I thought it was time to remind Braves fans of an episode all of you have forgotten. It is forgotten because the Braves want it forgotten.
It was the spring of 1995. Now, your first reaction is that this was the spring of the Braves' World Championship season. But it was also the year of the replacement players -- a completely bogus spring training with rosters filled with has-beens, never weres and a small number of truly talented players getting their shot.
When the strike was over, 99 percent of the players were cut loose, sent back to wheverever they came from, with stories, gear and friendships and enemies made. The Braves still trained in West Palm Beach, and one of those friendships was struck between outfielder Terry Blocker and pitcher Dave Shotkoski.
Blocker was a genuine talent -- once. A former first round pick of the Mets, he logged two seasons with the Braves and several years in Mexico but had been out of baseball for two years when the Braves brought himback at age 36. Shotkoski, 30, had been out of the game for four years after six seasons in the Braves and A's farm systems. He, too, was going for the dream once last time, with a wife and eight-month old baby girl waiting for him back home in Illinois.
Blocker, who had also become a Pentecostal deacon during the years, was talking religion with Shotkoski one afternoon following a game, but the pitcher begged off and promised to have a future talk.
It never came. That night, as he walked to his motel, Shotkoski was robbed and murdered on a West Palm Beach sidewalk.
To make a long stroy short, Blocker spent the next 48 hours on the streets of West Palm, asking questions and doing whatever he could to locate his teammate's killer. Less than two days later, West Palm police -- acting on a tip given them by Blocker -- arrested Neal Evans for the crime. Ttwo years later, Evans was convicted and sentenced 25-to-life.
Blocker refused the $10,000 reward offered by the Braves and West Palm police.
"That was not my motivation," Blocker said in 1995. "I was looking for satisfaction of a different kind.
''A life was taken, but now I have the opportunity to go out and tell people about this experience I had,'' Blocker, a Nashville native, said afterwards. ''Maybe it will help other people come to the kingdom of God.''
The Braves, who wound up with one non-Atlanta replacement player on their team, did not fully embrace the family due to the hard line union stance of player rep Tom Glavine. Team president Stan Kasten, the man in the middle, did what he could, often behind the scenes. The team honored his widow on Opening Day, saw to it the family got His $10,000 insurance settlement, and worked behind the scenes on a fund-raiser at a minor league game in Pennsylvania, and convinced Shotkoski's hometown near Chicago to dedicate a street in his name.
One player -- rookie Chipper Jones -- reached out to speak with Felicia Shotkoski, the widow, and mentioned that wives of some of the union players gave Chipper's then-wife a hard time for even being friends with a replacement player's wife. In the '95 playoffs, she attempted to attend a game with Chipper's wife, and the club made her pay for her tickets.
Shotkoski's daughter is now 18 years old, and has kept a photo of her father with her every day of her life.
Neal Evans, who had been arrested 17 previous times, was released from prison after 17 years -- 10 years early -- in 2012. For good behavior, don't you know.
Norfolk 4, Gwinnett (36-48) 3
SP: Martin 7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, HR (1.29)
LP: Beimel (1-1) 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K..
Boggs 2-4, 2B, R; Pagnozzi 1-4, 2B, RBI; Gosselin 1-4, HR (1st), RBI; Terdoslavich 1-3 (.326); Mejia 1-3, HR (2oth), RBI.
Mobile 5, Mississippi (5-6) 3
SP: Atkins 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 K.
LP: Jaime (2-2) 1.2 IP, 1 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K.
Kleinknecht 3-4, 2 2B, RBI; Salcedo 2-4, E (16); Bethancourt 1-4, RBI.
La Stella (PH) 0-1; Hefflinger (debut) 0-4, K.
ADVANCED CLASS A
Lynchburg (2-6) @ Myrtle Beach, ppd.
Rome (3-7) 6, Savannah 2
WP: L. Sims (3-3) 6 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K.
Wren 1-4, 2B, R, RBI, SB (.455); Kalenkowsky 2-4, 2 R, RBI; Luna 1-3, 2B, R; Marte 1-4, RBI.
GCL Braves (2-4) 9, GCL Blue Jays 2
SP: Moran (rehab) 3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER (1R), 0 BB, 3 K. Fitzgerald (rehab) 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K.
WP: Leon (1-1) 4 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
Sanchez 2-4, 3B, R, 2 RBI; V. Reyes 2-4, 3 R, 2B, RBI (.400); Dodig 2-4, R, 2 RBI, SB; Reed Harper 2-5 (.368).
Bluefield 11, Danville (3-6) 3
LP: Janas (0-1) 2.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K.
Piloto 1-3, HR (1st), RBI; Reynolds 2-5, HR (2nd), RBI; Caratini 1-3, BB (.375); Black 2-4; Lien 1-3, SB.
DSL Braves (9-13) 5, DSL Brewers 1
WP: Santana (1-1) 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K. Torres (Save, 1) 3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K.
Martinez 2-4, 2B, RBI; Tejada 1-4, RBI; Vasquez 1-4, R; Estevez 1-3, R, BB.