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Thread: THE DARKEST DAY: The death of decency and Dave Shotkoski

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    Director of Minor League Reports rico43's Avatar
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    THE DARKEST DAY: The death of decency and Dave Shotkoski

    March 24, 1995

    The Braves Want You To Forget Dave Shotkoski



    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. More than a man died on a West Palm Beach sidewalk that night.

    It was the spring of 1995. This should have been the spring of the Braves' World Championship season. But due to a baseball world gone insane, this 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 wherever 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 him back as a replacement player 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, risking the wrath of former teammates, with a wife and eight-month old baby girl waiting for him back home in Illinois.

    "It wasn't even a decision," his wife, Felicia, recalled. "No one ever promises you a chance to fulfill a dream in life. He knew once the strike was over, he wasn't going to stay. With Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, there wasn't exactly much room. But Dave was hoping maybe he'd get into baseball scouting or coaching. He just wanted to get his foot in the door."

    Shotkoski had thrown only one inning that spring due to an ankle injury, but told his wife how thrilled he was to have a chance to work with Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone -- something that would surely help him towards his goal of being a youth coach. Blocker, who had also become a Pentecostal deacon during the years since his big league debut, was talking religion with Shotkoski one afternoon following a game, but the pitcher begged off, promising to have a future talk.

    "We had just gotten paid, and he was going to wire money to pay the mortgage and to his wife," Blocker said. "I could relate to that, because I was going to do the same thing."

    That talk never took place. Sometime before 6:40 p.m., about 500 yards from the hotel, a man rode up to Shotkoski on a yellow bicycle, pulled out a .22-caliber revolver and aimed it at him. West Palm Beach police said there was "a brief encounter" with no signs of a struggle. Three shots rang out. The assailant rode off on his bike. Shotkoski ran for about a hundred yards before he collapsed on the sidewalk near an office building, where he died from multiple gunshot wounds.

    "A couple of the guys called me and told me what happened," Blocker told the New York Times. "It brought tears to my eyes. I sat there for a while, feeling maybe I hadn't witnessed as well as I should have. Then I started shivering. I got down on my knees. It wasn't like I wanted revenge for Dave Shotkoski. I was asking God what I could do."

    Blocker spent the next three days on the dark and dangerous streets of Pleasant City, asking questions and doing whatever he could to locate his teammate's killer. He used his own money for tips and leads.

    Detective David Atherton of the West Palm Beach Police Department said, "He went out on his own. Nobody asked him to do it. He doesn't think he's a hero, but if some people had known what he was doing, he would have been in danger."

    Two days later, West Palm police -- acting on a tip given them by Blocker -- arrested Neal Evans for the crime. A printout of his criminal record was seven feet long. Two years later, Evans, who killed Shotkoski for drug money, was convicted and sentenced 25-to-life.

    Blocker refused the $10,000 reward offered by the Braves and West Palm police. Instead, he requested it be given to Felicia Shotkoski.

    "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 released Blocker, saying a bad knee that ended his career the first time prevented him from being an effective replacement player.

    "I knew it was meant to be," Blocker said. "I wasn't bitter. I had 14 years of baseball, and now it's over."

    The strike was soon settled, all of the other replacements players, to a man, were sent home. The regular Braves had a brief spring training of their own, and Dave Shotkoski was, for the most part, not to be discussed. 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 in the charged atmosphere, often behind the scenes. The team "invited" his widow to Opening Day, but she had to pay her own way. Kasten and the Braves saw to it the family got His $10,000 insurance settlement, but Kasten refused to meet her publicly.

    "And he didn't want the media to say anything," Felicia recalled. "He said it might upset the players."

    One or two players, rumored to be John Smoltz and a very low-profile Glavine, worked behind the scenes on a fund-raiser at a minor league game in Pennsylvania, Braves Chairman of the Board Bill Bartholomay attended a ceremony in Shotkoski's hometown near Chicago as a street was dedicated in his name.

    One player and his wife -- rookie Chipper Jones -- reached out to speak with Felicia Shotkoski, 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 21 years old, and has kept a photo of her father with her every day of her life.

    Terry Blocker still lives in Stone Mountain, and even though he played for the Braves in 1988-89, he has never been invited back to participate in any Old Timer's ceremonies.

    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.

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  3. #2
    A Chip Off the Old Rock Julio3000's Avatar
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    Thank you for sharing this.

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    Shift Leader CyYoung31's Avatar
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    Sucks the dude lost his life, but I'm not really sure the Braves owed him anything.

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    Still Playing the Waiting Game
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    Quote Originally Posted by CyYoung31 View Post
    Sucks the dude lost his life, but I'm not really sure the Braves owed him anything.
    Maybe some common decency?

    This kind of stuff is why I detest labor unions. If something like that had happened to the worst person on the 40 man roster (think '95 version of Hector Olivera) at that time the team would have worn black armbands and the dead player's number all season. Players would have likely donated enough money to take care of the widow and daughter for a long time. Instead they chose to be petty assholes, all because the victim crossed an imaginary line in a battle between millionaires and billionaires.

    That truly is a dark day in team history, and I'd never heard of this happening. Thanks rico43.

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    Not Actually Brian Hunter Metaphysicist's Avatar
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    Yeah, I honestly had never heard this story. Thanks, rico.

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    Hessmania Forever
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    Good mining rico. I had forgotten all about this episode.

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    Director of Minor League Reports rico43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 50PoundHead View Post
    Good mining rico. I had forgotten all about this episode.
    It seems the Braves have done their job quite well. Glad I could illuminate it, and I wish I knew how to pass it along to the widow.

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    Shift Leader CyYoung31's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DirkPiggler View Post
    Maybe some common decency?

    This kind of stuff is why I detest labor unions. If something like that had happened to the worst person on the 40 man roster (think '95 version of Hector Olivera) at that time the team would have worn black armbands and the dead player's number all season. Players would have likely donated enough money to take care of the widow and daughter for a long time. Instead they chose to be petty assholes, all because the victim crossed an imaginary line in a battle between millionaires and billionaires.

    That truly is a dark day in team history, and I'd never heard of this happening. Thanks rico43.
    Making the widow pay her own way to a ball game was douchey, but I'm not really sure what else they could/should have done. Dude was hardly a member of the organization.

    Besides, most of the Union players tried to help the widow, which was s nice gesture.

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    Director of Minor League Reports rico43's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CyYoung31 View Post
    Making the widow pay her own way to a ball game was douchey, but I'm not really sure what else they could/should have done. Dude was hardly a member of the organization.

    Besides, most of the Union players tried to help the widow, which was s nice gesture.
    I hope that's true. If so, you are aware of facts that are not in evidence. And BTW, Shotkoski was under contract to the Atlanta Braves at the time of his death. For better or worse, that damn well makes him a member of the organization.

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    It's OVER 5,000! CrimsonCowboy's Avatar
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    I remember Dave's death and Terry Blocker. Don't remember all the other stuff. Another crazy episode in baseball during the strike I suppose. Though this one goes far beyond the game.

    Neal Evans should still be in jail, good behavior or not.
    Chopping With The Braves And Rolling With The Tide

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