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Baseball, Southern Rock and Brad "The Animal" Lesley

Posted: Jun 06, 2009

Last week, The Greenville Drive minor league baseball club welcomed one of their own home, in a way. Of course, back in the early ‘90’s, our Greenville, SC ball team were The Greenville Braves. In 2005, the Braves moved to Rome, Georgia.

John Smoltz of the Boston Red Sox, a twenty year veteran of The Atlanta Braves, pitched in Greenville, making a rehab start for the South Atlantic League’s Greenville Drive.

Fluor Field was packed, sold out. Of course, that’s nothing new for the Drive. Their first four seasons and new ball park in the West End have been pulling in fans since the gates opened.

Back in 1991, I was editor of Greenville’s first ever weekly entertainment newspaper, Edge Magazine. One of the first things my partner, the late James Irwin, did was to trade advertising with the Greenville Braves for season tickets. Our row of seven box seats was right behind home plate. Boy howdy, did we ever have some fun times there  Now, mind you, this was at the time when our minor league team featured cats like Tom Glavine, Chipper Jones and Javy López.

Of course, my love fore baseball goes back much, much further than that. I can remember very clearly being a little kid, over at my Grandparents’ house watching the game on the old black and white TV with Papa Sorrells. Man, those games were so good. Back before players wore shoulder length hair. Back before steroids.

I collected baseball card, like every other red, white and blue boy during the sixties. I went to many a game out at Duncan Park in my home town of Spartanburg, SC, and even had a life changing experience there one night with my buddies from church, but that is a story unto itself. One I shall save for later. More about stupidity that the fine game of baseball.

There were several occasions during the seventies when we would see the guys from The Marshall Tucker Band out there taking in a game. Two of my favorite worlds, colliding before my very eyes.

 I was a fan of the Atlanta Braves. I remember when Hank Aaron started with Atlanta in the mid-sixties, and was watching when hit his 600th career homer in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium off the Giants' Gaylord Perry in 1971. Man, Aaron was my first real African American Hero. The man could do no wrong, baby.

I’ll never forget joining the millions who cheered Hank on as he tied Babe Ruth, connecting on April 4, off Cincinnati's Jack Billingham. Four days later he broke the record with No. 715 against Dodgers' lefty Al Downing. Jeepers, that was some fine baseball.

Standing by my Braves scored big in 1991 when they made history by becoming the first team ever to reach the World Series just one season after having baseball's worst record. Go Braves.

Today, I am happy to present a guest blog from my buddy Brad “The Animal” Lesley, former Cincinnati Reds pitcher, and die hard Marshall Tucker Band fan. Brad is a staple at the annual Angelus Benefits in Tampa, and has been known to sing his big ol’ heart out onstage with the MTB and Charlie Daniels.

Brad is one hell of a guy. One I am happy to count among my friends. I want to thank him for sharing his thoughts with our readers. Hope y’all enjoy reading his blog as much as I did. Read it here.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern. Pass the peanuts.

Me and Animal at The Beacon Drive In in Spartanburg here a while back.


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palmettopirate says...

I love those braves too. I've been a die hard fan all my life and was very disappointed when Greenville lost the double a team. My family and I attended a lot of games there and I have some great memories of those day's. I do like the new stadium that the Drive has and I've attened a few games. Living here in Nashville my wife and usually attend a few Nashville Sound games a year. I miss those day's in Greenville though!

sarasmile says...

Go Braves! Excellent article Michael B!

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