Any Atlanta Braves fan can tell you the easiest way to get a prickly response from Skip Caray on his pre-game call in show involved asking one of two questions:

  1. What do the signs that say “No Pepper” mean?
  2. What is the Infield Fly Rule?

Got to be a good-humored shared joke between Caray and the fans, pre-screened callers slipping the question in, irritating Skip. Good fun. Last night while watching the first-ever (and hopefully the last-ever) one-game Wildcard Playoff Game, couldn’t help but wish that Skip were here to explain that rule once again.

If you haven’t seen the play, you can find it linked below. Here’s Braves’ legend Dale Murphy‘s as-it-happened tweet: @DaleMurphy3: Oh my… Not believing this… Calls an infield fly when the ball is almost on the ground? Oh my…” 

Oh my, indeed. Atlanta Sports Fans get a bad rap. Especially when it comes to their “lack of passion” for the Braves. Even though the Wildcard Playoff Game had sold out by Wednesday and had Standing-Room-Only (SRO) tickets available, ESPN Friday morning crowed that 30,000 tickets remained available for Friday’s game. Seriously.

By the way, last weekend’s final home stand and Chipper Jones’ last regular season games were all sell-outs, SRO, and Sunday’s first game of the NLDS was SRO long before the first pitch of the WildCard game.

The Ted was rocking and chopping its way through a game marred by errors and missed opportunities. Sure, it’s hard to win when you give up four unearned runs, but the Braves never quit and had the tying run at the plate several times in the late evenings. The crowd stayed pumped—no one bailed when they fell behind during what looked like a comedy of errors (literally).

When the Infield Fly Rule was invoked in a typical I’ve-Got-it; You-Take-It miscue, the announcers, the players, and even Dale Murphy were confused. “Oh, they’re going to have to reverse that call,” one TV announcer predicted as Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez argued the call. Even the Cardinals seemed confused. Where was Skip Carey to explain this interpretation of “that” rule?

And those blasé Braves fans got downright angry at this travesty… they got, well, passionate. In a stadium well-known for ejecting fans for throwing back opposing teams’ home run balls—just like any self-respecting Cubs’ fan would—these nonchalant fans expressed frustration and anger by reacting the way many other fans have in other stadiums, other sports, other arenas. Plastic beer bottles rained from the stands, along with various other items.

Not the first time this has happened in pro sports. Dumping beer on an outfielder backing up to make a catch…. throwing batteries at pitchers and outfielders… give-aways tossed onto the field or the ice on any number of situations… Gee, the Cubs even installed a catch fence back in the ’60’s to collect the trash the Bleacher Bums threw toward the field—and everybody thought that was cool. Just the first time it’s happened in Atlanta.

Truly, do not support throwing anything that could hurt a fan, a player, an umpire or anybody. Had my share of beer dumped by irate baseball (Yankee) fans, football (Bulldawg) fans, hockey fans. Even had NASCAR fans rain beer (by accident—no NASCAR fan ever purposely wastes his beer). But it happens, fans over-react; the fields, ice, tracks are cleared, and the games go on.

‘Cept this time it happened in Atlanta. Those gentile laid-back ho-hum fans acted like—well—other sports fans. Suddenly the worst fans in sports also bear the label as “an embarrassment” to the sport—another reason to continue to diss Atlanta sports fans. Well, we didn’t go out and flip cars or torch them as we’ve seen in other “passionate” sports towns. No, we settled down (eventually) and chanted “Infield Fly Rule” every time the ball traveled to the outfield the rest of the game.

The saddest part of all—not the way anyone wanted to see Chipper Jones end his 19-year baseball career. No call to the field for one last standing ovation. The Braves and their nonchalant fans too dispirited and stunned… after winning 94 games, this was not the ending we envisioned.

Yep, left my heart on Turner Field last night—and it got swept right up in a black plastic trash bag.

Still waiting to hear Skip Carey’s voice just one more time to not-so-patiently explain that Infield-or-Oufield-Fly Rule. Would love to hear his call on that play.

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