The Day Before 9/11 is a true story.
Nothing I learned in college or experienced as a teacher in upstate South Carolina or rural Florida prepared me for being a Department of Defense teacher on a U.S. military installation in Korea in the aftermath of 9/11.
Parents began deploying. Kids started spiraling in a bad way. We all felt stressed and anxious, living in a foreign country under the constant threat of terrorist reprisals as our military took action in Afghanistan. Then one morning a Chaplain walked into our school and everything got worse. We lost eight guys from our small military community.
All teachers experience student-related tragedies – it’s inevitable when you cross paths with hundreds, even thousands of kids, year after year. You expect that one day it will happen, but until I saw that Chaplain walk into my school I never lived in fear of it.
I was a teacher, coach, and athletic director, and I was used to students trusting me with their problems, coming to me for advice, and looking to me for help – but in the aftermath of 9/11 it was overwhelming, and suffocating, because it was pretty simple logic: I teach military kids. Our military is at war. My kids are going to suffer.
And they did, in ways I could never have imagined were possible.
As America observed the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, our military families continued to serve overseas, sacrificing every day in defense of everything that is good and honorable about our country. The events in The Day Before 9/11 are true. They are horrific, and it was painful to write – but it’s my hope that by telling this story I can honor our kids who serve and sacrifice overseas every day alongside their military parents.
From the Introduction to Cleveland Indians IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom
by Tucker Elliot
I grew up around baseball. Outside and barefoot is the way I describe spending my childhood. I grew up with two brothers, and in the middle of Nowhere, Florida there was not much else to distract us—so we played, relentlessly. And while my mom had to drive an hour one way to find a shopping mall, every March we’d drive slightly more than that and find ourselves at any number of Spring Training sites. We’d watch games in Tampa, Plant City, Lakeland, Vero Beach, Fort Myers … too many places to remember, actually. And in the summer we’d drive to Atlanta to see big league action in the regular season. Once we even drove to Arlington, Texas. It took two days to get there, but attending a Rangers vs. Red Sox Monday Night Baseball Game of the Week was worth it.
There was no shortage of baseball in my childhood.
We’d play ball in the spring, summer, and fall—and we’d practice in the winter. And as a kid, I must have assumed that my dad’s childhood was spent in much the same way. After all, my dad was always scouring yard sales and flea markets for old baseball cards, often paying a buck or less for a shoebox full of amazing treasures, and then bringing them home and laughing with pure joy as he saw the excitement on our faces. And he was always outside with us, throwing BP or playing catch or hitting grounders. We’d been at this for a lot of years before I found out that my dad’s childhood was nothing at all like mine, that the memories he was helping us make as kids were also helping to fill the void in his own mind. My dad did play sports in high school, of course—and he was good, too. He starred in basketball and as the quarterback for his high school football team. But the part missing from his childhood was being able to share something like a simple game of catch with your dad. And that’s what he worked so hard to give us.
He also worked hard to keep some things from us. Vietnam, for example, or earlier, attending nearly a dozen different schools in the span of two years after his parents divorced. There were certain hardships, certain ugly realities about life that he felt compelled to protect us from, even if they were far in the distant past and couldn’t reach out to hurt us. As we grew older, it was easier to understand that some things just weren’t to be talked about—and while we all respected that, as a young kid not yet in middle school, I was already in love with stories and writing and history, and my relentless pursuit of baseball was not limited to sandlot games or shoeboxes full of baseball cards. I heard story after story about the Yankees and Red Sox from my grandfather (my mom’s dad), I heard stories about the Indians from my mom’s brother, who when he was a kid was probably the only Indians fan in South Carolina, and I pressed my dad for him to tell me stories, too. And he did, but there was a pattern to them. He’d tell me about Sandy Koufax throwing a no-hitter, for example. But that’s no different than me telling my nephew today about Kirk Gibson’s home run in the 1988 World Series. I was a kid watching it on TV, but I wasn’t there. It’s still a great story, but what I wanted from my dad was something real—I wanted something that he experienced.
And then one day my dad disappeared into the back of the house and I heard him rummaging through a closet. He returned with a small box that held old black and white photographs, newspaper clippings, a business card from a tailor shop in Hong Kong (R&R from Vietnam, I later learned), a Tiger patch that was the designation for a Korean army unit that served alongside him and that was given to him by a friend he’d never told me about until that day, and I’m sure a few other items I can’t remember, but also one more item that I’ll never forget: a ticket stub. And then my dad told me the greatest baseball story I’d ever heard.
It was 1963 and my dad had been out of high school for a few months and taking a few classes in college. But he was young and independent and looking for something better than what he’d been dealt so far in life. He needed a job to earn and save for college, and I’m sure jobs were available in Gainesville where he was living, but he also needed movement, as in, just don’t stand still. He needed to believe his life was going forward, going places more promising than where he’d been already. And so, just because they could, he and a childhood friend named Jimmy Weber packed a couple of bags and drove north looking for work in a 1950s VW beetle. In Columbia, they stopped and slept on the football field at the University of South Carolina—because they could, and besides, it was cheaper than a hotel. They ended up in Virginia Beach, VA, serving ice cream and grilling hamburgers and hot dogs and saving a little bit of money. After two months, the summer was getting short and soon it’d be time to return to Florida and his life, as he’d known it before.
But Jimmy had family in Michigan. And they had a house on a lake, and that sounded about perfect to my dad, who was willing to go anywhere as long as he kept moving forward, who was willing to do anything to not stand still, to not live in the past. So willing, that he’d later go to Vietnam to pay for college—to just move forward. So they left Virginia for Michigan, and along the way they stopped for the night in Cleveland. My dad was thumbing through a paper, looking at the sports section, and realized the Indians were playing a doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels the following day.
He’d never been to a big league game before.
It was July 31, 1963, and my dad felt like a kid walking through the turnstiles at Cleveland Stadium. The stadium was largely empty, with just over 7,000 fans in attendance. It didn’t matter to my dad, the whole atmosphere was surreal, and he loved it. The Indians won the first game in a pitcher’s duel, 1-0. That’s a pretty rare score, and my dad was impressed that his first big league game had ended that way. He was excited to see what was in store for him in the second game, and it didn’t disappoint. Cleveland won 9-5, but it wasn’t the score that people would remember or talk about, it was a piece of history that took place in the home half of the sixth inning: Woodie Held, Pedro Ramos, Tito Francona, and Larry Brown connected on four consecutive home runs.
There’d been a home run earlier in the game, and my dad had been thrilled to see one in person.
But in the sixth, when Ramos connected for back-to-back jacks he was ecstatic. He was thinking this day couldn’t get any better. And then Francona went yard. Three in a row. And then the crowd was going crazy. It was like the baseball gods were showing off just for him, in honor of his first day of big league baseball. And surely the baseball gods were smiling that day, because the next batter was Larry Brown, and he was a scrawny, scrappy 23-year-old kid who’d never hit a big league home run. And yet he stepped to the plate and became just the second player in baseball history to connect and give his team four consecutive home runs.
My dad laughed as he told me the story. He said the PA announcer told the crowd they’d just witnessed a Major League record. And then my dad checked to make sure he still had his ticket stub in his pocket, and he made sure he saved it—but not really because of the record, he saved it because of the day, because of the experience, because it was his first time sitting in the stands watching Major League baseball, and he was sure he never wanted to forget it.
I was in awe, and later I was jealous. I’d been to hundreds of games and never witnessed anything close to what my dad had seen on that one day.
I don’t know how long we talked about that game the first time my dad showed me the ticket stub. He admitted he hadn’t even been sure that he still had it, that he was surprised when he’d been able to find it. But we’ve spent hours and hours and hours talking about it since. And it’s pretty amazing, because that ticket stub sat in a box for two decades—once it let my dad into a stadium to see a baseball game, and then later, it let me into my dad’s world, into his past, to learn about the man who taught me to love a game so passionately that it shaped nearly every aspect of my life.
I have my dad’s ticket stub today. It’s on my wall, in a frame, along with the newspaper clipping from that historic game. I’ve still never witnessed anything like it, but that’s OK, because I still go to games with my dad and mom, and my brothers, and my nieces and nephews. And my dad’s story gave me a new team to root for, and I’ve really no idea how it works that way, only that it does. Because when I found out what that one Indians game had meant to my dad, somehow I felt I owed the Indians something in return. The first time I saw the Indians play in person was Game 1 of the 1995 World Series. I grew up a diehard Braves fan, but I remember sitting above third base at Fulton County Stadium and thinking this was just about perfect because no matter what happened there was something I was going to be thankful for—I’d played high school baseball against Chipper Jones and wanted to see him win, my uncle had been rooting for the Indians since the 1950s and wanted to see Cleveland win, and then I had my dad’s story, of course. And it was perfect, because it was baseball.
I’ve written or contributed to more than 40 books now—one of my first was on the Braves, and I’ve wanted and planned to write about the Indians for years. Every time I’d sit at my desk to write, I’d see that ticket stub and wonder why I was writing again about the Yankees or Red Sox. Well, I’m glad I finally wrote about Cleveland, its rich history and traditions, and the many great players and moments that have inspired generations of fans. And I hope these pages let you recall some great memories from your own past and the people you shared them with.
The Braves are the oldest continuously operated franchise in National League history and are one of just six Major League clubs with more than 10,000 victories—that’s more than the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees and nearly 1,000 more than the Philadelphia Phillies (though the Phils have lost 10,000-plus games). In baseball’s modern era the Braves franchise has won three World Series titles, 17 Pennants, and made 22 playoff appearances … not to mention an unprecedented run of 14 consecutive Division Titles and the team of the 1990s under the leadership of Bobby Cox.
A virtual who’s who of Hall of Fame legends also claim the Braves as their home team: Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, and Phil Niekro to name a few—not to mention soon-to-be Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones.
The Braves franchise tells some of baseball’s greatest stories, including the “Worst-to-First” 1991 Braves, the legendary career of Manager Bobby Cox, and the unprecedented Cy Young success for the Braves during the 1990s—and the focus of the trivia in this book is solely on the Atlanta era of team history. If you’re a diehard fan then click here to take the challenge …
Cleveland ranks right up there with the Chicago Cubs and the pre-2004 Boston Red Sox when it comes to breaking hearts—its fans have suffered much, wandering in the proverbial desert since tasting postseason success for the second time in team history in 1948—but the Indians have never disappointed when it comes to producing great players and unforgettable moments … and they’re all in this book. Are you an expert on Cleveland Indians history and trivia? Think you know it all? It’s time to find out. Test your skills. Wrack your brain. It’s your Cleveland Indians IQ, the Ultimate Test of True Fandom.
Now available from Black Mesa Publishing: Cleveland Indians IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom
Atlanta outscored Washington 12-6 during the Braves much-needed three-game sweep at Turner Field this weekend. Obviously the sweep brought questions and speculation that the Braves might make a run yet at the NL East title.
Well, it’d be great as a Braves fan, but get real – that’d be as great a turnaround as last year’s collapse was at being a failure. The true importance of the sweep is that the Braves had just been swept by the Brewers – and if you look at the substantial gap (7 games in the loss column) that separates the Braves from the Cardinals (second position in the Wild Card hunt), don’t think it’s because the Braves are 7-3 over their past 10 games. It’s because the Cardinals and the Dodgers were both 3-7 over their past 10 games.
So let’s focus a little better – assuming you care about the Braves.
Focus on not blowing this Wild Card thing again. At this point, that’d be even more impressive (devastating) than last year.
Try and remember that 8 of the 12 runs scored by the Braves offense vs. Washington this weekend were unearned – including one each in the Braves 2-1 and 5-4 victories to open the series.
The Braves highest offensive output in the series was 5 runs … on 5 hits.
In the opening game of the series the Braves walked off 2-1 in the ninth – but the winning run had to score on an error, despite the fact the Braves scattered 10 hits.
The pitching is getting the job done and that’s great – but the offense needs to step up and make sure that come the end of the year series with Pittsburgh Fredi Gonzalez will have the luxury to set up his rotation such that Kris Medlen is pitching the Wild Card game to see who will face the Nationals in the Division Series.
So yes, it felt great to sweep the Nats. And it was fun to speculate and dream about an epic collapse and a fiery end of season run by the Braves … for about 2 minutes. Right now though, I’d prefer that Greg Walker and crew work some overtime down by the batting cage – that McCann would get healthy, Bourn gets back on track, and Uggla finds the swing that made me hate him when he played for the Marlins and celebrate like crazy when he signed with the Braves.
As for the Washington Nationals, one of the classiest things I’ve ever seen came on Sunday when Gio Gonzalez left the game and was denied his 20th win of the season. Chipper Jones was standing on third base and Gonzalez tipped his cap to him, paying his respect to a future Hall of Famer who will end his career this October. Classy move by Gonzalez, who said, “He’s one of the greatest third baseman to ever play the game. It was an honor to be on the same field, especially at his house.” You can see the picture of the moment here.
And if you consider yourself to be a Braves fan or a Chipper fan, check out this book (available in trade paper or Kindle) by Tucker Elliot and Dale Murphy:
Excerpted from Atlanta Braves: An Interactive Guide to the World of Sports
I grew up in the South and the Braves were my home team long before my parents relented and subscribed to the local cable TV network so we could watch games on TBS. My brothers and I had grown up listening to the Braves on the radio but our TV experience with baseball was limited to the nationally televised Saturday Game of the Week and Monday Night Baseball. We watched those games using the rabbit ears on our parents small black and white TV.
That changed when our neighbors got cable TV.
We lived way out in the country and they were the first family we knew who actually had cable. And when we discovered TBS broadcasted the Braves games every night at 7:05 … well, our parents figured if they wanted us to spend more time at home then they should invest in cable. Thanks to the Braves, we got cable and a brand new color TV.
Of course our favorite player was Dale Murphy. The first game I remember seeing Murph play in person he homered in his first at bat. At the time my brothers and I thought that was the greatest thing that would ever happen to us. It still ranks pretty high on the list.
Like many fans, baseball was obviously an important part of my childhood and an important part of my relationship with my dad and my brothers—and in my case, with my mom as well. No one else’s mom could throw BP as well as mine. My parents were very careful, however, to make sure that baseball was a tool they could use to help me grow and learn valuable life lessons. They also understood the influence that watching professional ballplayers had on young kids—so even though baseball was absolutely a positive experience in our young lives, my parents set boundaries and didn’t let us have free reign. It’ll sound strange nowadays I’m sure, but here’s an example: we could watch the Braves on TBS or listen to a game on the radio no problem, but if our parents were not in the room with us then the rule was we had to turn the volume down during commercials.
I get that it might sound like a strange rule today … but the truth is we didn’t question it because it was a boundary our parents set for us and we just accepted it. And looking back I appreciate it—because our parents knew how impressionable we were, how much we idolized the Braves and the guys who wore that uniform, and how easily influenced we were by anything associated with our favorite team. In other words, they had standards—and they wanted to make sure people and products that met those standards influenced us.
And that’s why our parents were more than happy to let Dale Murphy be our baseball hero.
After all, the guy did milk ads.
In my adult life I’ve been a baseball coach, an athletic director, and a teacher—and I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about who my student-athletes idolize. Today I spend all my time writing, but when I shoot hoops and talk NBA with my nephew or go see a Rays or Braves game with my nieces I still worry about who is influencing them. And I wish the guys who were glorified during baseball’s steroids era hadn’t been treated like gods at the time. I wish we lived in a simpler time when parents could tell their kids to turn down the volume during commercials—but in the tech-savvy world we live in, kids today have a much different reality. And they need boundaries more than ever, and everyone knows we need athletes to be better role models—but kids today also need tools to help them make good choices in life.
All that to say this—I’m glad there are organizations like Dale Murphy’s I Won’t Cheat Foundation. I’m glad there are athletes with standards and morals who kids can look up to and learn from. I’m glad that for every bad example my nephew sees today on ESPN that I can share with him stories about truly heroic ballplayers like Cal Ripken, Jr. or Dale Murphy or Kirby Puckett.
The I Won’t Cheat Foundation’s motto is “Injecting Ethics into America’s Future.”
I like it, a lot—and I think every fan of baseball should support the principles that I Won’t Cheat promotes. You can visit IWontCheat.com to learn more about the comprehensive program available for schools and youth leagues.
This book is about the history of the Atlanta Braves. In it you will find the greatest players and moments in franchise history. It’s my hope that you will also find the same positive message in these pages that Dale Murphy’s Foundation promotes—that character and integrity matter, and goals we achieve with our character and integrity intact have real value.
THE TEAM: The Braves are the oldest continuously operated franchise in National League history and are one of just six Major League clubs with more than 10,000 victories—that’s more than the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees and nearly 1,000 more than the Philadelphia Phillies (though the Phils have lost 10,000-plus games). In baseball’s modern era the Braves franchise has won three World Series titles, 17 Pennants, and made 21 playoff appearances … not to mention an unprecedented run of 14 consecutive Division Titles and the team of the 1990s under the leadership of Bobby Cox. A virtual who’s who of Hall of Fame legends also claim the Braves as their home team: Hank Aaron, Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, and Phil Niekro to name a few.
THE FORMAT: Atlanta Braves: An Interactive Guide to the World of Sports is composed of ten chapters, each offering numbered “mini-stories”—facts, anomalies, records, coincidences, and enthralling lore and trivia from Hall of Fame legends Aaron, Spahn, Mathews and Niekro to future Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones, to contemporary stars Brian McCann, Dan Uggla and Tim Hudson. Each chapter begins with an introduction that highlights the many exciting stories found in these pages such as the “Worst-to-First” 1991 Braves, the legendary career of Manager Bobby Cox, the unprecedented Cy Young success for the Braves during the 1990s, the team’s greatest sluggers, and the greatest feats and most astounding records in franchise history.
SPORTS BY THE NUMBERS books are not just for diehard sports fans, but for every fan and sports history reader who loves sports and wants to know more about their heroes and favorite teams—and this title is the definitive source for history and trivia on your Atlanta Braves.
“The Braves have a storied and interesting history and I am honored to be a small part of it. Tucker Elliot has captured that history in a way that is both educational and fun at the same time. Atlanta Braves: An Interactive Guide to the World of Sports is not only for those who are Braves fans, but it is also a book for anyone who loves the game of baseball.”
- Dale Murphy, 1982 & 1983 National League MVP
Boston Red Sox IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom, Volumes I & II are now available in the Amazon Kindle Store for just $.99. Two volumes of the best history and trivia questions available on the Boston Red Sox compiled by noted author Bill Nowlin.
Fans who love baseball trivia will enjoy New York Yankees IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom. It’s now available in the Amazon Kindle Store for just $.99. Five chapters, ten categories, and more than 250 of the best trivia questions available on the New York Yankees.
Fans who love baseball trivia will enjoy Atlanta Braves IQ: The Ultimate Test of True Fandom. It’s now available in the Amazon Kindle Store for just $.99. Five chapters, ten categories, and more than 250 of the best trivia questions available on the Atlanta Braves.