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Column: That 1991 October Saturday in Athens was one to remember

Column – Reminiscing of Oct 1991 in Georgia sports.

I know many Georgia Bulldog fans are also Atlanta Braves fans.

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For you, this past Saturday was a pretty good day.

Your Bulldogs got the win in less-than-stellar fashion at Missouri, but still it was a road victory in the SEC by 14 points, 43-29.

Then, not long after that game was done, your Braves clinched the NL East pennant at home inside beautiful SunTrust Park with their 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

While it was much less dramatic, Saturday reminded me of that Saturday in early October 1991. It was Oct. 5 to be exact.

Some of you die-hard UGA fans might remember the events of that day. I remember them rather well as that Saturday was one of my most memorable experiences as an undergrad at the University of Georgia.

I was just a few weeks into my days as a student in Athens, so I was still learning the bus routes and my way around the sprawling campus.

But, for a long time, I had known where the football stadium was. And that evening, Georgia was going to be playing Clemson under the lights at Sanford Stadium in a nationally-televised game by ABC.

What happened earlier that day, though, set the stage for this unforgettable evening.

That afternoon, the Braves had beaten the Houston Astros at home in old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Then, the Braves gathered at the pitcher’s mound to watch the end of the San Francisco-Los Angeles Dodgers game on the video screen while most of the fans hung around to watch as well.

When the Giants finished out a 4-0 victory over the Dodgers, the Braves had then clinched the NL West pennant in what is commonly known now as the worst-to-first season as the Braves were last in the division the previous season.

I watched that game, along with some afternoon college football, from my dorm room up on the big hill at Russell Hall.

And while the Dodgers-Giants game was finishing up, I ran down to the Oglethorpe dining hall to grab an early dinner before the night’s main event, the Dogs against the Tigers between the hedges.

So, I was probably eating a hamburger or something of the like when that game went final, and I remember cheers going up throughout the cafeteria as the Braves thus had officially clinched the division pennant on the next-to-last day of the regular season.

But, oh boy. The fun was just beginning.

The scene outside the football stadium that evening was surreal. The Sanford Bridge was mostly a sea of red and black, of course, but Clemson was well-represented by plenty of fans wearing their orange.

As people filed into the stadium for the 7:30 p.m. kickoff, people were chanting “How bout them Braves” as much as they were “Go Dawgs.”

And in unison, both Clemson and Georgia fans were doing the Tomahawk Chop and exchanging high-fives with each other.

Soon, the fans would be choosing different sides for the football game, but prior to kickoff, everyone was showing their allegiance to the Braves and having fun together as they chopped away.

Actually, that fun continued once everyone was in the stadium, too. The Georgia Redcoat Band would play the Chop song numerous times during the game, and at least in the first, the whole stadium pretty much chopped away in the stands.

Later in the game, however, it was pretty much just Dawg fans doing the chop, and there was plenty of barking going on also.

You see, Georgia was working on a 27-12 upset of the sixth-ranked Tigers that night, so the Clemson fans were stunned at what was happening as the improbable became reality.

That night, a freshman quarterback named Eric Zeier led the Dogs to the victory over the Tigers and their vaunted defense which came into the game leading the country in total defense.

Zeier threw a pair of touchdown passes, both to Andre Hastings, and Georgia had the better defense on this occasion, coming away with three interceptions and two fumble recoveries as the Dogs stopped a three-game losing skid to Clemson in the series.

Georgia went to 4-1 on the season with the win. The Bulldogs’ lone loss at that point was a 10-0 loss at Alabama two weeks prior. They would go on to finish 9-3 that year, their third under head coach Ray Goff, and ended the season ranked 17th and 19th in the two major polls.

That was the first loss for Clemson after a 3-0 start which included a win against Georgia Tech. The Tigers tied with Virginia the following week, but would not lose another game until falling to California in the Citrus Bowl. They finished 9-2-1 and won the ACC that season, their second under coach Ken Hatfield.

As for the Braves, well, they did knock off the Pittsburgh Pirates in a thrilling seven-game National League Championship Series, but then lost the World Series to the Minnesota Twins in a dramatic seven-game series.

The magical run didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but that night in Athens when the Braves won under the sun and the Dogs won under the stars, will always be a magical one to remember.

Obviously, the party continued well into the early Sunday morning hours, with plenty of booze drinking, Dog barking and Braves chopping taking place at the postgame tailgates, downtown bars and the frat houses along Milledge Avenue.

It was indeed a Saturday to cherish.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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