July 20, 1993 is a day that has dual special meanings for the Atlanta Braves.
One was the arrival of newly acquired first baseman Fred McGriff.
The other was a fire that almost scrubbed his first game with his new team.
A can of Sterno used to keep catered food hot in the radio booth of the long-since demolished Atlanta Fulton County Stadium tipped over and set off a blaze that interrupted practice just before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals. The team was busy practicing for the game later that night when smoke started pouring from the booth. It would not be long before all eyes in the stadium (and out of it thanks to local media reporting the incident live as it happened) were fixated on the large and increasingly grimacing flames pouring out of the club level. Loud explosions would soon be heard throughout the stadium.
The Braves wound up having to evacuate early bird fans arriving at the stadium during the mess. Many more had to wait outside of the stadium. It took more than 40 firefighters to bring the blaze under control, and they ran into issues just trying to get water to the blaze. It temporarily displaced the Braves Radio announcers, whose booth was destroyed by the blaze. The game was postponed until 9:40 pm that night. The blaze reportedly did $1.5 million in damage to the stadium.
Ironically, this happened on the night the Braves hoped McGriff would help light a fire under the team’s offense. He was brought over from the San Diego Padres in a 3 minor leaguers for 1 trade.
“Maybe Fred will be the spark.” Braves second baseman Mark Lemke said in an ironic and memorable quote.
The stadium may have been hot that afternoon, but that night, it was the visiting Cardinals feeling the heat. McGriff was the spark for the team, hitting his first homer in a Braves uniform. His efforts helped the Braves defeat the Cardinals 8-5.
The stadium was demolished in 1997.
Photo credit: Atlanta–Fulton County Stadium. (2023, May 8). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta%E2%80%93Fulton_County_Stadium