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Atlanta's Fan Support Doesn't Measure Up

October 08, 2000|ROSS NEWHAN

ATLANTA — At the end Saturday, as the St. Louis Cardinals wrapped up a 7-1 victory and division series sweep of the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, the tomahawks had been put away or discarded and the few remaining fans of the home team seemed far outnumbered by red-clad fans of the visiting team.

The announced crowd was 49,898, but there were thousands of empty seats in the upper deck in right field--not unusual for a division series here--and there was a lot more noise, at times, coming from the Cardinal fans.

Referring to the less than full house later, Mark McGwire said:

"It's absolutely amazing that the fans here would take the Braves for granted, considering everything they've accomplished."

Maybe that's it. Maybe they've accomplished so much with their nine consecutive division titles that it's assumed they'll advance.

This time, trailing, 2-0, and looking for support, they came home to thousands of Cardinal fans, a development that did not amaze McGwire.

"There's not another team that has the following the Cardinals do," he said. "People plan their vacations around our road trips."

A lot of it involves McGwire, of course, which is duly rewarded.

The Cardinals drew a National League-best 3,336,493 this year, and McGwire got $1 for every admission over 2.8 million, a bonus of $536,493.

On Saturday, McGwire made his third pinch-hitting appearance of the series and grounded out in the eighth inning.

His tender right knee did not prevent him from joining teammates in celebrating at the mound after the final out.

"I went to the playoffs for three straight years with Oakland [starting in 1988]," he said. "I was young and spoiled. I assumed it was supposed to happen every year and it doesn't. I realize now why they say to cherish it. I can only pinch-hit, but I'm happy to do that, to be part of it. It means a lot more to me than when I was younger."


The elbow uncertainty that forced Game 3 starter Garrett Stephenson out in the fourth inning Saturday is certain to give Andy Benes a start in the seven-game NL championship series, and possibly Pat Hentgen. . . . The Cardinal bullpen was charged with only three runs in 13 2/3 innings against the Braves, coming up big in Game 1 relief of Rick Ankiel and Game 3 relief of Stephenson. . . . Scouts working the Braves-Cardinals series were speculating that the quick demise might prompt Atlanta to enter the Alex Rodriguez sweepstakes this winter.


Some Atlanta numbers: Rafael Furcal was one for 11, Andres Galarraga two for 10, Andruw Jones one for nine, Keith Lockhart one for eight, Javier Lopez one for 11, and Reggie Sanders was hitless in nine at-bats.

Game 1: St. Louis 7, Atlanta 5

Game 2: St. Louis 10, Atlanta 4

Game 3: St. Louis 7, Atlanta 1

Cardinals win series, 3-0

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