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Braves' 13 division titles a record
Atlanta's run leads pack of all-time great teams
When the Atlanta Braves clinched first place in the National League East last week, the organization continued to add to a unique legacy of success which surpasses any other team in professional sports history.

The Braves have now won 13 consecutive divisional championships, dating back to 1991 (the 1994 strike year is not included).

When you think of super-successful sports organizations, great teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Oakland Raiders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens come to mind. But none of those teams ever won 13 straight divisional titles -- though some of them did come very close.

The great Lakers teams of the 1980s won nine straight NBA Western Conference Pacific Division titles from 1981-82 through 1989-90.

The Boston Celtics also won nine consecutive NBA division titles from 1956-57 to 1964-65.

The NHL's Colorado Avalanche won nine straight division titles from 1994-95 to 2002-03, breaking the record of the Montreal Canadiens, who won eight Norris Division titles from 1974-75 to 1981-82.

The Big Red Machine of the 1970s captured six overall Western Division titles, but never more than two in a row (1970, '72, '73, '75, '76, '79).

Of course, the New York Yankees have achieved what is believed to be the greatest overall record of success of any team in pro sports. From 1947 to 1964, the Bronx Bombers won 15 out of 18 divisional titles (including 10 World Series). But the Yanks never won more than five straight division titles during that era.

The mighty NFL Oakland Raiders had four first places in the AFC West Division from 1967-70, but snapped the streak by finishing second in 1971. The Raiders then quickly rebounded and went on to win five more consecutive division titles through 1976. Then, in 1977 and 1978, the Raiders finished in second place. But overall, though not quite Brave-esque, the Silver & Black had quite a run of success --- finishing in first or second place for 12 straight seasons.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won six straight AFC Central titles from 1974-79, which included four Super Bowl titles.

The Green Bay Packers won division titles from 1960-62 and 1965-67, and NFL championships in 1961-62, and 1965-67.

Other notable records of domination in pro sports include tennis great Pete Sampras, who finished at No. 1 in the world in the ATP tennis rankings for six years in a row from 1993-98.

Pro golfer Tiger Woods was ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking for 334 consecutive weeks, ceding the spot only recently to Vijay Singh.

Formula 1 champion racer Michael Schumacher has had quite a run, this year clinching his fifth straight F1 championship.

Current middleweight boxing champion Bernard Hopkins, who has won a record 19 straight title defenses dating back to 1995. His most recent victim was Oscar de la Hoya on Sept. 18.

Former heavyweight champ Joe Louis made 25 successful title defenses from 1937-48.

NASCAR's Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty hold the modern-era season record of winning 13 races in a single season. Gordon and Petty also share the consecutive wins-in-a-row streak with four each (also achieved by Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant, Bill Elliott and Mark Martin).


A-Rod homer upheld by instant replay

By FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer Sep 4, 2008, 12:36 am EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Alex Rodriguez made major league history by agreeing with an umpire.

The New York Yankees third baseman, a lightning rod for headlines on and off the field throughout his career, saw his ninth-inning home run Wednesday night the same way as third base umpire Brian Runge. So did baseball’s instant replay system.

Rodriguez’s long blast down the left field line was upheld in baseball’s first use of video to review boundary calls, and the Yankees beat the AL East-leading Tampa Bay Rays 8-4.

“I’m the first player. Next time I’m going stealth and go under the radar screen,” Rodriguez said. “It’s very fitting I’m involved. I was just glad we got the right call.”

Rodriguez, who went 3-for-4 and drove in four runs, hit a towering two-run shot off Troy Percival that Runge immediately ruled a homer when it bounced off the catwalk behind the foul pole in left field.

Rays catcher Dioner Navarro protested, bringing manager Joe Maddon out of the dugout. After convening, the umpires left the field to review the video, a process that took 2 minutes, 15 seconds to back the onfield call.

Rodriguez was denied a homer May 21 against Baltimore when a ball he hit over the fence at Yankee Stadium was incorrectly called an RBI double.

It was one of a string of home run calls blown by umpires, leaving some calling for instant replay.

“I had the best view because I was at home plate. I saw what Brian saw, and for sure I knew this was going to get replayed,” Rodriguez said of his 549th career homer that moved him ahead of Mike Schmidt for sole possession of 12th place on the all-time list. “I saw the way Navarro jumped and then Maddon jumped out of the dugout and I said, ‘Here we go.”’

Umpire crew chief Charlie Reliford said Maddon asked plate umpire Greg Gibson to discuss the call with Runge.

“We all believed it was a home run, but since the technology is in place we made the decision to use the technology and go look at the replays,” Reliford told a pool reporter, adding that the umpires watched the video several times.

“If there had been no argument, obviously we wouldn’t have because all four of us believed the call was correct on the field,” Reliford said. “Because he disputed it, and it was very close, and now the technology is in place, we used it.”

Percival had no beef with Runge’s call.

“I thought it was clearly fair, but after looking at the replay, I wouldn’t have known what to call, to be honest with you,” Percival said. “The replay made it more cloudy for me.”

But Reliford said the process, which was put in place last Thursday, worked “exactly like they trained us it would go,” adding it was a group decision.

“Technically, it’s up to the crew chief. But when the ship sinks, everyone drowns. We operate as a crew, we do everything as a crew, and we make decisions as a crew,” Reliford said. “If it comes down to a split decision, then the crew chief is going to have to decide which decision is most likely correct.”

Boston, which beat Baltimore 5-4 on Wednesday, moved within three games of Tampa Bay in the division.

Edwar Ramirez (5-1) worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam after Carl Pavano ran into trouble in the fifth. He was the winner despite facing only three batters as the Yankees won a series against a team .500 or better for the first time since winning two of three against Boston July 25-27.

Rodriguez, who has two homers and nine RBIs in the first three games of 10-game, four-city road trip, had a run-scoring double in the third off Edwin Jackson (11-9) and a RBI single in the fourth against Chad Bradford.

Robinson Cano, Ivan Rodriguez and Jason Giambi had RBI doubles off Jackson, who lasted 3 1-3 innings.

The Rays, who had one hit after the fifth inning, lost a series for the first time since the All-Star break.

It was only the third time since the break that Tampa Bay lost consecutive games. The Rays had been 12-0-1 in series since losing a season-high seven straight games from July 7-13 to turn a five-game lead over the Red Sox into a half-game deficit.

While the Rays weren’t charged with any errors Wednesday night, sloppy defense contributed to four infield singles and helped the Yankees advance baserunners at will on hits to the outfield.

In losing the series opener 7-2 on Tuesday night, the Rays ran themselves out of a potential big inning and committed a throwing error that helped New York break the game open after Xavier Nady hit a two-run homer.

The Yankees built a 6-1 lead for Pavano. The right-hander, making his third start since returning from elbow surgery that sidelined him for more than a year, couldn’t get through the five innings required to get the win.

B.J. Upton singled and Carlos Pena walked to begin the fifth against Pavano, who was replaced by Ramirez with New York leading 6-3. Cliff Floyd lined a single off second baseman Cano’s glove to load the bases with no outs.

The Yankees escaped unscathed when Willy Aybar lined into a double play to Cano, who stepped on second before Pena could get back to the bag. Eric Hinske popped to Derek Jeter, ending the threat.

The Rays scored on Floyd’s first-inning RBI double and Gabe Gross’ two-run homer in the fourth as Pavano allowed six hits, walked two and struck out one in four-plus innings—his shortest outing since coming off the DL. Akinori Iwamura added an RBI double off Jose Veras in the ninth.

Jackson, who had won six of his previous seven decisions, allowed six runs and 10 hits in his shortest start of the season. Four of the hits were infield singles, and two of the five doubles he yielded would have been singles if Bobby Abreu and Ivan Rodriguez hadn’t been aggressive in taking an extra base.



09/13/2006 1:00 AM ET
Year-by-year recap of Braves' run
Streak of 14 straight division titles finally comes to an end

ATLANTA -- The Braves' unprecedented run of 14 consecutive division titles came to an end this season. Over the course of the past 15 years, their continued success has enabled them to become baseball's model organization. No other professional organization has ever won as many as nine consecutive division titles.

When current manager Bobby Cox took over as the club's general manager before the start of the 1986 season, he found an organization in turmoil. He rebuilt the Minor League organization, instilled confidence and then reaped the benefits of his labor when he returned to the bench midway through the 1990 season.

Braves general manager John Schuerholz accepted his current position in October of 1990 and immediately strengthened Cox's team with the addition of veteran free agents like Terry Pendleton and Sid Bream. Immediately, the team became a division winner and maintained that distinction until this year.

Below is a yearly summation of the incredible streak:


While winning 11 of their first 13 games after the All-Star break, the Braves were able to cut the Dodgers' lead in the National League West standings from 9 1/2 games to 2 1/2. They then won eight of their final nine games of the season to finish one game ahead of the Dodgers.

Steve Avery's 16 1/3 scoreless innings against the Pirates during the National League Championship Series sent them to the World Series, where they lost in extra innings to the Twins in Games 6 and 7, which included a classic Game 7 pitching duel between John Smoltz and Jack Morris.


After starting the season with a 20-27 record, the Braves won 21 of their next 24 games and finished the season on a 78-37 run. Their second consecutive NL West crown earned them a second straight NLCS matchup against the Pirates. They earned a trip to the World Series with a two-run ninth inning in Game 7, that will always be remembered for its dramatic finale. Francisco Cabrera's two-out, two-run single scored a sliding Bream with the winning run.

During the World Series, the Braves lost four one-run games to the Blue Jays, who needed just six games to capture their first championship.


The offseason acquisition of Greg Maddux gave the Braves the game's most formidable starting rotation. Fred McGriff was acquired on July 18 and despite facing a 10-game deficit on July 22, the club managed to win another NL West title on the season's final day -- finishing with 104 wins to the Giants' 103. The Phillies ended hopes of a third straight World Series trip by capturing the NLCS in six games.


When the work stoppage ended the season on Aug. 11, the Braves trailed the front-running Expos by six games in the NL East standings. They had overcome the nine-game deficit they faced against the Giants on that same date, one year earlier.


The Braves cruised to the National League East title to become the first NL team since the 1921-24 New York Giants to capture four consecutive division titles. They bounced the Rockies from the Division Series and swept the Reds in the NLCS. That set the stage for the organization's only World Series title since moving to Atlanta in 1966, a six-game verdict over the Indians.

Tom Glavine led a pitching staff that quieted the Indians' powerful offense. In the Game 6 clincher, Glavine allowed one hit in eight scoreless innings and David Justice provided the only run with his sixth-inning solo homer.


The Braves assumed first place on May 19 and never relinquished the lead to become the first NL team to ever win five consecutive division titles. They swept the Dodgers in the Division Series and then captured the NLCS, despite losing three of the first four games to the Cardinals.

After winning two straight games at Yankee Stadium to begin the World Series, it seemed the Braves were set to win a second consecutive world championship. But the Yankees battled back to win the next four games. Jim Leyritz's game-tying, three-run, eighth-inning homer off Mark Wohlers in Game 4 served as a turning point.


While playing their first season at Turner Field, the Braves won 101 games and became the first Major League team to ever win six consecutive division titles. They swept the Astros in the Division Series to set up an NLCS matchup against the Marlins, who finished nine games behind the Braves in the NL East standings.

On their way to becoming the first Wild Card team to win the World Series, the Marlins needed six games to defeat the Braves in the NLCS.


While going 106-56 the Braves set a franchise record for wins and easily won another NL East crown. The special season, which was highlighted with the arrival of Andres Galarraga, ended when the Padres won the first three games of the NLCS and ended up earning a trip to the World Series with a Game 6 victory.


Chipper Jones' monstrous MVP season allowed the Braves to hold off the Mets in September. Despite losing Javy Lopez in June and having John Smoltz enduring the pain of an injured elbow, the club bounced the Astros from the Division Series and defeated the Mets in the NLCS.

The Yankees overcame late-inning deficits in two of the first three games to capture their second of what would be three straight World Series titles.


Rafael Furcal's Rookie of the Year campaign, combined with a standout season from Andruw Jones and Galarraga's return from lymphoma, helped the Braves hold off the Mets by one game in the NL East. But they were soundly swept by the Cardinals in the Division Series, and for the first time since 1990, an NLCS was played without the Braves.


On the way to becoming the first professional organization to win 10 consecutive division titles, the Braves found themselves in a definite battle. They were never separated from the Phillies by more than 3 1/2 games from June 22 through the end of the season. After sweeping the Astros in the Division Series, they fell victim to the Diamondbacks' pitching staff in the NLCS, which featured Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson.


After going 12-15 in April, the Braves won 60 of their next 80 games and cruised to another division title. Smoltz set a single-season Major League record with 55 saves and Gary Sheffield made a definite impact during his first season in Atlanta. But the Braves saw their season end when they lost Game 5 of the Division Series to the Giants.


Lopez's career season helped the Braves obliterate a number of the franchise's offensive records. Russ Ortiz led the NL with 21 wins and Maddux became the first pitcher to ever win at least 15 games in 16 consecutive seasons. But Kerry Wood and Mark Prior proved to powerful in the Division Series, which the Cubs won in five games.


Despite losing Sheffield, Maddux and Lopez to free agency, the Braves still managed to capture another division title. They were six games below .500 on June 23. But they enjoyed one stretch, during which they won 47 of 62 games, and found yet another trip to the postseason. This time they were bounced from the Division Series in five games by the Astros.


Numerous injuries forced the Braves to use 18 rookies. But the youthful players, namely Jeff Francoeur and Brian McCann, provided enough for the club to hold off the second-place Phillies. Smoltz proved strong in his return to the rotation and he would be the only Brave to record a victory in the Division Series against the Astros. The season ended with an 18-inning Game 4 loss that came as a result of Chris Burke's homer off Joey Devine.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


10/04/2006 5:45 PM ET
Sutton era ends at Turner Sports
Longtime broadcaster will look to continue career elsewhere
Former Braves broadcaster Don Sutton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1998. (Rusty Kennedy/AP)

As Turner Sports begins to enter its new era of programming, the company has learned that it will be doing so without Don Sutton.

With the 2007 season being the final one in which TBS will carry the Braves to a national audience, it was no longer prudent for Turner Sports to provide Sutton a salary that was comparable to the one he's had the past few years.

Hoping to secure his services for the postseason coverage it will start providing next year, Turner made him an offer that he immediately rejected.

"We think Don is an excellent analyst and we offered him a postseason package that he rejected," Turner Sports spokesman Jeff Pomeroy said.

Sutton, who had broadcast Braves games since 1989, will now look to join another broadcast team. There's a belief that he'd like to hook on with the Padres, Angels or Dodgers. The Hall of Fame pitcher owns a home in Palm Springs, Calif.

With TBS carrying just 70 Braves games nationally next year, Turner Sports never offered Sutton a chance to return as a Braves analyst. Instead, it believes their broadcast team will consist of Chip Caray, Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren and Joe Simpson.

Chip Caray and Van Wieren are already under contract. Skip Caray and Simpson have been offered contracts that they are expected to accept.

Beginning in 2008 and running through 2013, TBS' national baseball coverage will consist soley of 26 Sunday afternoon broadcasts that could include matchups between any Major League Baseball teams.

WTBS, the channel's local Atlanta feed, will carry at least 45 games per season from 2008-2013. These games also could be carried on TBS in the club's six-state home territory, which includes Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee.

Beginning this year and extending through the life of the agreement, TBS has exclusive broadcasting rights to all tiebreaker games needed to determine division winners or Wild Card entrants. Next year, it will begin carrying the All-Star Game selection show.

The jewel of this broadcasting agreement, which was completed in July, gives Turner Sports the exclusive rights to carry all of the Division Series games for each of the next seven seasons.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.