Bobby the Brave

Atlanta's longtime manager is leaving behind a winning legacy



The most beloved member of the Atlanta Braves right now was a light-hitting third-baseman who spent only two seasons as a pro baseball player.

Of course, that's not why Braves Nation loves Bobby Cox.

Braves fans embrace Cox for the amazing years he has put in as a manager and front-office executive -- especially for his astounding 21-year run in which he skippered his team to 14 consecutive division titles.

Fans will miss him terribly when he retires at the end of this season.

But this season isn't over yet.

On Sunday he steered his Braves to the playoffs yet again. A victory over the Philadelphia Phillies put Cox and his team, for the first time in his career, in a wild-card spot to win the National League pennant.

Managers come and go in baseball, but the true legends help mold the team's history.

It was Cox -- during his first stint as Braves manager in 1980 -- who decided to move first-baseman Dale Murphy to center field to take advantage of Murphy's speed. That crucial move helped make Murphy the Braves' star player of the '80s.

When Cox returned to the Braves in 1986 as the team's general manager, he set to work rebuilding its sluggish farm system -- and shepherded the early careers of some of the biggest-named Braves of the 1990s, such as Tom Glavine, David Justice, Ron Gant and Steve Avery.

In 1990 Cox fired manager Russ Nixon and took over the job himself.

Now we can talk about history. Cox took the Braves to four World Series, highlighted by Atlanta's only world championship in 1995.

And Cox holds at least one other baseball career record: He's been ejected from the diamond more than any other manager -- 158 times as of last Sept. 17. But that doesn't mean he's a hothead.

He's a fighter. And a winner.

The Braves have the chance to send their skipper out in style Thursday as they begin their best-of-five playoff series against the San Francisco Giants. After that, who knows? Another National League pennant? Another World Series title for the Braves?

Let's hope the fans' farewell to Bobby Cox is a very long goodbye. We're not done with him just yet.



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