ATLANTA — There were 6s everywhere at Turner Field as the Braves honored Bobby Cox on Friday night.
Cox’s No. 6 was cut into the outfield grass, painted on the bases and in front of the dugouts and, finally, unveiled on the stadium’s facade with eight others that have been retired by the team.
Cox, who retired as manager last year, is the first to have his number retired by the Braves primarily for his work as manager. He led the team to 15 playoff appearances and the 1995 World Series championship.
Former players Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Chipper Jones spoke in a ceremony before the game against the Cubs.
“I get asked all the time what was it like playing for Bobby Cox,” Maddux said. “Players from all around the league want to know.
“The first word that comes to mind is respect. He had that from players. When Bobby talked, we listened. We wanted to play for him.”
Cox, who received several standing ovations, said “This is one of the greatest days of my life” before he threw out the first pitch to Jones.
On his way off the field, Cox was “ejected” by home-plate umpire Tim Timmons. This one was in jest, but Cox retired with a record 158 ejections.
Cox’s number was the third the team has retired in three years, following Glavine (47) last year and Maddux (31) in 2009.
The only other Braves players to have their number retired are Hank Aaron (44), Eddie Mathews (41), Dale Murphy (3), Phil Niekro (35) and Warren Spahn (21).
Cox is the first to have his number retired primarily for his work as manager, from 1978-81 and 1990-2010. He was Toronto’s manager from 1982-85 and then was Atlanta’s general manager before returning to the dugout.
“Twenty minutes with the man changes your life,” Smoltz said. “I’ve been forever changed for having the privilege to play for him.”
As general manager, Cox helped build the team by making such moves as drafting Jones No. 1 overall in 1990.
“It’s pretty impressive that he starts as a GM, he signs half the guys down there up front, and then he comes down and manages them,” Maddux said.
Said Jones: “I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to make you proud and not make you regret that decision.”
Among Cox’s former players who returned for the ceremony were Steve Avery, Fred McGriff, Javy Lopez, Mark Lemke, Otis Nixon and Kent Mercker. The former players, who had seats on the field, all stood when Cox walked up to the podium after he was given a ride around the warning track on the back of a convertible.
Other former players on the podium with Cox were Niekro, Dale Murphy, Ralph Garr and David Justice.
Fans chanted “Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!” after he took his seat on the podium. He waved several times to the fans.
Cox was inducted into the Braves Hall of Fame earlier Friday and is likely bound for the Baseball Hall of Fame. He finished with 2,504 regular-season wins, fourth behind Connie Mack, John McGraw and Tony La Russa.
“Today we honor Bobby for what he did and his accomplishments for the Atlanta Braves,” said team president John Schuerholz, who was the general manager for most of Cox’s era. “In the not too distant future we’ll be honoring him in Cooperstown.”
Cubs players watching from their dugout applauded Cox.
Before the game, Chicago manager Mike Quade said he, as a minor league manager in the Expos’ organization, took notes from Cox when the Braves and Expos shared a spring training facility.
“My respect for him goes way, way back,” Quade said. “He’s old school. He’s done just about everything you can do in this game.
“He has such an incredible respect for this game.”