Growing up in Alabama’s Lauderdale County, young Jason Isbell‘s love of baseball was cultivated by 1980s television when his local affiliate carried Cubs games. But it was not the Wrigley Field denizens that captured his heart, but rather the Atlanta Braves, the other team he’d watch courtesy of Ted Turner’s TBS, which deemed itself the Super Station during those heady 1980s days when the likes of Dale Murphy, Jerry Royster and Mark Lemke were major pieces on those Braves teams. Isbell was finally rewarded for his fandom when the Braves won the World Series in 1995, when he was 15. The following are the singer-songwriter’s favorite ballplayers.
Tony Gwynn (San Diego Padres)
“Tony Gwynn is the best hitter I ever saw. I saw a lot of those games between the Braves and the Padres. That was usually around the Fourth of July and we’d go to Atlanta and see the Braves-Padres series every summer. Tony Gwynn was probably one of the best pure hitters that’s ever played the game.
Tom Glavine (Atlanta Braves, New York Mets)
“I really liked Tom Glavine. I was a huge fan. I think even if [Greg] Maddux was more effective, I liked Tom Glavine better because he got better as the game went on. I always appreciated that about him. If he got out of the first couple of innings, you really wouldn’t be able to touch him by the end of the night. To me, that’s something you look for. That made me enjoy watching him more. Because when it’s the other way around, it just seems like that person doesn’t really have the heart. But for him to hang in there—sometimes he’d give up two or three runs in the first, but that would be all they’d get.”
Ozzie Smith (San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals)
“I loved Ozzie Smith. The Oakland A’s had their Double-AA affiliate in Huntsville, AL, which was really close to us. It was the Huntsville Stars and we would go see them play a whole lot. For some reason, I saw Ozzie Smith play—I guess he got injured or something and he was playing in Double-AA. I think he hurt his back and had to stop doing the somersaults. But that guy was a wizard—I guess that’s why they called him that. He did things that seemed impossible. I always rooted for the little quick guys because I was never that, so I liked to watch them do their thing.”