By Sonny Jones
Forty years ago today the Atlanta Braves, who were comfortably leading the National League West, almost blew their first playoff chance since 1969 even though there were two months left in the season.
It was July 30, 1982 when the Braves removed the teepee of mascot Chief Noc-A-Homa from left field to make room for more seating at Fulton County Stadium. Atlanta lost 19 of its next 21 games and went from nine games ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers to four games behind.
By chance, I was in Atlanta for a week in late July 1982. Chief Noc-A-Homa was standing atop the Braves dugout on July 30 prior to a game against the Dodgers. “Hey, Chief,” a fan yelled, “what happened to your teepee?” Chief Noc-A-Homa, with a wry smile, quickly replied, “Urban renewal.”
The Braves were 61-37 after sweeping a four-game series against San Diego and held a nine-game lead over the Dodgers on July 29, 1982. With the hated Dodgers in town, the teepee came down as Atlanta was abuzz about the sudden and unexpected success of its baseball team. The Dodgers swept the four-game series.
By the time the slump ended Aug. 19, 1982 with a 5-4 win against Montreal and the teepee had been put back, Atlanta found itself in second place and four games behind the Dodgers. With the teepee in left field and the Chief back to performing his dance following an Atlanta home run the Braves would go on to win the NL West by one game.
Chief Noc-A-Homa and his teepee remained through the 1985 season. Levi Walker, who was an Odawa Indian and portrayed the Chief for 17 years, and the team had a disagreement over pay and appearances. The mascot and his teepee were gone for good beginning with the 1986 season.
It’s most likely that Chief Noc-A-Homa would have been retired long ago anyway. Times have changed since Chief Noc-A-Homa was first introduced in the 1950s when the Braves played in Milwaukee.
The Braves have used Homer, Rally and, now, Blooper since the days of Chief Noc-A-Homa. None have been nor will be as memorable.
• WOW! What a performance by Bladen County in its 5-0 win against Alabama on Friday in the first round of the Dixie Youth Baseball Majors Division 2 World Series. It couldn’t have gone any better. Bladen County is scheduled to play Virginia on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. in Anderson, South Carolina. World Series games are being streamed online by JockJive Sports for a one-time $25 charge. Go to https://www.jockjive.com/dixie-youth-baseball-2022.html to register.
SATURDAY’S PICK TO CLICK
Lydia Ko has shot consecutive 65s and has a two-shot lead midway through the Women’s Scottish Open. The two-time major champion is playing well. She’ll shoot 66 Saturday and retain the lead. By the way, the top three in the tournament have a combined six letters in their last names. It’s (Lydia) Ko, (Lilia) Vu and (Eun-Hee) Ji. That has to be some kind of record.
FRIDAY’S PICK: Justin Verlander will have at least 10 strikeouts and allow 2 runs or less in 7 innings in Houston’s game against Seattle. RESULTS: Verlander pitched 7.2 innings and allowed 1 run on 5 hits with 5 strikeouts to improve his record to 14-3 in Houston’s 11-1 romp.
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
• LPGA: Women’s Scottish Open, Dundonald Links, 8:30 a.m., GOLF
• PGA: Rocket Mortgage Classic, Detroit Golf Club, 1 p.m., GOLF; 3 p.m., CBS
• WNBA: Seattle at Washington, noon, ESPN
• INDYCAR: Gallagher Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 12:30 p.m., NBC
• MLS: Portland at Minnesota, 3 p.m., ABC
• NASCAR XFINITY: Pennzoil 150, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 3:30 p.m., NBC
• MLB: Milwaukee at Boston, 4 p.m., FS1
• CFL: Winnipeg at Calgary, 7 p.m., ESPN2
• MLB: Minnesota at San Diego, Philadelphia at Pittsburgh or St. Louis at Washington, 7 p.m., FOX
• WNBA: Dallas at Atlanta, 7:30 p.m., NBATV
• MLB: Texas at LA Angels, 9 p.m., FS1
Sonny Jones can be reached at email@example.com.