A Braves Hall of Fame celebration


COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- There won't be a trace of a southern accent on the podium when the Atlanta Braves' contingent delivers 30 minutes or so of speeches Sunday at the 2014 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. Greg Maddux spent his early years in Spain as a military brat before his family moved to Las Vegas. Fellow inductee Tom Glavine is a product of the Greater Boston suburbs, and Bobby Cox, their former manager, was born in Oklahoma before moving to California's San Joaquin Valley as a small boy.

But it will be perfectly understandable if a Tomahawk Chop breaks out at the Clark Sports Center or a "y'all" is heard on the Cooperstown streets this weekend, when memories drift back to a day when all postseason roads passed through Atlanta, the center of the baseball universe.

With all due respect to Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Frank Thomas, three of the six inductees to the Hall's Class of 2014, the main theme in Cooperstown this year will be honoring a team that spoiled its fan base rotten and defined the modern-day "dynasty" before the Yankees claimed four championships from 1996 through 2000. The Braves captured 14 straight division titles, with the only respite coming in 1994 when the season ended early because of a strike, with Montreal holding a six-game lead over Atlanta in the National League East. To this day, the Atlanta players and front office are convinced they would have made up the deficit and captured the division if commissioner Bud Selig hadn't canceled the season in August.

Even though Maddux will go into Cooperstown with a logo-free cap out of deference to the Chicago Cubs, the team that gave him his start in pro ball, he will join Glavine and Cox in the first wave of recent Braves mainstays who will be prominent in Hall voting over the next few years. John Smoltz, with his Dennis Eckersley-like pedigree, goes on the ballot for the first time in December, and Chipper Jones is considered a lock as one of the elite switch-hitters in history. John Schuerholz, who oversaw the construction of those Atlanta teams as general manager, is also a strong candidate to make it to the Hall through the Veterans Committee at some point.

Two other former Braves who won't make the Hall of Fame still generate some interesting conversation. Andruw Jones appeared destined for superstardom in 1996 when he became the youngest player to hit a home run in the World Series. He faded prematurely but still finished his career with 434 home runs, 10 Gold Gloves and a 62.8 career WAR, higher than fellow outfielders Gary Sheffield, Ichiro Suzuki, Sammy Sosa and Willie Stargell. Fred McGriff, a centerpiece of the Atlanta batting order for five years in the mid-'90s, also has a core of devotees. The Crime Dog is tied with Lou Gehrig on the career home run list with 493, but he's never cracked 25 percent in Hall balloting.

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