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Travel Odyssey for Braves / Oct 19

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Sports Ticker

Oct 19, 1996, 3:00:00 AM10/19/96


By Doug Mittler
Senior Editor

NEW YORK -- It took a lot of effort for the Atlanta Braves to
finally get to Yankee Stadium. Beating the St. Louis Cardinals
was not enough for the National League champions, who also were
forced to endure an eight-hour travel odyssey to baseball's

After closing out the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night and
celebrating for a few hours afterward, the defending world
champion Braves began their trip to New York at about 11:30 a.m.
on Friday.

Weather delayed takeoff for about an hour and the Braves landed
at Newark (New Jersey) airport in the mid-afternoon. It was then
that the team experienced what the New York metropolitan area is
famous for -- snarling traffic.

"When we saw the bus driver's face, we knew it was going to take
a long time," said pitcher John Smoltz, who will oppose the
Yankees tonight in Game One of the World Series, weather
permitting. "It was a long day."

The long day included a three-hour bus ride to their Manhattan
motel. The team quickly checked in and was back on the bus 30
minutes later, heading via Harlem to the Bronx and Yankee
Stadium. It was on the bus that the team members realized they
had completed their quest for the Holy Grail.

"It was quite a sight coming in, seeing the stadium all lit up
and the 'Yankee Stadium' written on the side," said manager
Bobby Cox. "Yankee Stadium has that air about it."

Cox should know. His brief major league playing career was with
the Yankees in 1968 and 1969.

Major league players are often criticized for not having a sense
of history, but the Braves were an enthusiastic bunch as they
held an evening workout at the Stadium.

Smoltz referred to the facility as "The Cathedral of Baseball"
and talked of how he visited the stadium briefly early in his
career with the Detroit Tigers. While not on the roster, Smoltz
practiced with the Tigers during a September trip to New York.

"I just had a chance to go out an shag (fly balls)," Smoltz. "I
had a small taste of what it was like."

One of the most enthusiastic Braves was second baseman Mark
Lemke, who grew up in upstate New York rooting for the Yankees.

"It's just a dream come true to play at Yankee Stadium. It's an
awesome feeling," he said. "When I was growing up, every park I
ever played in was Yankee Stadium (in my mind). Every hitter
was Reggie Jackson."

In an unusual way, the travel delay gave the Braves an
opportunity to relax. Many of the media throng decided to leave
Yankee Stadium rather than wait around for the team, so the
evening workout had a serene and almost peaceful feeling,
totally unlike the media crunch and loud fans that will await
the team when the series begins.

The first stop for several players was Monument Park in left
field, where the plaques of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig
and other legends are displayed.

"We want to enjoy this thing," said Denny Neagle, the probable
Game Two starter. "You think of the Yankees and you think of the
World Series. You couldn't ask for anything better."

The long trip took its toll on at least one member of the
Braves' party. General manager John Schuerholz showed up with a
bad case of laryngitis and is not likely to be sampling some of
New York's finer restaurants.

"Hot tea and chicken soup. That's my diet," he whispered.

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