By Wesley Harris
Who should we be pulling for in this week’s World Series? The Atlanta Braves or the Houston Astros?
We can turn to history and geography to help answer the question.
In the Houston team’s early days, the Astros collected many Louisiana fans because no other MLB team called the South home until the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966. Before that, the closest team was the St. Louis Cardinals, a team with loyal fans in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana because of geography.
Local product James Rodney Richard pitched for the Astros from 1971 to 1980. Former Tech Bulldog pitcher Phil Maton joined the Houston team this summer.
Later, the newest team in the region, the Texas Rangers, developed a following around Shreveport and north Louisiana. Proximity plays a role in fandom.
Several Braves players grew up in north Louisiana, dating back to the days when the team called Boston, Massachusetts, home. Mule Watson of Claiborne Parish and Bill Bagwell of Choudrant played for the Braves in the 1920s. Hal Lee, who lived in Ruston for years, had some good seasons with the Braves the next decade.
When I was in the sixth grade at Ruston Elementary in 1968, the principal stunned me with news several local guys were playing for the Atlanta Braves. It was the only year George Stone, Ralph Garr, Cecil Upshaw, and Wayne Causey played together in Atlanta, and that early hometown pride made me a Braves fan for life. I treasure my yearbook for that year—the first ever produced by the school—dedicated to former student George Stone, a pitcher for the Braves.
Was it an amazing coincidence four players who grew up within a few miles of one another ended up on the same team for just a single year? A few years earlier, Joe Adcock had played for the Braves when the team called Milwaukee home, completing a stellar 10-year career. No other team of that era, or before or after for that matter, had as many players from north Louisiana simultaneously.
With no money for baseball magazines or trading cards and virtually no televised games on the three fuzzy channels we could pick up, my dad and I relied on newspapers to keep up with the Braves. Then cable TV and the TBS Superstation came along, televising every Braves game for over 20 years. Baseball fans across the nation embraced the Braves simply because they were accessible like few other major league teams.
Google “America’s Team” and the Braves logo pops up first.
I moved the family to Atlanta in 1989 and attended numerous Braves games in Fulton County Stadium. My son became a serious Braves fan, taking his wife to Atlanta for their honeymoon. They return to Atlanta when they can to see the Braves and attend games of the closer Mississippi Braves farm team in Jackson.
According to one online betting site, fans in 47 states are pulling for the Braves. Only Texas, Louisiana, and Delaware want the Astros to win. The Louisiana support comes from the larger population centers in the southern part of the state. Astros games were televised and carried on radio routinely in New Orleans and Lafayette starting in the team’s early days. More Astros players have come from Cajun country than north Louisiana.
We may have to settle for designating the Braves as northeast Louisiana’s team and southwest Louisiana leaning toward the Astros.
But for me, simply by sheer numbers of north Louisiana players, the Braves win the crown as our region’s team. And it’s my team because of the fine men from our area who played for them.
As I write this, my son and daughter-in-law are in Atlanta for the Series, a result of nothing but Braves baseball in our home, continuing a tradition from my childhood.
Now, if they can only win the Series.
To report an issue or typo with this article – CLICK HERE