By: Bob McVinua
All good things must come to an end. Isn’t that how the saying goes? For me the retiring of Bobby Cox’s number is a mixed bag of emotions. On one hand I am extremely proud to have had him as the Braves manager for all of those years. Then there’s the feeling of finally realizing that he is indeed calling it quits and that there’s no chance of a come back for good ole Bobby. It’s a feeling of past memories racing around in my head. The good, the bad and everything in between. I have sight of a celebrating team on the field winning a world championship in 1995. I can still see the disappointed looks on all the players faces when the Yankees beat us in 1996 and then again in 1999. The one constant through all of those things was Bobby Cox. I’m not sure I can write an article to do this man justice but I’m sure going to give it a shot.
We start by point out the rarity of the Braves organization retiring players and managers numbers. Bobby Cox will only be the 8th in team history to have their number hung from the rafters. He will join the ranks of other legendary Braves players that include;
#44 Hank Aaron / #21 Warren Spahn / #31 Greg Maddux / #47 Tom Glavine / #35 Phil Niekro / #41 Eddie Mathews / #3 Dale Murphy
One of things that I admired most about Bobby Cox was his ability to take leadership when the chips were down. He was not a fair weather guy by any means. He adopted quite a mess when he fired Russ Nixon in 1990 and appointed himself as manager of the Atlanta Braves. Prior to this happening the Braves had been in a downward spiral. In 1988 the Braves finished with 54-106 record. In 1989 they improved their pathetic record to 63-97. Despite having Cox in manager spot for half a season in 1990 the Braves still managed to finish with a league worst 65-97 record.
Now as most Braves fans are saying here’s where it gets good. This is where we can finally feel good about how our team performed. Yes, that’s completely true. In 1991 the Braves went from worst to first and would win their division for what would be the 1st of 14 consecutive division titles. A magical run that is an all time baseball record.
However more went into this magical season then meets the eye. Before taking over as manager of the team, Cox played the role of general manager. Despite the teams losing efforts in those years he was in the front office Bobby still managed to do some impressive things that would set the Braves up for the run they were about to enjoy over the next 14 seasons. During his time as general manager Bobby brought in the likes of Ron Gant, Tom Glavine, Steve Avery and David Justice. In 1990 he also managed to draft a guy named Chipper Jones. All of these steps were critical for the Braves to experience the kind of success they were about to achieve.
Leo Mazzone joined the team and began to develop young arms such as John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Steve Avery. These guys, especially Smoltz and Glavine would be corner stones for the Braves impressive run of division titles. In 1991 the Braves won their first of what would be fourteen straight division titles. This event was bigger then sports, it was so big that it captivated an entire city. People finally had something to cheer about and they would soon fall in love with these Braves creating the fan base that they have today.
The one knock on Bobby Cox and the Atlanta Braves of that era to be exact, is that they only won 1 world championship during the run of 14 straight playoff appearances. All I can say to that is at least Bobby Cox has a ring. How many he has is not as important as the simple fact that he does have one. The difference between 0 and 1 is the largest difference in sports championships there is.
Would we knock Dusty Baker who has never won a championship as a manager? What about Buck Showalter? Or we could throw in guys like Ron Gardenhire, Jim Tracy and Jimmy Williams. Are these guys bad managers because they didn’t win a ring? So lets not knock Bobby for only having 1.
Memorable Facts About Bobby Cox-
1) 2,504 career wins. 4th most all time
2) 15 seasons with at least 90 wins. Ties Joe McCarthy for 2nd on the all time list
3) Won 15 division titles (including Toronto) 5 National League pennants and 1 World Series Championship
4) 4 time manager of the year award winner ( 1985, 1991, 2004, 2005)
5) 158 regular season ejections (almost an entire season!) and 3 ejections that occurred during the postseason