Fifty Years in Atlanta: A History of the Braves and Falcons

The current logos for  the two teams.

The current logos for the two teams.

Seth Anderson, Staff Writer

Fifty years ago, the Atlanta Braves became the first Professional Sports Franchise in the city of Atlanta. It was a huge step for the city, and it marked a huge step for the city. Besides finally being involved in professional sports, it was a huge step for African American civil rights in the south as well. Thanks to the patience and skill of Henry “Hank” Aaron and his chase to break Babe Ruth’s home run record, the radically racist south became more tolerant towards the black community.

The Braves as a team did not have a large amount of success in Atlanta at first, having a winning season, a losing season, and a .500 season. However, with the advent of divisional play, the Braves won the first National League West title, but lost to the “Miracle Mets” in the National League Championship Series. The next decade, the only thing of notice was Hank Aaron’s 715th home run in Atlanta on April 8th, 1974. The 70’s and 80’s were morbid for the Braves as a team, but the 1982 team did win a division title with the help of future National League MVP Dale Murphy. However, afterwards, the team declined each year afterwards until 1991. Ted Turner’s buyout of the team gave the Braves an unprecedented audience never heard of in all of American sports. The large fan base coined the nickname, “America’s Team” and the national television audience made it a point to tune in, despite the team losing an embarrassing 106 games in 1986. 1991 signaled a new era for the team, the start of a 15 straight division titles and multiple World Series appearances. They only won one World Series, in 1995 against the Cleveland Indians. Every other World Series they appeared in was against the Twins (1991),Blue Jays(1992), and Yankees(1996 and 99). Afterwards, they never appeared in another World Series. They enjoyed moderate success until the 2005 season, and afterwards they struggled until 2010, Legendary Managers Bobby Cox’s final season. They also won the very first NL wild card spot this season, but lost the division series to the Giants in four games. Afterwards, the Braves enjoyed division success, but no playoff success, losing every divison series or wild card game they played. In 2015, their most recent season, the Braves announced a new ball park, and traded away many star players to get prospects for the 2017 season, when the ballpark is planned to open. However, this strategy hurt the Braves, as they finished with a losing record and finishing fourth in their division.

The Falcons started their first season in 1966, right after the Braves were finishing their first season. However, the Falcons had an abysmal first five years, only earning 12 wins total by the end of the decade.  Despite having their first winning record in 1971, they didn’t make the playoffs until 1978, where they won the wild card game 14-13 against the Philadelphia Eagles. They lost in the division game to the Dallas Cowboys though. The 80’s were very uneventful for the Falcon’s but, in 1991, the Falcons drafted Brett Farve, but only let him pass a grand total of four times all season. The next season, they traded him to Green Bay, where he would become a legendary quarterback. In the 1992 season, they moved into the Georgia Dome, the largest dome on planet earth at the time. In 1998, under recently acquired head coach Dan Reeves, the “Dirty Bird” Falcons had their best season to date. On November 8, they beat the New England Patriots 41–10, ending a streak of 22 losses at cold-weather sites. The team finished with a franchise-best 14–2 regular season record and the NFC West division championship. On January 17, 1999, the Falcons upset the top-seeded Vikings at Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game 30–27, in an exciting overtime victory. However, in their first-ever Super Bowl appearance, they lost 34–19 to the defending champion Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII. Afterwards, they’ve never appeared in another super bowl. Even with Michael Vick (Quarterback) leading the team to playoff appearances, and Matt Ryan (Quarterback) and Mike Smith (Head Coach) leading the team to the NFC Championship, the Falcons have never reached the Super Bowl since. The Mike Smith era was promising, with the team reaching the playoffs multiple times, and even coming within 10 yards of a Super Bowl appearance, but terrible luck with injuries, the loss of Tony Gonzalez, and a degrading offensive line eventually ended his tenure as his head coach.

The two teams have brought a great deal of joy and disappointment to the city of Atlanta, and hopefully, the Braves new idea of trading away all of their best players for prospects eventually works out, and the Dan Quinn era is looking promising for the Falcons, but the team is still showing some signs of rust that the previous years were plagued with. While the Braves 50th year was disappointing, the Falcons are in the hunt for a wild card spot in the NFC, and the team is in second place in their (relatively weak) division. Hopefully, the next 50 seasons are just as good, if not better for these two Atlanta titans.