In Part 1 of our series on Turner Field, Braves executive John Schuerholz provided his feelings about the team’s home stadium. Here we gain the insight of a long-time season-ticket holder. By the way, you can find my article on Turner Field in this week’s USA TODAY Sports Weekly, on sale at newsstands across the country!
When T.W. Lord expresses his opinions about the Braves, they should carry some weight. After all, the 89 year old has been attending their games as long as there have been Atlanta Braves, as he was in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on April 12, 1966 when the team played its first game in Georgia after moving from Milwaukee.
And when you’ve been a season-ticket-holder for a team for over four-and-a-half decades, you know something about them and their ballparks.
I asked him for his thoughts on Turner Field and the team’s move to the northern suburbs of Atlanta in 2017.
JOE MOCK: Do you recall the first Braves game you ever attended?
T.W. LORD: Actually, I went to the first game in 1966 in the old Fulton County Stadium. I didn’t start buying season tickets until 1969, and I’ve been a season-ticket holder since then.
I have some memories (of the games in the ‘60s). I remember one game where we pitched a pitcher and let him stay in too long and it ruined his arm. Back then, they let pitchers pitch 11, 12 innings. I believe that pitcher’s name was Tony Cloninger (note: he pitched for the Braves in Milwaukee then Atlanta, 1961-68).
But everyone was so proud to have the Major League team here.
JOE: Did you attend the first game at Turner Field?
T.W.: I sure did. I still have my tickets from it. Turner Field, of course, was originally built for the (1996) Olympics and was converted over (for baseball). I was fortunate enough to attend the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympics.
Of course, (the stadium) was named after Ted Turner, who was a great owner and a very colorful character. He had such great desire to win. He really put the Braves on the map.
JOE: Have you ever tried to estimate the number of Braves games you’ve attended?
T.W.: I have. It would be in the hundreds. I’ve probably averaged over 20 games a year, so I’ve probably attended somewhere around 950 or a thousand.
JOE: What caused you to keep renewing the season tickets year after year?
T.W.: I enjoy going and I enjoy the fellowship with other people who go, and I have enjoyed giving a lot of tickets away to kids. Over the years, I’ve given away hundreds of tickets to kids. And even now, someone will come up to me that I don’t really recognize and they’ll say that I’m the one who gave them tickets when they were a kid so they could attend their very first Braves game.
JOE: That’s outstanding.
T.W.: Well, they (the tickets) are yours to enjoy and certain things in life you enjoy doing, and that was one of them.
JOE: Not counting the Olympics, what are some of your most memorable moments at Turner Field?
T.W.: There are so many good moments of the Braves at Turner Field, because we had those great pitchers during that time — Smoltz and Glavine and Maddux – that all went to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Then we had Andruw Jones, who was one of the best centerfielders of all time defensively, in my opinion. And of course Chipper Jones, who I believe will go the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
JOE: Did Chipper Jones embody the franchise during those years?
T.W.: He did. He was the face of the franchise, so to speak.
Of those pitchers, Smoltz was in some sense the most colorful because the others teased him so much. He had a sense of humor but he was such a competitor. He can’t stand to lose anything.
JOE: After all the games that you’ve attended in just about the same spot (Turner Field was built adjacent to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium), how do you feel about the Braves moving away?
T.W.: The stadium up in Cobb County is going to be a great stadium. It’s going to be well-designed, and of course I’ve seen where they’re building it because I live up in Cobb County. Things change in the world. I saw it change from Fulton County to Turner Field, and now I’ve already ordered my tickets for the new stadium.
I feel very comfortable with it. I think the new stadium is going to be great.
JOE: Do you feel the Braves needed a new stadium?
T.W.: Well, that would be hard to say. Turner Field was a good stadium, and for me as an individual to make that decision (to move), well, it would be a hard decision to make. But I’m a Braves fan, and I would go regardless of where they played.
The new stadium will probably have some new features, but it’s hard for me to say definitely that we needed to move out of Turner Field. But by the same token, the people making that decision would have a lot more input than I (would).
But it’s going to be a great location. There are a lot of office parks there and there’s going to be all the restaurants and things to do around the stadium. There’s one hotel (there) now and they’re trying to get another one. You know, that place has been the hot spot of Cobb County as far as people and business.
JOE: How long a drive has it been for you going to Turner Field?
T.W.: It’s approximately 20 miles from here to Turner and the new one will be about half that.
JOE: Are you going to be there for the last Braves games at Turner Field?
T.W.: I sure am. In fact, I have some extra tickets that I got for my friends who wanted to go.
In our next installment, we’ll relay our conversation with former Braves star Chipper Jones.