Goodbye, Freddie

My wife and I lived in a 28-foot camper. We were parked on a vacant lot on a rundown street. Our neighbors’ homes were mildewed doublewides. Each trailer’s front yard featured a fashionable Pontiac sitting on concrete blocks.

It was raining. And it wasn’t just a storm. This was a West Floridian squall. Hurricane season in Florida lasts from June until the following June. It was June 1, 2016.

Tropical Storm Bonnie was making its way up into Carolinas like a runaway boxcar. We were getting the outer bands of rain.

I looked out our camper windows it was flooding. Our bedroom window was leaking like a screen door on the Titanic. One of our windows had shattered earlier that night, I had fixed it with duct tape and aluminum foil, but a miniature Niagara was spewing in.

The Atlanta Braves were on the TV, locked in a battle against the Padres. The game had gone into extra innings. I am a diligent Braves fan, I rarely miss games.

When I used to work in a restaurant as a dishwasher, I carried a transistor radio with me. I listened to games while I was elbow deep in hotel pans caked with burnt cheese, scrubbing like a maniac.

When I played music in beer joints for a living, I kept a radio earpiece in my ear, tuned to the games while I played piano for line-dancers who had consumed too many five-dollar pitchers.

On the screen in our camper was Number Five, our first baseman, Frederick Charles Freeman, exiting the dugout. He was everyone’s favorite. He was the all-American poster child of Atlanta. He’d been with the Bravos since before his voice dropped.

“C’mon, Freddie,” I said. “You can do it.”

I always talk to ballplayers on TV. It helps them.

“C’mon, Freddie,” said my wife.

Freddie took strike one.

My wife cussed openly for morale.

Before we were married my wife didn’t care for baseball. Two weeks with me cured her. I had created Frankenstein’s monster.

Freddie took strike two.

My wife said an even worse cuss word.

I remember when the Braves picked up Freeman in 2007. He was a boy, lanky and loose built, with a prodigious swing that could undo the 108 stitches on a horsehide ball.

Over the years he had made his way all over the South, playing the minor-league gauntlet. He played for the Gulf Coast Braves, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Rome Braves, the Mississippi Braves, the Gwinnett Braves.

I had seen him play twice in Gwinnett with my uncle Roger, we were seated behind the dish. To watch Freddie Freeman was like watching a William Randolph Hurst poem.

The kid’s legs were so long they were triple jointed. His swing was unorthodox. He moved his shoulders slightly before lowering his hands, then he chopped the ball like the tennis forehand from hell.


Something slammed into our trailer. A piece of debris maybe? A flying bicycle? A neighborhood Labrador? Then a gust ripped the satellite dish from our trailer roof and carried it to Venezuela. Then our power went out and the entire camper went black. Our TV was deader than ragtime.

This couldn’t have happened at a more pivotal moment in the game.

“NO!” I shouted at screen.

“Honey,” said my wife, “I think I just felt the camper tires lift off the ground.”

“NO! NO!” I banged the TV with my palm. “NO! DON’T DO THIS TO ME!”

“Sweetie,” said my wife, “I think I hear the warning sirens outside, maybe we should…”

But I was already digging through a drawer. I found my old Zenith transistor radio, about the size of a deck of cards. I located the game on 104.3 WGSX out of Panama City, and set the dial just right.

My wife and I huddled in the corner dinette of our trailer while lightning and thunder threatened to tear the world apart, debris whipping against our ambulatory estate.

We were in the eleventh inning now. Tied. Four-four.

It was getting late.

Freeman stepped into the batter’s box. I could visualize him, digging his cleats into the dirt, making little trenches for his feet. I could imagine him rocking back and forth on his heels, bat held high, the barrel moving in tight concentric circles, like the tail of an excited dog. He was keeping the wood limber.

Freddie was “oh” for three. Meaning, he had made three appearances at the plate, and each time he’d swung at nothing but the Georgian humidity.

“C’mon, Freddie,” whispered my wife.

“C’mon, Freddie,” I said.

The windup.

The offering.

The transistor radio made that beatific sound that makes baseball so magnificent.


It was a walk-off home run. With one swing, Freddie did it. The game was over.

“BRAVESWINBRAVESWIN!” hollered the announcer.

The little radio speaker distorted beneath the roar of 42,000 fans. My wife and I were shouting. She high-fived me hard enough to draw blood.

And it was the best game I ever saw.

Goodbye Number Five. It won’t be the same without you.


  1. Laura W. - March 18, 2022 10:56 am

    This story tied together the three baseball teams I have ever paid attention to. I’m not a baseball fan by any means but as a kid I was dragged along with my brothers to Dodger games in Chavez Ravine, moved to San Diego to go to college where I stayed for 40 years and watched many a Padre game at both Jack Murphy and Petco Park, we moved to north GA seven years ago and the Braves had such a fun young team to watch. I am sad to see Freddy go.

  2. James - March 18, 2022 11:32 am

    We saw Freddie and many of the other Braves come through the Rome Braves. There are only 5000 seats at the stadium so it was “up and personal”. You ought to take in a game there.

  3. Joyce Barrett - March 18, 2022 11:54 am

    Sean, I love this one. I worked for the Braves in the mid-70’s when Hank was making his run and before you were born…and then off to follow my military guy around the world for 25 years. Last assignment was MacDill that made me a Floridian like you. We’re a baseball family and lifetime Braves fans in spite of having a great Rays team nearby. To be candid, I got a bit jaded about who I wanted my boys to see as “heroes,” but I agree that Freddie is probably one of the good guys. Tell Jamie it’s OK to cuss a little when a game gets interrupted by a hurricane:).

  4. Christ Coumanis - March 18, 2022 11:59 am

    Will surely miss #5. Even for him, baseball is about money now. He had to make it while he could fir his family’s future sake. Cannot wait to the Reunion season in 5 years when #5 returns.

  5. joan moore - March 18, 2022 12:03 pm

    We would have gladly raised 40 million to match the Dodgers offer! Gone but never forgotten!

  6. Hreyn - March 18, 2022 12:12 pm

    A fine column to be sure, but a William Randolph Hurst poem caught me out. Knew he ginned up some newspapers , but if he waxed poetic officially I am newly informed.

    • Lucinda - March 18, 2022 1:32 pm

      The Song of the River by William Randolph Hurst

    • Db - March 18, 2022 3:02 pm

      William Randolph Hearst.

  7. Paul McCutchen - March 18, 2022 12:42 pm

    Coming from Arkansas it wasn’t hard for me to become a Braves fan. Maybe not as dedicated as you but still a fan. My youngest came to see me on a Wednesday years ago and I took him to the Braves game that evening. Bought tickets on the street and when we got settled in I told my son he would probably never see this pitching line up again. Gavin leading off and Smoltz finishing up…on a Wednesday night. It was great. Years later he told me he didn’t realize what I was talking about till he saw the Hall of Fame inductees. It was a great night.

  8. Shelton A. - March 18, 2022 12:57 pm

    I’m with you, Sean. If the Braves were going to spend money like that, keep Freddie! It’s like losing an institution. I think the Braves lost their minds. But in an era where analytics is more important than baseball or what the fans want, dumb stuff like this happens. Freeman was a big part of a World Series win and they just let him go. What do we fans know? Nothing, apparently! God bless you and Jamie, plus the pups!

  9. Tina Swinson - March 18, 2022 1:38 pm

    My dad died June 22, 2013. I brought him and my mom meat loaf, chocolate pie for lunch. We watch the Braves play. I left that afternoon. Dad died with a heart attack a couple hours later. Freddie Freeman was one of his favorites. Seems odd, but I feel like a little bit of my Dad is gone with Freddie.

  10. Bob E - March 18, 2022 2:06 pm

    Let’s see…
    Hurricane v. ballgame?
    Beautiful to see people set priorities – so important that people enjoy life.

  11. gwenthinks - March 18, 2022 4:16 pm

    Just heartbroken that Freddie is leaving. We have strong ties to our players, especially when it’s the face of the franchise. You describe it so well.

  12. Linda Moon - March 18, 2022 4:18 pm

    Duct tape. Lots of it’s been used to fix-up stuff at my place. If we had Freddie Freeman’s deal for our accomplishments – marriage, working for 30 years, and growing old together – we’d never have to use duct-tape for repairs again! Being paid $162million to play ball?? I just don’t get it. “GO” educators who’ve opened minds and hearts for lots of kids! “GO” regular people! “GO” columnist!! WE’VE WON!!!

  13. Steve McCaleb - March 18, 2022 6:08 pm

    Sadly, baseball has become like everything else in our society….all about the $. Loyalty has seemingly gone the way of patriotism, respect for others, and personal responsibility. I wish Freddie all the best both on and off the field. But I may be wrong but I don’t think he’ll ever reach the level of love and hero worship in LA that he was given in Atlanta and indeed the entire southeast. Hope he fares better than the last big money first baseman than left his home for the bright lights of the west coast.

  14. Sara Taylor - March 18, 2022 7:01 pm

    Great story Sean…. I did the same after Hurricane Frederic in Mississippi! Will sure miss Freddie he is a class act, a sure enough ball player! Good luck on your new journey..

  15. Dianne DeVore - March 19, 2022 1:28 am

    Atlanta and all Braves fans are going to miss “our” Freddie Freeman. He was a class act from Day 1 until the last day. Miss you Freddie and wish you and your family the very best!

  16. Slimpicker - March 19, 2022 3:09 am

    Sean, you are the Florida panhandles Freddie Freeman. Everyday we would log on to see if had hit another home run of a story or just a triple. We knew you had it in you. We never expected you to get traded to Alabama. We’ll still watch you score some big one and hope they won’t ask you to “take one for the team”.

  17. Gene - March 21, 2022 7:37 pm

    Dear Lord!
    You can tell I don’t keep up with the Braves news. I was afraid Freddy had died!
    Good I read the other comments.

  18. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - March 27, 2022 11:14 pm


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