Spahn’s Purple HeartBy John Pierce

Rain washed out batting practice and delayed the start of the Braves game last night. So my daughter Meredith and I had time to explore Turner Field — although I’m rather familiar with every artistic expression, ice cream flavor and colorful character there.

We went into the excellent (and dry) Braves Museum and Hall of Fame — that was recently picked by Ballpark Digest as the best of its kind with the Travelers’ museum in Little Rock’s Dickey-Stephens Park coming in second.

As expected, the Atlanta museum focuses heavily on the unprecedented run of 14 consecutive division titles by the Braves beginning with the magical “worst to first” 1991 season — and pays deserving tribute to Henry Louis Aaron, the all-time home run champion with 755 dingers. (I don’t count chemically enhanced stats from once thick-necked, bigheaded players.)

But the museum also traces the long-running franchise from Boston to Milwaukee to Atlanta. (Trivia note: Hall of Fame third baseman Eddie Mathews is the only Brave to play in all three cities. He also was a manager for the Atlanta Braves in the ‘70s, but proved to be a much more successful player.)

While pitcher Warren Spahn ended his career before the Braves moved to Atlanta in 1966, he has a large statue in the Turner Field plaza and a significant presence in the museum. Such tributes are well deserved.

Spahn won 363 games (the most by any left-handed pitcher in Major League history) and had 13 seasons with 20 or more wins. But most impressive to me is that Warren Spahn received both the Cy Young Award and the Purple Heart.

Like other players of his era, Spahn spent some prime years serving his nation in World War II — seeing action in the Battle of the Bulge.

One can only imagine what his career statistics would look like had he not spent those years in the 1940s away from baseball. Or what modern-day players would be like if they had similar experiences in their 20s.

The rain kept me from snagging a few more batting practice homers. But it gave me the chance to revisit some good history with my bright and lovely daughter — and to gain a little inspiration from a hero whose contributions were made on and off of the field.

And as old Milwaukee fans know, the words Spahn and rain seem to go together well.

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