On This Date in Sports: October 11, 2010: End of an Era in Atlanta

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

It is a bittersweet end for longtime Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox as his team is eliminated by San Francisco Giants in the Division Series in four games. In the finale, the Giants behind the pitching of rookie Madison Bumgarner 3-2. As the game came to an end, Cox was given a standing ovation by the crowd at Turner Field and the opposing Giants, as he retired after managing the Braves for 20 years. In 29 seasons as manager, Bobby Cox posted a record of 2,504-2,001. 

Robert Joe Cox was born May 21, 1941, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1959, Cox toiled in the minor for nine seasons, playing in the Dodgers, Cubs, and Braves organizations. In 1968, Bobby Cox finally made it to the majors with the New York Yankees. Playing third base, Cox appeared in 162 games over a two-year stretch, cumulating a .225 average, with nine home runs and 58 RBI.  

A knee injury would end Bobby Cox’s playing career, but the Yankees kept him in the organization and gave him his first managerial job in 1971. Cox had already been managing in the Venezuelan Winter Leagues. In 1976, Bobby Cox led Syracuse to a AAA Championship in the International League, earning a promotion to the Yankees’ coaching staff. In 1977 Bobby Cox served as the Yankees first base coach for Billy Martin on a team that won the World Series. 

After one season with the Yankees, Bobby Cox got his first chance to manage in the majors when he was hired by the Atlanta Braves. The Braves lost 101 games in 1977 and slightly improved 69-93 in 1978.  After a slight step back in 1979, Cox led the Braves to an 81-80 record in 1980, ending a string of six consecutive losing seasons for Atlanta. After posting a record of 50-56 in the strike interrupted 1981 season, Bobby Cox was fired by the Braves. 

Bobby Cox was not out of work long; he became manager of the Toronto Blue Jays in 1982. In their first five seasons, Toronto was not close to being competitive, as they lost at least 95 games in their first four seasons and were 37-69 in the strike-shortened 1981 season. The Blue Jays finished 1982 with a record of 78-84 and were clearly a team on the rise. A year later, the Jays became a contender, finishing fourth with a record of 89-73 as they finished out of last place for the first time. The Jays matched their 89-73 mark in 1984. Toronto reached greatness in 1985, as they won the American League East with a record of 99-62. However, in the ALCS, they lost in seven games after hold a 3-1 series lead. 

Bobby Cox left Toronto after the 1985 season, returning to Atlanta as General Manager, as the Braves began a long rebuild. Cosmetically the Braves' next four seasons were a disaster as they were among the worst teams in baseball. However, Cox began building a strong farm system built around pitching that would soon bear fruit and bring a period of winning that was unprecedented. The Braves were still lingering in last place when Bobby Cox fired Russ Nixon and named himself manager. He would remain manager in 1991, as John Schuerholz took over as General Manager. 

The young prospects that Atlanta was cultivating took root in 1991, as they went from worst to first and played in the World Series. The Braves would lose in seven games but would return to the Fall Classic in 1992. Again the Braves lost, this time to the Blue Jays, a team that Cox helped turn into contenders. The Braves would win the Western Division again in 1993 before realignment moved them to NL East in 1994. After the strike, the Braves resumed winning divisions in 1995, winning their first World Series since playing in Milwaukee in 1957. 

The Braves would return to the World Series in 1996 and 1999 but lost to the Yankees. The Braves would win the National League East 11 consecutive seasons from 1995-2005 but won just one World Series in five trips to the Fall Classic. 

As the 2010 season arrived, Bobby Cox announced his retirement. The Braves were once again on the rise in the National League East. Boosting the Braves were new talent, like rookie Freddie Freeman, as Chipper Jones had become the team’s elder statesman. The Braves posted a record of 91-71 in 2010, good enough to snag the National League Wild Card spot.

In Game 1 of the Division Series against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, the Braves lost a 1-0 pitchers’ duel as Tim Lincecum pitched a two-hit shutout. The Braves bounced back to win Game 2 in 11 innings 5-4 as Rick Ankiel hit a home run into McCovey Cove. As the series shifted to Atlanta, the Braves suffered an agonizing 3-2 loss in Game 3, as rookie closer Craig Kimbrell gave up two runs in the ninth. The Giants took the lead late in Game 5, scoring twice due to an error by Alex Gonzalez to win the game 3-2. 

Bobby Cox would be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a manager in 2014 due to his 2,504-2,001 record. Cox also holds the record for a manager to be ejected, as he was given the heave 161 times, including three ejections in the postseason.