End of an era
By Samantha Carr
In the 1990s, the Braves came into households all across the nation each night on TBS and became America’s Team. I was one of those youngsters who tuned in almost every night to root on the Braves… and Bobby Cox is largely the reason why.
Retiring at the end of the season, Cox managed his final game last night as the Braves were eliminated from the NLDS by the San Francisco Giants. It seems fitting that they showed a feisty disposition and flair for the dramatic all season – winning games on late inning home runs and clawing their way back for come from behind wins, much like their manager Bobby Cox who’s been ejected more than any other Major League manager in history. But they just couldn’t close it out this year.
“They’ve come a long way with this team,” Cox said. “They played their hearts out, and I’ll miss them.”
In the top of the seventh inning, Cox made the walk he’s made so many times before to the mound to remove a starting pitcher and bring on relief. But as he approached the mound, veteran righty Derek Lowe pled his case and soon Cox jogged back to the dugout without asking for the ball.
It couldn’t have been a more emblematic moment for the man eternally called a “player’s manager”.
“The guys wanted so bad to get Bobby back to the playoffs,” said Chipper Jones, who has played 2,261 games for Cox, the second-most player/manager duo in history behind Hall of Famers Honus Wagner and Fred Clarke. “And once we got a chance to go to the playoffs, we wanted so bad to get him back to the World Series. All those things contributed to the grit and guts this team played with all year.”
The Braves players had T-shirts made up for the playoffs that said 11 for 6. It takes 11 wins to become World Champions and the Braves would do it all for Cox’s No. 6.
“He is one of a kind,” Braves closer Billy Wagner said. “There will never be another Bobby Cox, who has so much influence not just on your life, but your career. Even when you played against him, you were a fan of the Braves.”
Cox spent 25 years as the Braves skipper and four more in Toronto. He has also served as the Braves’ general manager and between playing and coaching, spent 50 years in baseball. He finished his career fourth all-time in regular season games (4,508) and wins (2,504). The Braves’ playoff appearance this year is a record setting 16th appearance for Cox. He has won four Manager of the Year Awards and one World Series in 1995 which came in the middle of a 14-year division title run.
In 2010, the Braves won 91 games during the regular seasons. It’s the 15th time that a Bobby Cox-managed team has won at least 90 games in a season. Only 2 other managers in major-league history had that many 90-win seasons: John McGraw (16) and Joe McCarthy (15) – both Hall of Famers.
Bobby Cox will be eligible for Hall of Fame induction when Expansion Era Committee next considers managers for the Class of 2014. That same year will feature two Cox-era Braves players: Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. All three have Hall of Fame credentials on their list of career accomplishments.
Of course Lou Piniella and Cito Gaston managed their final regular-season games this year and Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa’s future statuses remains unclear. They would all join the list in 2014 as their first eligible election. To date, there have been only two instances of three former World Series-winning managers sharing the same final major-league season.
In 1950, the managerial careers of Connie Mack (Philadelphia Athletics), Joe McCarthy (Red Sox) and Eddie Dyer (Cardinals) all came to an end. Mack and McCarthy went on to Hall of Fame election. The other year in which three World Series winning managers left the major-league stage was 1988, with Dick Williams (Mariners), Billy Martin (Yankees) and Chuck Tanner (Braves). Williams was inducted in 2008.
Despite the end of the Braves season last night, fans stayed in the stadium not to watch the Giants celebrate but to chant “Bobby, Bobby” until their favorite skipper came out of the dugout to doff his cap. In the press conference following the game, Cox found it hard to keep it together and his emotions got the best of him as he reflected on his career in baseball.
Many fans on the other side of the television had a similar reaction. As a kid growing up during the 1990s, Bobby Cox helped make me a baseball fan. The only way to sum it up is to say: Thanks, Bobby!
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.