They danced in the streets, they set off fireworks in the cool night air, and they partied until the early hours of Sunday morning.
Atlantans are in a giddy mood.
The Atlanta Braves' capture of the World Series title against the Cleveland Indians Saturday, by a 4-to-2 game margin, finally ends the heartbreak and misery the city has endured for years with its professional sports teams. In a combined 84 seasons the Braves, the Falcons football team, and Hawks basketball team had never before won a world championship.
Indeed, before the 1990s the Braves were perennial losers. Back then, team owner Ted Turner went to great lengths to hawk tickets, including once driving an ostrich-powered chariot to a crash in the visitors' dugout. The team has not won a championship since 1957. Even in this decade, many people wondered if the team, which came close to clinching the World Series in both 1991 and '92, come up short again, suffering the fate of the Buffalo Bills, which lost four straight Superbowls.
But with the dry spell ended, the win is another boost to the city. It appears the capital of the New South is on a roll.
In 1990, Atlanta was chosen to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, and preparations are in full swing. The city is putting the finishing touches on new sports venues and other buildings to fulfill its hosting duties. Last week, Fortune magazine ranked Atlanta as No. 2 in the United States as the best city to do business; the city ranked seventh on the global list. And Atlanta continues to enjoy one of the highest growth rates in the country, as new businesses and people move here.
"This win is just an appetizer for what's ahead!" one fan shouted on a local TV station in the excitement after the game. Today, the Braves' players will ride on fire trucks in a parade downtown.
Atlanta's World Series win serves to confirm one of the oldest axioms in baseball - good pitching beats good hitting.
The Cleveland Indians had the best-hitting team in the major leagues during the regular season, averaging nearly six runs per game with its .291 team batting average, one of the highest in recent memory. Atlanta, meanwhile, had a pitching staff that was the envy of club in the majors.
Cold weather never seemed to be a major factor in the Series' outcome. Nonetheless, pitchers generally do better than batters in cooler temperatures, and that was to Atlanta's advantage.
As the accompanying chart shows, the Indians' vaunted offense declined in the postseason and rolled off a cliff in the World Series. The Braves, on the other hand, were fairly consistent in their hitting and their pitching sawed off Cleveland's batting lumber.
Tom Glavine, Atlanta's No. 2 starting pitcher, was named the Series' Most Valuable Player for winning Game 2 and the clincher, Game 6. He was especially masterly Saturday night in Atlanta, when he gave up only a bloop single in eight sterling innings. Braves' right fielder David Justice provided an ironic twist when he scored the only run - a homer in the sixth.
THE day before Justice blistered Atlanta fans in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, saying they were not as supportive or enthusiastic as Indians' fans. "If we don't win, they'll probably burn our houses down," Justice reportedly said.
Atlanta fans didn't take too kindly to his comments about their perceived lukewarm reception. At game time, the Braves' player was booed as he was introduced, when he trotted to the outfield in the first inning, and when he went to bat. One fan held up a sign that read, "Justice, hope your bat is as big as your mouth!"
After the game, an outspoken and relieved Justice, who realized he would be booed out of town if the team had lost, said: "I just wanted to get 'em fired up. I like 'em. All I wanted to do was get them to rally behind us....I'll be the first one to admit I was wrong." By all accounts fans here have forgiven him.
*Staff writer Ross Atkin contributed to this report