July 20th 1993…
On this day, the Braves were hosing the St. Louis Cardinals at the Atlanta-Fulton Country Stadium (Braves played there until Turner Field was built for the Olympics in 1996) and it turned out to not be your normal day at the park.
First, the game was delayed for an hour after a fire breaks out in the skybox area of stadium. Then, the Cardinals weren’t intimidated by the Braves young left-handed pitcher, Tom Glavine, and they put five runs on the board. After the Braves sucked some wind back into their sails, Jeff Blauser hits a three run home run scoring pinch hitter Bill Pecota and Deion Sanders in the bottom of the 6th inning. Then in the same inning, newly acquired first baseman, Fred McGriff comes to the plate with Ron Gant already on base and blasts the first pitch he sees from Rene Arocha tying the game.
The Braves would go on to win this game 8-5 as it was a step in the right direction as this ignited the beginning of the team’s historic comeback from a 9 1/2 games deficit to win the National League West Division (Yes, if you don’t remember the Braves were in the NL West when each league only had two divisions). After this game, the Braves went 50-17 to finish the season with a league best 104-58 record.
Because of performance the Braves had after the acquisition of McGriff and the just so happen fire on his first day on the job, McGriff was given the nickname “Fire Dog”.
Fred always preferred the nickname Fire Dog, but that’s not the one we best know him for – Braves nation and myself know this guy as “The Crime Dog”.
The Crime Dog played in parts of 19 big league seasons from 1986-2004, suiting up for the Blue Jays, Padres, Braves, Devil Rays (two stints), Cubs and Dodgers. He was originally drafted by the Yankees in the 9th round of the 1981 draft. On December 9, 1982 he was traded by the Yankees to the Blue Jays in exchange for Tom Dodd and Dale Murray. By the end of the 1990 season, he was swapped to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter (that worked out pretty well for Toronto).
He retired as a .284/.377/.509 (134 OPS+) hitter with 2,490 hits, 441 doubles, 1,550 RBI and seven shy of the career milestone number of 500 in home runs with 493.
McGriff was one of the best power hitters of his generation. He had that smooth left handed swing that just looked so pretty watching. While during his peak seasons, from 1988-94, he hit .288/.390/.545 (155 OPS+) with an average of 38 home runs and 104 RBI per 162 games. His 242 homers during that seven-season stretch were the most in all of baseball and that is by an astounding 24 bombs!!
Crime Dog lead the AL with 36 home runs in 1989 and then in 1992 led the NL with 35 home runs, in doing so he became the first player since the deadball era to lead both leagues in home runs.
When the playoffs came around, Fred’s bat heated up. He was a key contributor to the 1995 World Series winning Atlanta Braves team, hitting .333/.415/.649 with four home runs in their 14 postseason games. But not only that season, he was a monster in the playoffs throughout his career, putting up a .303/.385/.532 batting line with 10 homers and 37 RBI in 50 October games.
McGriff was the kind of player who would be overshadowed throughout his career not by performance but just overlooked. He always did his job and usually hit at or above .300 and was a decent first baseman.
This is his fifth year of Hall of Fame eligibility. In 2010 he had 21.5% of the votes. In 2011 he had 17.9%, 2012 he had 23.9% and in 2013 he had 20.7% of the ballots. To be inducted into the BBWAA he’ll need 75% for induction.
He’s not a shoe in for 2014 but it would be nice to see him walk up on the stage with former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.
The results of this years poll will be published at 2pm Wednesday.