Bye, Bye, Bobby!

Do you suppose it was something Bobby Cox said?

Bye, Bye, Bobby! – Wednesday’s wrap-up game between the Atlanta Braves and the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park brought an end to an era. After 29 years at the helm as manager of a major league club, and with 25 of those years cemented into the history of the Atlanta Braves, Bobby Cox has said goodbye to Houston following his last trip here as the field general of a big league team.

Bobby leaves Houston on a winning note; his Braves took two out of three games from the Astros on this last trip to town in 2010 – and they also leave here in first place in the NL East. In spite of all who hate him, as many or more Braves and Bobby fans out there are alive and pulling for Cox to win one last NL flag and bag another elusive World Series title before he departs the Braves helm.

Tuesday Night at MMP: How many times over the years have we seen "Ole #6" out there, pulling one more string on a pitcher he hopes can get somebody out?

Bobby Cox doesn’t need another division title, league pennant, or World Series victory to assure his near certain future induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His 2,479 managerial wins through and including that 8-2 extra inning slammer the Braves put on the Astros Wednesday, August 11th, already places him in fourth place in managerial wins for all time, trailing only the uncatchable (1) Connie Mack (3,731), followed by (2) John McGraw (2.763), and (3) the also still active Tony LaRussa (2,6i6 through all games of 8/11/2010).

It’s conceivable, if not highly probable, that the other Hall of fame for sure guy, La Russa, will hang around long enough to surpass McGraw, but that also unnecessary extra validation of Tony does nothing to either make him more worthy – or Bobby Cox any lesser so. Both LaRussa and Cox have reached points in their careers in which numbers are little more than forgettable add-on features. Greatness already has been established by each of them in far many other ways.

How many times did Bobby Cox make this trip in 29 years? I don't know, but he did it afew more times on the night of Tuesday, August 10th.

Success is stamped all over Bobby Cox’s managerial career. At Atlanta alone, his Braves established themselves as the perennial division champion in the NL East throughout most of 1990s. In 15 seasons (1991-2005), Atlanta finished in first place in the NL East on 14 of those occasions, also taking 5 NL pennants (1991-2, 1995-96, 1999) and one World Series title (1995) over that extended halcyon period. The Braves also took some criticism for not winning it all more often because of their constant presence at the top of the heap during the regular season, but that critique in itself became a compliment to Cox over time. Not many other wildly successful managers and teams have been criticized so hard and so often for not being more perfect than Cox and the Braves.

Bobby Cox managed the National League All Star Team on five separate occasions (1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, and 2000). While managing the Toronto Blue Jays, he also was named Manager of the Year in the American League for the 1985 season and then another three times with the Atlanta Braves, the writers picked Cox as Manager of the year in the National League (2001, 2003, 2005).

The Astros honored Bobby Cox prior to Tuesday night’s game and well they should have. Good for the Astros! And good for Bobby Cox! What a worthy and often frustrating opponent he was to our Houston aspirations over the years. Will we ever forget the eighteen inning marathon victory over the Braves in the 2005 playoff game at Minute Maid Park? More painfully, will we ever be allowed to dis-remember that play at the plate in the Dome in 1999 that allowed the Braves to knock us out of the playoffs because Cox’s drawn in infield with the bases loaded did what they had to do, via a 6-2 Walt Weiss miraculous force out stop and throw, to kill our playoff chances?

Like him or hate him, Houston fans simply have to respect Bobby Cox for the worthy opponent he has always been. Now the guy walks away from baseball action on the field at age 68 with nothing more to prove.

Bobby Cox also leaves as the most ejected manager in baseball history. His 143 career ejections is a total far beyond anyone else, and these totals do not even include the two additional ejections he received in World Series play.

Why did Bobby Cox get tossed so much? Who knows?. Maybe it was just something he said that the umpires didn’t like. Maybe it was the way he said things. Maybe it was for just showing up in the face of the umpire on the heels of a tough call and being Bobby Cox. All I know is – baseball is losing a good man on the field after 2010 and I, as one fan, will miss him – even if he always was the guy on the other side in the wrong dugout,

Bye, Bye, Bobbie! We're going to miss you in Houston too!

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5 Responses to “Bye, Bye, Bobby!”

  1. Mark Wernick Says:

    Well said, Bill. I was at that 18 inning playoff game with Bill Gilbert, and that was definitely one for the ages. We both left our seats and were watching from the concourse when Brad Ausmus came up with 2 out, no one on base, and the Astros trailing by a run in the bottom of the 9th. We were going to get a head start on the crowd in getting to our cars. I was standing behind the Crawford box seats when Ausmus launched an unusually well-hit-looking long fly straight at me. Then everyone stood up and started screaming and I couldn’t see the ball land. But I was utterly dumbstruck and disbelieving when I saw Ausmus doing a homerun trot. I headed straight back to my seat and within a minute or two Bill was back there also. Little did we know then we’d be there the equivalent of another 9-inning game. What a game! 2 grandslams, one by each team, with Berkman’s getting us back in it; Roger Clemens’ first and only career pinch-hitting appearance and his three stellar relief innings at the end of the game; both Houston catchers taking a turn at first base; and Chris Burke’s game-winner, to name just a few choice components of that classic.

    I want to pay you a special compliment for your observation that Atlanta finished in first place in the NL east on 14 of 15 occasions, instead of making the oft-repeated and completely false statement that Atlanta won 14 consecutive division titles. Nothing could be more insulting to Felipe Alou and the Montreal Expos of 1994, who already had left Atlanta in the dust by the time the strike began in August 1994 – one of baseball’s darkest periods.

    Montreal of course was the 1994 NL east divison first-place finisher.

  2. Anthony Cavender Says:

    Bill: wonderful article on a great manager.
    I wanted to call your attendtion to the Sports Illustrated summer “double issue”. There’s a terrific article on Stan Musial and what he means to Saint Louis and baseball. Very moving.

  3. Dick "Lefty" O"Neal Says:

    Good job. My son and I were invited on the field with Larry Dierker before the Monday night game to say goodbye to Boby. It was a thril for my 25 year old son who has heard so much about Bobby from me. Bobby was gracious to us both and he thwanked me for my book. He said he was already reading it and loves what he has read so far. Itg was an honor. It was cool getting a picture with Bobby and my son taken by my good friend, Larry Dierker. Truly a night to always cherish.
    Lefty O’Neal

  4. John Watkins Says:

    Another fine article, Bill. Here’s something I read about the recent SABR meeting in Atlanta that adds to the picture of Bobby Cox. It is from an article by Chris Jaffe in Hardball Times.

    “On Friday morning, SABR had a panel nominally about the worst-to-first Braves, but really covered Atlanta Brave history up to 1991. It was awesome. First, the panel was absolutely awesome: Phil Niekro, Bobby Cox, Mark Lemke, Ron Gant and former announcer Pete Van Wieren. Second, Van Wieren, who largely MC’d it, did a tremendous job. Most importantly, all the guys came with good material.

    Cox’s presence was especially impressive. One veteran SABR member noted during the Q&A section, that we’ve never had a sitting manager show up for one of these the day of a game. It was even better than that: It was the morning after a night game, and immediately afterward Cox (and the others) went to a luncheon for Tom Glavine, then Cox went to the park for [Glavine’s] number retirement and the game. That’s a hell of a full day, and Cox is 69 years old.”

  5. Shirley Virdon Says:

    Nice to see your very nice (and deserving) article about Bobby Cox. We first knew Bobby when he was a Minor League Manager in the Yankee organization . Bill was managing the Yankees and we liked Bobby very much then, when he was just beginning his managerial career. That was 1974-75——Who knew Bobby would still be managing in 2010? Great ability and stamina to last so long in this game.

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