As some of you may have heard, Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez set the single-season MLS scoring record against Orlando City on Friday night.
Josef broke a record that the Tampa Bay Mutiny’s Roy Lassiter first set at 27, way back in Major League Soccer’s inaugural 1996 season. Since that time, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips had both tied it, but Josef made the record his daddy, with eight games left in the regular season. Based on his current scoring rate of just over one goal a game, he’s on pace to score a mind-boggling 37 for the year.
All the hubbub around Josef’s record-shattering year got me asking myself: “Self, where does this accomplishment rank among the glorious pantheon of Atlanta’s pro sports records?” Then once I started compiling the list, I thought some more: “Dang, I’m not sure we have enough records.”
Yet I soldiered on and compiled this completely exhaustive list entirely from memory. In other words, I probably missed a few, so leave those in the comments, please.
The Atlanta Falcons don’t have many records, which makes sense when you remember they were a laughingstock franchise until the late 1990’s.
The one the Falcons do have is less “impressive” and more “hilariously embarrassing.” Yep, they’ve got the record for the largest Super Bowl lead ever blown in the game’s history. The good writers at Sports Illustrated lay it out for us: “Prior to Super Bowl LI, no team had ever come back from more than a 10-point deficit to win, so it’s safe to say that the Patriots’ comeback was the best in Super Bowl history, by far.”
Or from our perspective, the worst in Super Bowl history, by far. Let’s move on, shall we?
#6: Most Relocated NHL Franchises
Atlanta is Soccer Town, USA. Always has been, always will be. So suck it Seattle.
But Atlanta is most definitely not Hockey Town, USA. We’ve lost not one, but two NHL franchises to our Canadian friends up north, with the Atlanta Flames moving to Calgary in 1980 and the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg in 2011.
There’s an old saying I heard recently that seems apropos. I’m paraphrasing, but it goes something like, “If you want to have a pro hockey franchise in a small-to-medium-sized Canadian city, first launch it in Atlanta.”
#5: MLS Attendance Records
I initially had this further up on the list. Then I realized you can’t put a record earned entirely off the field anywhere near the top.
Despite the skeptics and haters—Jeremiah Oshan in particular—Atlanta fans have come out in record numbers for the Five Stripes. The team can now boast of having the five largest single-game crowds in MLS history, with the July 15 Seattle Sounders match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium setting the latest bar at 72,243.
It likely won’t be the last time they set the all-time record…again…since they’ve (more than likely) set aside a certain amount of available capacity. I know that because the MLS All-Star Game attendance record was also set this summer with 72,317, the second-largest for any all-star game in any North American pro sport.
#4: Most Consecutive Major League Baseball Division Titles
Back in 1991, the Atlanta Braves famously went worst to first to claim the NL West Division Title, and they’d go on to win an unprecedented 14 in a row.
This is probably the Most Atlanta record of all. It’s an impressive achievement not likely to be broken in our lifetimes. And yet, it’s one that also inspires a feeling a crushing disappointment at what could have been. Despite all the first-place finishes, the Braves only won a single World Series ring during the strike-shortened 1995 season.
#3: Shortest NBA Slam Dunk Champion
My childhood hero was Anthony Jerome Webb, better known by his kickass nickname, “Spud.” The diminutive Atlanta Hawks point guard stole my heart, not because he was a great ball handler or assist man, but because he was well, short like me. I had a life-sized cutout version of him in my room, and rather than measure my growth on the door jam, I did so by gauging myself against Spud’s likeness.
His Hall of Fame teammate Dominque Wilkins was obviously another favorite of mine, but as a small dude with none of the physical attributes Nique possessed, Spud was my champion.
And a champion he was. Not like, a real champion of an actual league or anything, but the champion of the 1986 Slam Dunk competition.
Measuring just 5-foot-6-inches tall, Spud became the shortest-ever dunk champ when he stunned the basketball world by defeating Nique at his own game. But the best part?
”Spud kind of duped him,” coach Mike Fratello said later. “He told Wilkins he never had anything prepared, didn’t practice for it. So, Wilkins maybe thought his normal assortment would be good enough to get through.”
The guy had no business winning, but he did it with a healthy dose of creativity and straight up backhanded trickery? Yep, Spud’s my guy.
#2: Josef “El Padre de Orlando” Martinez
It’s gone a bit unnoticed that along with the single-season MLS scoring record, Josef’s also close to breaking Diego Valeri’s record of 9 consecutive matches with a goal. If Josef gets one on Sunday at DC United, he’d own that record too.
Oh, and this year he also earned the MLS record for most career hat tricks with 6, which he set against…DC United.
#1: The One True Home Run King (or, The One Who Did It Without Steroids)
A wise man once told me that just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s bad. That wise man was J. Sam Jones. Come to think of it, I should probably reconsider whether or not that’s good advice.
Anyway, the obvious and true choice here is Hank Aaron. He set the real* home run record back in 1974 at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium, and he holds the MLB records for most RBIs, extra base hits, and total bases. (*”Real” = “Not Juiced”)
Hammerin’ Hank was only in Atlanta for 9 of his 23 seasons, but he hit the home run here and he still lives here, so we’ll take it.
So, what’d I miss?