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Friday, July 22, 2011 - 6:16am

What To Know And Do For Braves Fans

The Braves’ baseball franchise won its 10,000th game July 15th. The Braves are only the third team in history to achieve that mark, with wins threaded through Boston, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

The Braves’ fan base is strong as a recent nationwide poll of team popularity showed, where the Atlanta Braves rank third.

Writer Jack Wilkinson taps into the history and popularity of the team with his new book , “100 Things Braves Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”.

Several chapters of the book detail the team’s run of success that began in 1991. But Wilkinson also delves into little-known moments and stories from years before.

Sitting in the outfield stands at Turner Field before a recent game on a hot and sunny weekend afternoon, Wilkinson recounted the mystery of the Bob Horner fourth home run ball. Horner hit the ball in a 1986 game at the old Fulton County Stadium.

"We were well aware of the significance of the moment. When he hit the home run, I was one of 3 or 4 guys that chased after it.”

Wilkinson heard the story from groundskeeper Eric Moore who was working that day. Moore is said to have watched the ball sail over the outfield fence onto a concrete track in front of the bleachers:

“We were about 10 feet away when we saw it roll into the drain…several of the drains did not have covers on them. We gave it a quick look, but no-one was up for reaching their hand down into the yuk, and the ball was invisible from the surface. I remember the clubhouse calling asking for the ball as they always did whenever a milestone homer was hit, as most landed beyond the fence, and not in the seats as they do in Turner Field. I hope this brings some clarification to the missing fourth home run ball…it would have been a great addition to the Braves museum. Well, it’s now buried underneath the tarmac, because where the old ballpark was is now a parking lot. But there is a ball that commemorates that historic fourth home run. It’s not the actual ball…it’s a ceremonial ball.”

For fans too young to remember, Georgia’s first taste of Braves magic came in 1982 when the team opened the season with an amazing 13-game winning streak. After playing poorly for several years, it seemed the Braves suddenly had plenty of good luck. Wilkinson remembers that time in the team's history, when the "good" kept coming for the Braves to keep the streak going.

“Rufino Linares goes 4-for-4 and they win 8-5, and he’s in leftfield next day. It’s a tie game, there’s a liner to left-center, and I wrote ‘Linares, who like Michael Jackson often wore a glove for no apparent reason, dove, stuck out his mitt and somehow caught the ball. His postgame recollection: ‘I dive for ball, I look to left, no ball. I look to right, no ball. I look in glove…ball. I say Ruffi, you one lucky guy’. Then Atlanta scored three in the 10th to win 5-2 to make it 8 in a row. And there were things that happened in that streak that were pretty amazing, and the city just went bezerk.”

Wilkinson says for Braves fans going to a game at Turner Field in Atlanta this summer—there are “must do’s” in the book. One is a visit to the team museum at the ballpark.

"...two other things too. One of the chapters is entitled ‘Be Seated by Walter Banks’. The quintessential baseball gentleman here at the ballpark. He’s worked for the Braves since ’65 since before the season started. Has been a usher here, was Ted’s (former owner Ted Turner’s) usher. He’s the most courtly and gentlemanly guy you could meet, and he is a numbers and statistics savant as you know. To be seated by Walter Banks is a real pleasure. And the other one is to shoot a photo from Walter’s Well, and that would be the great Walter Victor, who was an incredible war hero during WWII…was the team photographer for years. And the photographer’s well next to the dugout was named in his honor several years ago now. But those are two things everyone should do.”

Jack Wilkinson’s book is “100 Things Braves Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die”.