indeed, Braves fans have been ridiculed for not getting more excited about their team, which has won its division 11 years in a row, in the playoffs. In fact, since division playoffs started in 1996, Atlanta has drawn at least 49,000 fans to first-round games only six times in 13 games. And five of the last six Division Series games at Turner Field have had crowds of 42,000 or less.
The Braves, however, expected closer to 45,000 on Monday night for their first-ever NLDS Game 5.
Jared Shaw, of Canton, Ga., brought his 10-year-old son Josh early to see the players and soak up the atmosphere.
"We're here just because it's Game 5," Jared said. "We'd come to more games but it's too expensive. If you don't make $100,000, you can't afford to go to the games."
But Jared said he doesn't believe Braves fans take playoff games for granted.
"I don't think they're spoiled," Jared said. "The Yankees are in the playoffs every year and they still go."
Bob Keene and his wife, Arlene, have been coming to Braves games for 22 years. They were in the upper deck, behind home plate but a little to right field when Sid Bream scored.
Bob said it was the most exciting game he has ever seen.
"They went to a [seventh] game," Bob said. "Pittsburgh was leading the whole time but we scored three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to win it. It could be the same way tonight."
As if to try to will another Braves victory, Arlene wore the Atlanta Journal-Constitution T-shirt of the front page, with Bream prone on the ground and the celebration beginning.
She would love a chance to taunt Barry Bonds with it, but she's afraid he can't make it out from her 11th-row seat slightly to the first-base side.
"I had to go digging for it," Arlene said. "I haven't seen anyone else wearing a shirt like this yet. Maybe I can call him over and say, see."
Arlene looked around, thought for a moment and added that the game of baseball also has the ability to play a special role in our lives.
"Sometimes you feel this whole world has changed so much," Arlene said. "But then you look up there and see a kid with two batting gloves and a bat, walking with his dad, you think we're going to be OK."
Troy Lowe, who lives about 40 minutes from Turner Field, readily says he thought this round was going to a breeze, especially the way the regular season went.
"I expected them to breeze right through this and take the World Series," Troy said. "I didn't think this [series] would be this hard. But it is."
He said he used to get tickets when he was a kid and watch his heroes.
"My first hero was Chris Chambliss," Troy said. "Then I liked [Otis] Nixon, David Justice, Sid Bream -- everybody loves Sid Bream."
Lisa Torbett was wearing a white Braves T-shirt at the game. She lives in Mableton, Ga. She said when she moved to Atlanta in the mid-80s, going to Braves games was how she made friends.
There were few people, so she got to know almost everybody. She caught Braves fever and even became an usher, partly because she liked the people around the ballpark and partly because there were so few people in the stands that the job was easy. Now she has another job, but she can sometimes make road games.
Randy and Charlene Janecek, of Powder Springs, Ga., just became Braves fans but said they had to be here for Game 5 and will come back if there are more playoff games in Atlanta.
"We just like baseball," Randy said. "There is something magical about being in the ballpark. It's much better than TV."
Paul C. Smith is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. MLB.com reporter Thomas Harding contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.