Turner Field was first presented to the world as Centennial Olympic Stadium, the crowned jewel of Atlanta’s campus for the 1996 Games. It would go on to serve as a location for major films such as Flight, The Change-Up, and the Clint Eastwood anti-computer vehicle Trouble with the Curve, in which Eastwood posits that he, as a blind man, could serve as a more effective baseball scout than any machine.
But following the Olympics, rather than letting it become a haunted, derelict structure as so many Olympic facilities do once the events have concluded, the Braves moved in, making it a slightly less unpleasant place than it could have been.
The Braves packed all of their stuff into a truck in front of Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium, their home since 1966, put it in neutral, and let it slide the full city block to Turner Field’s front door. The year was 1997, and the Braves had a new home, which, given the sort of teams the Braves were putting on the field at the time, was destined to host all manner of playoffs, play-ins, and, despite the team winning the NL East 14 times in a row, only one World Series. It also saw the world’s first Wild Card play-in Game in 2012, which will be most remembered for fans hurling garbage onto the field and for being the hilariously terrible end to Chipper Jones’ career.
As far as the Phillies go, they have been frequent visitors to The Ted since 1997, losing five of their first six games there and ten of their first twelve. The Braves built a strong lead in the W-L column against the Phillies at their home park, but as they faded and the Phillies rose, the dynamic began to shift. In 2008, the Phillies went 9-0 at Turner Field. Ryan Howard went 3-for-5 with three doubles and four RBI in the final game of an early June sweep that year. By the start of 2009, they had almost worked their way up to a .500 all-time record at Turner Field.
But, then the Phillies faded again, as we’ve all seen, and are currently sitting on an 82-89 all-time record there with two more games to play.
It’s where Chase Utley turned a Ryan Howard ground-out into immortality.
The Phillies’ core of recent seasons has hit reasonably well there, in general:
- Chase Utley: .263/.345/.429, 10 HR
- Ryan Howard: .270/.359/.543, 23 HR
- Jimmy Rollins: .274/.325/.440, 11 HR
- Shane Victorino: .333/.376/.507, 6 HR
- Jayson Werth: .275/.374/.424, 7 HR
- Carlos Ruiz: .277/.369/.469, 7 HR
Speaking of Victorino, Turner Field was the setting when he killed the cheers of Braves fans and players with a game-ending outfield assist.
It’s where Eddie Perez and Paul Byrd’s friendship went through the ringer.
It’s where a 25-year-old Phillies farmhand named Travis Chapman saw his first, and only, major league at-bat in 2003. He flew out to right field.
And it’s where the Phillies, in the famous Game 162 of the 2011 season, knocked the Braves out of a presumed post season berth. Atlanta still had a shot for a wild card spot in the first year of there being two of them, so last regular season game of the year at Turner Field would be a fateful one. Perhaps the Phillies, who had already clinched, would be at half-speed, giving Atlanta the opening they needed to sneak into the post season?
The Phillies tied the game at three in the ninth inning off Craig Kimbrel, only for Kris Medlen to use three pitches to escape a bases-loaded threat. The Braves threatened the next inning, and Chipper Jones lofted what looked to be an RBI extra-base hit, but Michael Martinez, of all people, tracked it down in center to the disgusted wails of the crowd. Hell, in the bottom of the twelfth inning, the Braves got a runner to third and still couldn’t pull off the win. When the Phillies pulled ahead 4-3 in the thirteenth on a squeaky Hunter Pence line drive that didn’t seem like it even wanted to be a base hit, they didn’t know it yet, but the Braves’ season was over.
Three Phillies starters and six relievers combined to eliminate the Braves from any October baseball. Seriously, look at all these pitchers.
And so, with these and many more memories that I forgot behind them, the Phillies will close out their tenure at Turner Field, a few breaths from a .500 record there. They will begin a new campaign at SunTrust Stadium in Cobb County, in which both the currently floundering, but generally trending upward, Phillies and Braves squads shall hopefully renew their fierce, Perez/Byrd-fueled rivalry.
Who knows what Clint Eastwood will be afraid of in whatever movie he films there? Only time will tell.
My guess is teenagers with low pants.