Opening Day and Memories

I was a nine year old kid living in Atlanta in the spring of 1965 when the Milwaukee franchise announced they were moving to Atlanta. For better and for worse, I’ve been a Braves fan ever since.

This will be the 53rd Atlanta Braves Opening Day; I’ve seen just about all of them and I remember most of them. Still, the most memorable was the first in 1966. You’ve probably heard about that one, even if you weren’t yet born. The Braves’ Opening Day starter was Tony Cloninger. I listened to the game on my transistor radio, mostly after I’d gone to bed. Cloninger went thirteen innings in a losing cause for the Braves. That’s not a typo—he really did pitch 13 innings. Cloninger took a 1-1 game into the thirteenth, but gave up a game winning two run home run to Willie Stargell. (The Braves scored their only runs via two solo homers by Joe Torre, including one in the bottom of the 13th to make the final score 3-2.)

The 10 year old version of me was a huge fan of Cloninger’s. He had won 24 games in 1965. He may not have had the acclaim of Koufax, Marichal, or Gibson, but as a fan I thought he was just about their equal. After all, he won more games than anyone but Koufax the year before. (We all knew in 1966 that Wins were the ultimate measure of a pitcher’s worth.) Just as importantly, in the spring of 1966 he came to my little league’s opening ceremony and signed my glove. No one could tell me he wasn’t as good as any other pitcher.

Well, it turns out Cloninger wasn’t as good as Koufax, Gibson, or Marichal. The 25 year old Cloninger won 14 games in 1966, but never had an ERA under 4 or won more than 11 games the rest of his career. We’ll never know if the 13 innings he pitched that April night in 1966 ruined his arm. Even before the days of pitch counts, most folks raised an eyebrow at pitching so many innings, especially that early in the season.

But I also realized years later that Cloninger wasn’t a great pitcher to begin with. All serious fans, including Braves Journal readers, are well aware that “Wins” are not much of a measure of pitcher value. But back then, even adults—including management and sportswriters—acted as if wins were what really mattered. Truth is, Cloninger had an ERA+ of 107 in 1965 when he won 24 games. He had great run support that year and was durable, but he was anything but a great pitcher.

That Cloninger wasn’t a great pitcher doesn’t mean I’m not a huge fan even today. Cloninger was awfully generous the one time I met him in person. And although he wasn’t a great pitcher, he had the single greatest offensive day by a pitcher ever later in 1966. In a game at Candlestick Park, he hit two grand slams and drove in 9 runs. And that was the second time that season he hit two homers in a game. My ten year old self was convinced that he ought to play the outfield on days he didn’t pitch. He could have been the next Babe Ruth!

Well, it’s Opening Day again. Rick Mahler, I mean Julio Teheran, takes the mound for the Braves. You can see why I’m confused. You did hear, didn’t you, that Julio will break Mahler’s Atlanta record by starting in his fifth straight Opening Day. The two have a lot in common: not very good starters for several years on losing teams with really bad rotations. Teheran is actually a much better pitcher than Mahler (I really do believe this, but the evidence is not conclusive), but he is not nearly the Opening Day pitcher Mahler was. R. Mahler pitched shutouts in 4 of the 5 Opening Day starts he made in the 1980’s.

That’s another way of saying that Opening Day stats don’t mean much. But Opening Day memories last a lifetime.

145 thoughts on “Opening Day and Memories”

  1. You guys notice anything different?

    This still keeps the basic feel of Braves Journal, so I hope you like it. If you don’t… then what will you like? Kidding.

    Might make a change if this is not working, but it was an easy enough transition to get a supported WordPress theme.

    Happy Opening Day!

  2. Not sure if its possible to alternate the colors of every other comment like before, but other than that, no complaints.

  3. I actually thought it would load a little faster on phones, but I’m not quite seeing it yet. With that said, a supported theme really lets me try to improve some of these things, so it’ll be a work in progress.

  4. @tfloyd, Thank you. Nice read. If Julio does end up pitching like Mahler, let’s hope he hits like Cloninger once or twice.

    @Rob Cope, I’m one of those people who can’t stand a layout change in general, so take what I say here with that in mind: I hope you’re really putting some thought into this. No, I know you’re putting a lot of thought into it, but I hope you’re thinking about the right things. There’s a lot of space between the comments, which makes it much harder to follow a conversation. One of the things I like about this bar is that it is (was?) very easy to see the flow of dialogue–jokes, legitimate baseball arguments, silly feuds, collective clamoring for acuna–and I think we commenters responded to that condition by actually having conversations with one another. Reducing the amount of comments visible on the screen at any one point, I fear, encourages a culture of isolated commentary rather than spirited community. Please be careful not to turn the comments board into a bathroom wall.

    But, Rob, I love your enthusiasm and patience, and I’m willing to try this format out, if it’s something you like.

  5. Maybe it’s just me but this is horribly broken in my browser. I imagine this probably looks significantly different on phones but in my PC web browser I see HUGE (like taking up the whole screen) user photos (or just the icon of a user if you don’t have a photo set), no side bars at all (so no additional topics, glossary, etc. and the page itself is just plain white background. Like I said, horribly broken.

  6. I agree with Edward’s sentiment – this comment style doesn’t facilitate discussion. (Where are the numbers?)

    Aesthetically (and keep in mind I’m one of the people who also hates layout changes in general), this doesn’t do much for me either. The black, white and grey is a bit cold and the typeface for the headlines reads too big for my eyes.

    But again I’m hard to please with this stuff and I appreciate all the work you’re doing to get us modernized, Rob.

  7. I can reluctantly accept the new format, but would gently request that the comments be numbered, like they were in the old days. Thanks for all of the time and effort, Rob.

  8. I normally use FireFox and that is where it appears to be broken. I checked Chrome and it’s a little better but I’m still not a fan (especially if I have to switch browsers every time I want to visit Braves Journal).

  9. new theme
    are things now just what they seem
    the old eyes wobble
    Take Two. A hit or a bobble.

    A month should do it, meanwhile Edward’s words are mine, to the letter.

  10. I appreciate all this. What I also don’t like is that you can’t click the bottom-most comment so that when you refresh, it scrolls directly to that comment.

    This theme may not work. We press on!

  11. While I have no issues with the general appearance, having more compact numbered comments would be appreciated.

  12. Yep. This is what we want:

    -Numbered comments
    -Closer together
    -Ability to refresh and it scroll down to the last comment made.
    -Acuna to hit 40 HRs

  13. Well I guess I am a curmudgeon as well. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I believe strongly in the foundational debate premise that the affirmative for change must win the argument, not tie. Today’s society seems to operate on “if it is not new, it suffers from the bad isms and must be bad.” So, “new” doesn’t translate as “good” to me.

    In Google Chrome I did not get the “big picture” described by Hap above, but do get that in Internet Explorer. IPhone does not do that either.

    Text size appearance in IPhone is much better. I had to use my fingers to expand the old system (and still it was tough to read) and then had to be careful or my “scrolling” would “wobble” down the “page.”

    I very much would like numbering. That way I can say “like Hap @___” which makes commenting easier to follow. By the way, I DON’T like the process of tying comments back to the earlier comment with indentions that many sites feature. On this site, I just go to the last numbered comment I have read and continue on.

    I agree on whatever to reduce the spacing. Maybe making the “windows” in which the comments appear have zero margins top and bottom.

  14. Yeah, I don’t care, Chief. :) Kidding.

    Yes, I too, like most, don’t like the “indented” or “embedded” comments where one comment becomes an indented comment from another point. I like the sequential, numbered comment system, which is actually most common amongst the WordPress themes, thankfully.

    Once I find it, I’ll know, but I agree about the comments things, and I would prefer to find a black-and-white theme (like this one) that loads quickly, shows a small amount of ads very tastefully, renders simply on mobile devices, and has one sidebar where less information will be compiled: Contact, Polls (updated more often; enjoy today’s), our Twitter account’s tweets, DOB’s and Peanut’s Twitter accounts (for up-to-date, actual news), categories, commenter blogs, and fellow Braves blogs. And that’s really it. Would maybe like to enhance comments with *optional* FB/Google+/WordPress login, the ability to more easily add multimedia like GIFs, photos, or video, and other things I’m simply chewing on that I will not share for fear of mutiny.

    Bottom line, clean it up, keep it simple. Less is more.

  15. It would have been pretty neat to have been a 10-year old kid, and a major league baseball team moves into your city. Back then, you listened on a transistor radio, and nowadays, I complain when I have to switch sources from the smart TV to the PlayStation 4 to watch mlb.TV. Really great story, Mr. tfloyd.

  16. Not a fan of the new layout. I like the clean white background, but appreciated greatly the alternating coloring for comments, the post numbering, and the more compressed flow of text. Others have eloquently described why.

    That said, “something new” is definitely an admirable goal, I just don’t think this hits the mark. Good luck trying to find an adjustment that’s practical and pleases most of the people!

  17. @Rob, Your wishlist of features was missing the critical item: reasonable browser compatibility. Right now this is hugely painful. It might look wonderful on a phone but that is not how I access BJ. I like to be able to check in on threads during the work day and that happens from a normal desktop browser. I literally have to scroll an entire page height to get from one comment to the next. Go visit BJ on Firefox or IE (shudder) and you will experience my pain and switch the old theme back, I guarantee. If you want help finding (and more importantly testing) possible new themes I can help (I have a local instance of the BJ site I used for testing theme changes back when I was trying to fix the comment timer). Please, please, please put the old theme back until another theme can be found and tested.

  18. Hap, that theme has not been supported for so long that you can’t actually add it back.

    I’ve tested the site on iOS, Chrome, and Microsoft Edge. It seems the only issues are on Firefox.

    Does anyone else use Firefox and report the same issues?

  19. It looks to me like Blueline (Mod) theme is still available when I log into the admin console. Blueline (Mod) is the theme we were using. Since you are not willing to switch back to the old theme I guess I need to go find a theme that looks like this current uninspiring theme which also works for FireFox. I will let you know when I find something.

  20. Maybe this isn’t super-important, but could we have no avis? I don’t need to know what any of you look like :)

  21. I’m good with this on my phone now that numbers have been added. Previously the site came up way too small and I had to drag it to enlarge .

  22. How’s the weather looking for the day for the ones living in the area. The internet tells me that it will start raining around 5 with t-storms?

  23. FireFox compatibility for the new theme is confirmed so thanks for that. For this new theme it feels like the width of the comment area is not as wide as the old theme but I guess it’s wide enough. One of the things that bothered me about the old them was how narrow the comment section was compared with the two side columns. That was why I modified the theme to allow the center column (comments) to be wider. I guess I feel like if we are going to a two column theme instead of a three column theme then the comments area should be even wider. Wider comments means less scrolling (unless you’re on a phone where the column width is going to be adjusted narrow anyway). Other than the width and the extreme blandness of the color scheme (or lack of color scheme) I guess I can live with this one. My $0.02.

  24. Now we’re talking. This new one is definitely better.

    I’d agree with Adam R that we don’t need profile pictures.

  25. @34

    avis should be mandatory. Some of us are better looking than others and this is the only way we can be sure.

    Cardinals at the Mets, 1.10. good to view the rubbish before the big guys come on 3 hours later.

  26. It’s interesting. What you’re referring to with how much wider the comment width was on mobile was the fact that Blueline didn’t have a mobile version, so it was just loading the desktop version. So the width translated the same to mobile. The new ones have a specific mobile version that helps center the comments better. It also makes the actual act of commenting easier.

    I don’t know how to get rid of profile pictures, but that’ll be a work in progress.

  27. @28–Thanks, Rob. Even in 1991, the season we all seem to be focused on, there was no internet (or not for most of us). When the Braves won nine straight after the all star break to climb into contention, I was on vacation in a national park without TBS. The only way I could keep up was to get USA Today every morning to see box scores from the day before. And if they were on the west coast, it was the next day after that to get results. Doesn’t seem that long ago, but a different world.

  28. I don’t how that photo of an old man appeared with my last comment, but whatever we think of the new format, we can all agree we don’t need that!

  29. As I continue to work on the side bar to make it something up-to-date and useful for you, let me know if you have a blog you’d like to have included in the Commenter Sites section. Also, besides Fangraphs and Baseball Reference, what general baseball websites do you read? I’ll also be updating the Braves section with the actual active Braves blogs around the interwebs.

    Might even getting around to re-categorizing the posts since I took over, but I’ve really dug a hole for myself.

  30. And now you guys will never see my junk. I don’t know how you’ll live with the loss.

  31. An opening day memory that just came back to me is when Russ Ortiz gave up a first-pitch-of-the-season homer to Kaz Matsui.

    As hard as it is to believe, that team, whose starting staff was Russ Oritiz, John Thomson, Jaret Wright, Mike Hampton, and Paul Byrd, won 96 games!

  32. On the topic of the weather, it looks like they might be able to get the game in, as the height of it isn’t supposed to arrive until about 7, but once it arrives…not good. There could be pop-up storms ahead of the main line, too, which could also throw a monkey wrench in.

  33. this view in internet explorer is much better, with numbers.

    tfloyd,

    I also remember the Braves coming to Atlanta. It made Georgia and Atlanta “big time.” I don’t remember as many details of that first year, but I got rained on at the old stadium about 3 times in the first 5 years in about 4 trips.

  34. From the new “News” side bar links, “Teheran making 5th consecutive OD start.” Swear to god I first read that as “making 5th consecutive OCD start” and now I can’t stop thinking of Julio counting matchsticks on the mound.

  35. 57 — Jaret Wright came off the scrap heap to be the ace of the staff. John Thomson had a career year and was the #2. Ortiz and Hampton were good middle of the rotation guys and Byrd came back from TJS to be a good #5.

  36. I was looking at the 2005 and 2006 teams, and they really weren’t that different when you add it all up. We got lucky there at the end.

  37. @66, …which, given their talent level (besides Hudson), shouldn’t have been a big surprise to anyone.

  38. Ender Inciarte grounds out softly, second baseman…

    Ozzie Albies grounds out…

    Freddie Freeman walks.

    Nick Markakis pops out…

    Braves baseball 2018, people!

  39. Freeman isn’t going to get much to hit until Acuna arrives and proves he’s the real deal.

  40. I feel like it would have made a lot more sense, from the standpoint of logic/lineup construction, to bat Flowers in the cleanup spot.

  41. Well, aside from the injury, I too don’t see why Flozuki is not hitting clean-up. They’re both righties, and they have more power than Markakis.

  42. Hey. Ryan Flaherty reached on a bunt single. All of you doomsayers arguing that we were going to be no-hit 162 times this year were obviously wrong.

  43. JT’s been fairly efficient so far. If he pitches a CG, I’m confident this proves we’ll go 162-0.

  44. Julio does look decent. The fastball is a couple ticks slower, barely hitting 90. Strategic decision to improve control maybe? I think it was a changeup that Hernandez hit out.

  45. Pitch around Freddie and dare someone else to beat you.

    Wonder if we’ll see this strategy from anyone else…

  46. Cue a loud buzzing sound for the first in-game managerial decision of the season. I’d just as soon have seen him leave Julio in to try and get out of it.

  47. Can’t remember who said a week or so ago that Brothers shouldn’t be pitching meaningful innings…good call

  48. When I was thinking the Braves would have a better bullpen this year, I wasn’t thinking about Brothers and Winkler.

  49. I don’t have a problem with bringing Brothers in to face Crawford. The one thing he is supposed to be good at is getting LHB out. But when he walked him, Snitker should have had Winkler ready to face Franco.

  50. @101

    In fact, how the hell is it that he wound up having Brothers face a righty and Winkler face a lefty? Just silly.

  51. I know he didn’t say this, but I was halfway listening to Don Sutton on the radio before the game started. I could have sworn that he said bunting is in the air. How did he know that bunting would account for about half of our offense?

  52. It’s got to suck professionally for Freddie to pretend he isn’t wasting his prime with this organization.

  53. You have to worship at the altar of FIP to put Brothers in with runners on in a close game.

  54. Brothers’s ERA is currently infinity. It’s not much, but let’s enjoy that while it lasts.

  55. Minor tweak Rob.

    You have to worship at the altar of FIP to put Brothers in with runners on in a close game.

  56. I would like to see Lane Adams race the Freeze from foul line to foul line. I think the freeze would win but it might be fun to watch

  57. Yea .. already on Snitker … brings in Brothers for lefty lefty .. walks .. the you leave him in to face a righty .. really .. nice job SNIT !!!

  58. The rain is entering the county. This might be our last chance. I don’t think we’re starting again tonight if we go to a delay.

  59. @121 But with Flowers out, your roster’s no different than usual and you’re still screwed if Stewart gets hurt.

  60. Of course, Chip just had to get in that we’re in first place. That’s pretty much the Chippest thing ever.

  61. I’m at a The Office Trivia Night at a local bar, and I just made a real display of myself in the middle of a quiet space listening to the question.

  62. Just saw the Rays snapped a 70 game losing streak today when down by at least four runs.

    Makes today’s win coming back down five seem even cooler

  63. I literally stopped following after the 2 run single to make it 5-0 and went to the gym. I should not watch them apparently.

  64. Clearly, what the Braves have been missing is my father. Having retired from decades in the restaurant business a year ago, he decided to keep busy by ushering — promising first game.

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