There is another thing that seems to be contagious among the Braves—that cool demeanor. The players come from different backgrounds and different generations yet meld into one collective personality: confident and calm, as professional as surgeons. Even a kid like Andruw Jones, who played leftfield for Durham in Class A ball five months ago, strolled into the Bronx for his World Series debut as if he were walking onto a beach in Curaçao. He didn't know much about the long, lean guy who threw out the first pitch in Game 1, but why would he? Joe DiMaggio retired from baseball 26 years before Jones was born. He is even too young to remember DiMaggio's Mr. Coffee TV commercials. Jones is younger than Tiger Woods and just seven years older than Jeff Maier.
When Jones crushed Pettitte's pitch into the leftfield seats on Sunday, he became the youngest player to homer in a World Series game, knocking Mickey Mantle out of the record books on what would have been Mantle's 65th birthday. Jones's second home run landed in front of a wall that features all the retired Yankees numbers, including Mantle's number 7. The baseball memories rained down on the venerable stadium, and Jones, bless his teenage heart, was oblivious to each and every one of them. "I know those guys were great players," he said of Mantle and DiMaggio. "But I didn't really follow the Yankees when I was growing up."
"He has no idea what he just did," Braves shortstop Jeff Blauser said of Jones. "He doesn't realize how important the World Series is to American society. To him it was was just another game, except it was a game seen all over the world."
The Braves discovered Jones when he was 15 and signed him a year later. His bonus: $46,000. "They kind of pulled me aside and said don't sign with anyone else," he says. "Other teams came to see me, but I wanted to play for the Braves."
This season Jones went from Class A ball to the big leagues in less than two months, which is about as long as it took the Braves' team bus to get from their Manhattan hotel to the Bronx for Game 1. In his three minor league stops in '96, Jones hit a combined .339 with 34 homers and 92 RBIs in 116 games. Baseball America named him Minor League Player of the Year for the second straight season.
The Braves were in the market for a righthanded power hitter when they decided to give the kid a shot. He came to the big leagues on Aug. 15 and is expected to stick around for a while. "He had been through four leagues and proved himself each time," says Atlanta general manager John Schuerholz. "There was nowhere else to put him. We didn't promote him. He promoted himself."
"My favorite stat on him is that when the season starts next year," Braves president Stan Kasten says of Jones, "he'll still be 19."
He won't be of legal drinking age, but that's O.K. The Braves don't break out the champagne often. Once a year, tops.