CRIME DOG – FRED MCGRIFF COMES HOME TO BRAVES

The Buffalo Braves are one of the original franchises in the Mid-West Baseball League.  They are a stable franchise with great fans and a solid management staff.  General Manager Wally Walczak has run this team from it’s inception, and the Braves have held their own, and kept up a near .500 winning percentage though it’s first seven seasons.  The Braves franchise has one player who stands out alone for this great franchise, and that is first baseman “the Crime Dog” Fred McGriff.
   McGriff was originally drafted in the 1997 Inaugural draft by the Braves in the fifth round, and was looked upon as a solid selection by the Braves management.  In his first season he batted .300 with 31 Homeruns and 125 RBI’s helping Buffalo finish in second place with a 87-75 record in the American League East. The team, city, and McGriff were thrilled and proud of the first year accomplishments by McGriff.

The team continued to prosper in 1998 and Fred McGriff was once again there to lead the way for the Braves. He batted .320, with 23 Homeruns, and 92 RBI’s. The Braves just missed getting into the playoffs, coming up two games short to Chicago. Their record improved to 91-71. Things were still good in the “City of Good Neighbors”.

Fred’s numbers tailed off a little in 1999, but he was still there to help Wally’s Braves stay strong mentally. His average dropped off to .280, and his power numbers declined to 18 homers and 81 RBI’s. The Braves dropped to third place with a 76-84 record. But McGriff seemed like a fixture in the Braves uniform for years to come.

The 2000 season looked good again for McGriff, his numbers improved to a .305 Batting average, 29 Homeruns, and 86 RBI’s. The Braves climbed back into second place in the American League East with a 84-78 record.

2001! The darkest year in franchise history for the Braves. The team fell to a terrible 38-124 record. Management knew the team was awful and quietly traded McGriff to Detroit for outfielder Brian Jordan trying to shake up the team on January 5th, 2001.

At the end of the 2001 season, the Braves released every player on the roster and entered the Re-Modification Draft. The rebuilding process had begun. In the mean time Fred McGriff bounced around the league and he even considered retiring at one point. He moved on to Chicago, Fremont, and Severn. Fred was not a happy man.  The Crime Dog has long been one of the best — and most consistent — first basemen in the game, we were sorry we let him go. Said General Manager Walczak.

The Braves new first baseman in 2001 Eric Karros said “To me, I just had to go out and perform, Fred McGriff did a great job here, for a lot of years. He was a fan favorite. Stuff like that was out of my control. I can’t control the Braves’ front-office decisions. All I could do was try to play my game.

The Buffalo Braves were on the verge of breaking things out for the 2003 season.  But General Manager Wally Walczak knew there was a missing piece to the puzzle. On January 25, 2003, the missing piece was found. The Braves traded Ben Petrick and a draft pick to Severn for Fred McGriff and a draft pick. Wally was quoted as saying “We desperately wanted Fred McGriff to be a part of the resurgence of this great franchise. He helped build this franchise and now we want to pay him back, hopefully for a winner.”

“I knew I wanted to come home,” McGriff said. “But I also was trying to find a good spot, where I felt I’d have a chance to win. Things worked out, and I found myself back where I started.  Over the years, the Braves had a great organization. Next to the Tempers, or the Mobsters, the Braves have been one of the top organizations around. It’s a good bunch of guys, there are great people in the organization and it’s a solid coaching staff.  They’ve always had good, competitive teams over the years. Except that one year.  So it was intriguing to return.  I’m just happy to be back home!”

FRED McGRIFF CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
FOR THE
BUFFALO BRAVES

• Buffalo’s career leader in Batting Average at .301
• Buffalo’s career leader in Home Runs with 131 

Buffalo’s career leader in Hits with 657
Buffalo’s career leader in RBI’s with 384
• Buffalo’s career leader in Doubles with 130 The above stats do not include the 2003 season. Currently Fred is batting .295, has 21HR’s, and 86 RBI’s.

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