ATLANTA -- Jermaine Dye started all six games of the 1996 World Series as the Atlanta Braves' right fielder. He was a blossoming talent with a high ceiling of potential, a right-handed hitter learning to harness his power.
And Dye hasn't played a game with the Braves since, having been traded to the Kansas City Royals in spring training of 1997 for Keith Lockhart and Michael Tucker, a deal that now looks one-sided in the Royals' favor.
The Braves acquired Fred McGriff during the summer of '93, and the first baseman provided immediate returns with a three-run home run in his Braves' debut, the night the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium press box caught fire.
McGriff spent four years as a Brave, helping Atlanta win the World Series title in 1995 and enjoying a prosperous stay.
After the '97 season, and seeing McGriff's production steadily decline, the Braves traded him to Tampa Bay for $25,000.
Now Dye and McGriff make prodigal returns to Atlanta as members of the American League All-Star team. Both received warm welcomes from the Turner Field crowd during the pre-game festivities Monday.
"Fred McGriff's my teammate again, so this is like old times," Dye said Monday.
In his third full season in Kansas City, Dye has evolved into the player the Braves projected he would become. The American League player of the month for April, Dye has 22 home runs and 63 runs batted in, becoming the first Royals outfielder since Bo Jackson to be voted in as an All-Star starter.
"I always think things happen for a reason," Dye said of his Braves' trade. "When they traded me, it looked good for them for a while because I was hurt for a bit, and the Royals sent me down to get healthy and get my confidence back."
But with Lockhart reduced to a sparingly used utility player, and Tucker having been traded away to Cincinnati, the Royals seem to have stolen Dye from the Braves' talent pool.
"I don't think you can call the trade a mistake," said Dye, 26. "At that point in time, the Braves needed left-handed hitting, and Michael gave them some good years. The Royals needed some right-handed power, so thankfully it's all worked out. I have no ill will toward Atlanta. I'm glad to be back."
Also glad to return is McGriff, chosen as a reserve by manager Joe Torre for his first American League stint.
McGriff belted the 408th home run of his career Sunday, surpassing Duke Snider on the all-time list. The Crime Dog is six homers away from becoming the second player in baseball history to have 200 or more home runs in each league.
The 36-year-old is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in his 14th season. After three seasons of below-average power production, McGriff's 62 RBI are the second most he's had at the All-Star break.
"I don't think I had anything to prove to Atlanta after they traded me," said McGriff, the 1994 All-Star Game's most valuable player. "From the moment I got here, there was a lot of pressure on me to perform, and I think I did. We won a World Series, went to another. I've been blessed to stay healthy after the trade. I've got some more good years in me."
Reach Rick Dorsey at (706) 823-3219.
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