The Legacy of Bobby Cox

Sometime between Courtney Cox and David Arquette’s divorce and Brett Favre setting the NFL record for career fumbles Mon- day night, San Francisco Giants closer Brian Wilson recorded the final out to clinch the series and the right to challenge the Phila- delphia Phillies for the National League Pennant.

The Giants’ bench leaped over the guardrails and onto the field to celebrate on the mound for a hard-earned victory. After a few moments of euphoria, a funny thing happened—the Atlanta crowd erupted in cheers, and the Giants actually stopped their celebration to join them.

What could possibly be hap- pening that the Giants would cease their cel- ebration to turn

and applaud? Bobby Cox’s final game as a major league manager.

Bobby Cox had been play- ing baseball since he was a little boy in Tulsa, Okla- homa. After a short stint with the Yankees in the late 60s, Cox realized his true calling was to be a manager. He began coaching with the Braves in 1978. After four seasons in Atlanta, he crossed the border for a short stint with the Toronto Blue Jays before returning to the Braves as general manager in 1985. During his tenure as general manager, Cox drafted, among others, David Justice and Chipper Jones, while making a remarkably savvy trade for young pitching phenom John Smoltz. These play- ers, along with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux, would become the centerpieces around which Cox would cement his legacy. In June of 1990, Cox fired manager Russ Nixon and appointed himself as replacement.

His first full season in charge of the club came in 1991, and success was instantaneous. The Braves, who had the worst record in baseball the year before, went on to win the National League West, and Cox was named the National League Manager of the Year. In that first trip to the playoffs, Cox’s Braves beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in seven games

to clinch the pennant and a trip to the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Unfortunately, as would happen frequently in Cox’s career, the Braves’ playoff run ended in disappointment as Twins’ ace Jack Morris out-lasted Smoltz in a historic 10-inning game seven.

The 1991 season was only the start of greatness for Cox’s Braves. Cox would lead the Braves back to three of the next four World Series,with his greatest moment undoubtedly coming in 1995 when Cox won his only World Se- ries title as the Braves defeated the Cleveland Indians in six games.

Over the last two decades, no manager has had Cox’s con- sistent success. From 1991 to

2005 the Braves won a record 14 consecutive division titles. Along the way, Cox accumu- lated 2,504 vic- tories, enough for fourth all- time behind Connie Mack, John McGraw, and Tony La Russa, with only McGraw having a higher

career winning percentage. In 2006, the Braves historic streak finally came to an end, and Atlanta fell to mediocrity. In Sept. 2009, after four disappointing seasons, Cox agreed to a one-year contract extension and announced that 2010 would be his last season as manager. Braves fans were hopeful that Cox could regain the magic and lead the Braves on one more historic playoff run. When Atlanta clinched the wild card in the final game of the season, the

cards were set in place. Now back to Monday Night:

“Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!” the Atlanta fans chanted, trying to somehow thank their beloved manager for all he had given them over the last two decades. The man was no stranger to losing, having lost in the playoffs more than any manager in professional sports; however, this time it was clearly different. Everyone pres- ent, the Giants included, turned and saluted the three-time man- ager of the year and future hall-of- famer. Bobby Cox had once again come up just short—yet this time he was going out on top.

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