Farewell to Bobby Cox

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:34 PM ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — What if Bobby Cox had been able to raise his right arm, signal the bullpen, the door opened and out trotted Mariano Rivera?

Or say Tom Henke or Duane Ward?

Not just Monday against the San Francisco Giants, but say every year of the Atlanta Braves’ post-season run.

Instead, the Braves manager had Juan Berenguer (1991), Alejandro Pena (1992), Mike Stanton (1993), Greg McMichael (1994), Mark Wholers (1995-97), Kerry Ligtenberg (1998), John Rocker (1999-2001), John Smoltz (2002-04) and Calgary’s Chris Reitsma (2005). All led Cox’s team in saves from 1991 until 2005.

The 1994 work stoppage, when the Braves trailed the Montreal Expos, was the only year the Braves didn’t make the post-season from 1991 to 2005 — because there wasn’t any post-season.

What if Rivera?

He’d have more than one World Series title.

When the end came to Cox’s managing career Monday in Atlanta, he didn’t have Rivera or Ward. He didn’t have his regular closer available Billy Wagner, out with an injury, in the eighth.

So, he went an extra hitter with starter Derek Lowe and turned to Peter Moylan. The San Francisco Giants scored twice for the lead. The play-by-play uses the term “weak” grounder three times even on Alex Gonzalez’s throwing error.

And minutes later, it was over after ... the Braves had two on with one out in the bottom of the ninth ... the Giants recorded the final out ... Turner Field went silent ... then bounced back chanting “Bobby! Bobby!” ... a short curtain call by Cox ... the Giants stopped in mid-celebration to applaud Cox ... Cox breaking down afterwards answering questions.

Montreal routine

There was a post-game routine covering the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium.

It was the same whether the manager was Dick Williams, Jim Fanning, Bill Virdon or Buck Rodgers. Reporters would enter the clubhouse and ask questions while players ate.

My first game at Exhibition Stadium in 1985 — the Jays lost a tough one to the Detroit Tigers if memory serves — I went downstairs and entered Cox’s office. It was empty.

There he was sipping a beer at coach John Sullivan’s locker, squeezing so hard I was expecting the bottle to shatter.

He spat out a few answers: “Yep,” and “nope” and “nah, not really.”

Over the years, all those Braves post-seasons and spring trainings, with so many Canadians in camp, we got to know each other. It was difficult to get a question is between “well, how’s Cito?” and “how’s Beast (Jays president Paul Beeston)?”

Cox had a fondness for Toronto, managing the Braves 1978-81, being fired by owner Ted Turner, then managing the Blue Jays from 1982-85 and getting the Jays to the post-season for the first time in 1985.

With a couple of friends we tried to come up with a list of five Braves Cox had ripped over the years. It was a two-hour lunch. We came up with zero.

‘Super’ pitching

One night at Olympic Stadium one year, lefty Steve Avery gave up five or six runs in the first and was lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth.

“For me, he pitched super, just super, he only allowed one hit after that little bit of trouble in the first,” Cox said. “A one hitter, that’s not bad.”

Cox was serious.

He managed 4,508 regular-season games, compiling a 2,504-2001 record (.556 win percentage), was ejected from 161 games (but few of his players were) and was 68-69 in the post-season.

One of the toughest assignments is to write about Cox talking about Cox.

We tried unsuccessfully in 2006 and moaned to Braves broadcaster, the late Skip Caray.

“That’s Bobby’s personality, he doesn’t have an ego,” Caray said. “Bobby wants all of the blame and none of the credit. Some managers crave the limelight. My father (Harry Caray) was the same.”

Another good one.

Gone.


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