In the sports world we can be a little cynical and sometimes over dramatize events at times when it comes to our coaches, players, and teams. Last night watching Bobby Cox manage his last game in a Braves uniform brought tears to my eyes. I'm 31 years old and am about to be a father for the first time and yet seeing Bobby tell the media during his farewell press conference how "proud" he was of his team fighting for him and to see him get choked up and not be able to hold back the tears was one of the most emotional moments I have witnessed in sports. Bobby is one of the great guys in baseball. He will be missed and besides Chuck Tanner he is the only manager I have ever seen coach the Atlanta Braves.
Carroll Rogers of the AJC.com had this poignant and emotional story about the players feelings toward Bobby after losing 3-2 to the San Francisco Giants last night to be eliminated from the playoffs...
Just eight days earlier, the circle of lockers in the main section of the Braves clubhouse had been a champagne-soaked mess.
Braves players lathered in beer were dancing, jumping, screaming, even at one point toppling a table in celebration of clinching the National League wild card.
But when Braves players from the 2010 team think back to the moment they’ll remember most from the end of the season, the most poignant time spent in that locker room, chances are the room will look a lot different.
It’ll be brightly lit, clean, and completely quiet – the moment from Monday night, when each player was seated at his locker. The Braves had just lost 3-2 to the Giants to get knocked out of the playoffs in the division series, and Bobby Cox took the floor for the last time as their – or anyone’s – manager.
“I don’t think there was a guy in here who could swallow,” Braves outfielder Matt Diaz said. “We were holding [tears] back, and then he got choked up a little bit, and then it was over.”
Chipper Jones said Cox managed to get out maybe 10 words. He was simply telling his players he was proud of them. And that was as far as he could take it.
For the first time in the 20 years since Cox first drafted Jones No. 1 overall in 1990 as Braves general manager, Jones saw him cry.
“Bobby has always been pretty sure about what he’s going to say and he’s pretty matter of fact,” Jones said. “He couldn’t get it out.”
When Cox finally turned to go, to head down to the interview room for his postgame press conference, the Braves gave him a standing ovation.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” Jones said. “I don’t think I’ve cried in uniform since I was about 8. You spend as much time with Bobby as I have, it’s hard. He’s been a father figure to me; he’s been my only manager. It’s hard to swallow that this is going to be the last time.”
Jones has been a part of 12 playoff teams with the Braves. He thinks this one is special to Cox.
“I really think, out of all the teams, he’s got a soft spot in his heart for this club right here,” Jones said. “This club went above and beyond what was expected once the injury bug hit.”
Jones, Martin Prado, Kris Medlen, Jair Jurrjens, Eric O’Flaherty, Takashi Saito, and Billy Wagner all were lost to injury in the heat of the playoff run. Left standing, and maybe feeling the most emotion when it ended Monday, were players like Brooks Conrad.
A little more than 24 hours after his three errors at second base tarnished Game 4, Conrad’s emotions were still raw. Early Monday afternoon, Cox had sat down with Conrad and told him he was going to take him out of the lineup for Game 4, but that he supported him. On Monday afternoon Cox asked Braves fans, through the media, to do the same.
So when Conrad was asked about Cox late Monday night, it didn’t take long for the tears to come.
“I don’t think you see that a whole lot in this game,” Conrad said of Cox’s support. “It’s a cut-throat game. It can be brutal at times. And when you’ve got a guy backing you no matter what, it’s uh….”
Conrad paused. His eyes reddened. His bottom lip quivered.
“It’s pretty cool,” he continued. “He’s got every one of our backs no matter what. And…”
A full 10 seconds passed before Conrad could get out what he wanted to say next. It was what so many players had on their minds Monday night.
“I was proud to play for him,” he said.
I want to thank Bobby Cox aka "The Skipper" for all the fond memories he provided myself and my family and friends. Braves baseball is Bobby Cox. Without Bobby there would have never been the 14 straight division titles or the tomahawk chop. Before Bobby the Braves were a joke of a franchise. When I first moved to Atlanta I remember going to games when there was literally 2,000 die hards in the stands. Maybe. Bobby and General Manager John Schuerholz changed the losing culture. The Braves went from the outcast that nobody dared to acknowledge in Atlanta and blossomed them to the prom queen that everyone wants a piece of today. Bobby was there rooting on the team as was myself and my Dad when Sid Bream slid in safe at home. He made the decision to bat Francisco Cabrera and let Bream run the bases. Completely against what I thought was better judgement at the time as a 12 year old but you know what? It worked.
Bobby made the Braves work. His players loved playing for him and I have never heard one bad word about the guy from anybody who actually knows him. He's the most humble guy in baseball who cares more about the 25 guys in the clubhouse than getting a plaque or drawing attention to himself. He will be missed greatly. See you in Cooperstown Skipper!