On October 11, Bobby Cox coached his final game as the manager for the Atlanta Braves. It marked the end of an era, to say the least. In Major League Baseball, so many things come and go. But I had always hoped that Bobby Cox never would go.
From the outset, I’ll readily admit that unlike some of my friends and family, I’ve been a fair-weather fan of the Atlanta Braves. While my team devotion to the Alabama Crimson Tide never faltered, in some ways I regret that my faithfulness to the Braves did. However, it wasn’t always like this for me.
Back in the early to mid-’90s, I was an avid Braves fan. I still recall my favorites like Tom Glavine, Javier Lopez, Terry Pendleton, Steve Avery, Ron Gant, David Justice, Deion Sanders, Jeff Blauser, John Smoltz, and Fred McGriff (just to name a few). All came and went. Some were traded or sold to other teams. Some just faded away. The constant loss of players I was attached to, along with their rather dismal performance in the playoffs each year, slowly eroded my confidence and faith in the team I used to love the most. But something always stayed the same: Bobby Cox.
Bobby Cox came back to the Braves as general manager in the mid-’80s after a stint with the Toronto Blue Jays. He appointed himself as manager in 1990 and from then until this year, he remained in that position. He was the only manager I really ever knew for the Braves. If a player left, there was still Bobby Cox. If the Braves choked in the playoffs, there was still Bobby Cox. If they blew their shot at the pennant, there was still Bobby Cox. He was a constant in baseball, when so many other things were transient.
One thing that many baseball fans will remember him for is his record for being ejected from games. That’s 158 times he did something to make the umpires mad enough to throw him out. It became so common that once, when Jeff Francoeur was ejected along with Cox, Francoeur asked, “What do I do?” Cox responded, “Go have a couple cold beers and get in the cold tub or something and relax. And then you’ll probably have to write a $500 check. Or you can do what I do, write a $10,000 one and tell them when it runs out, let me know.”
For some, an ejection may seem like a scarlet letter. But to Bobby Cox, it was more like a badge of honor. In many cases, he was ejected because he was defending his players, the mark of someone who truly cared about his team.
No matter what retirement has in store for him, I think I speak for many Braves fans when I say that his presence will surely be missed in the dugout at Turner Field.