Atlanta sports fans have a notorious—and well-deserved—reputation for fair-weather fickleness. But on October 29, 1991, 750,000 Atlantans stormed Downtown to cheer for a losing team: the Atlanta Braves, returning from a defeat by the Minnesota Twins in a nail-biting World Series that saw both teams go from worst to first in their leagues.
The crowds were so dense, three MARTA stations had to be closed (more than 300,000 people took the train that day). Fans swarmed the cars carrying the roster of emerging stars—John Smoltz, Tom Glavine, Sid Bream, Deion Sanders, Mark Lemke, David Justice—and politicos, including then Mayor Maynard Jackson and former Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., who had recruited the Braves to the city twenty-five years earlier.
The politicos and players rode in classic convertibles driven by members of local car clubs. Jan and Terry Appling piloted a vintage burgundy 1966 Mustang carrying Brian Hunter and Tommy Gregg. “We thought we’d just ride down Peachtree and it would be a little fling,” recalls Jan Appling. “It started out fine, but it grew to a humongous throng of people, beyond what anybody conceived, as we got down the route. People were everywhere, getting on cars, grabbing the players. They had baseball bats they wanted to have signed. It was scary.” Still, she and her husband didn’t really grasp the magnitude of the event until the next morning when they read newspaper reports.
But, says Appling, who later took part in the far more controlled 1995 parade when the Braves actually won the Series, nothing compared to the excitement of the 1991 season. Secretary of the Native Atlantans Club, Appling has been a Braves fan all her life. “My parents were Atlanta Crackers fans before the Braves even existed,” she notes.
This article originally appeared in the October 2011 issue.
Photograph courtesy of the Atlanta History Center