Sid Bream, for the first time, plans to watch the classic 1992 NLCS game that made him a cult hero in Atlanta
Sid Bream has seen his famous slide thousands and thousands of times, but for the first time in years, maybe ever at his home, planned Friday to plop down in his living room, turn on the TV, and watch the entire baseball game.
It will be hard to miss.
Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Season between the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates is being televised three different times throughout the day Friday on MLB-TV as one of baseball’s classics, ranked as the fourth-best game in MLB history.
The game that sent the Atlanta Braves into euphoria, returning to the World Series for a second consecutive year, and breaking the hearts of Pirates’ fans, once again.
“I have an employee, a friend of mine,’’ says Bream, who is a corporate chaplain at the PGT Trucking company in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, “and every time I go to his desk, he tells me I was out.
“You were a disgrace to Pittsburgh.’’’
Atlanta's Sid Bream celebrates after scoring the winning run in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS. (Photo: Rusty Kennedy, Associated Press)
They can laugh about it now, Bream told USA TODAY Sports on Friday, but 28 years ago, there was a death threat from an angry Pirates fan, threatening to kill his entire family.
Over a baseball game.
Bream, 59, was born and raised a Pirates fan himself. He played six years in their organization. One of his sons, Austin Leyland, is named after Pirates manager Jim Leyland. He cried when the Pirates didn’t make him a competitive offer to re-sign him as a free-agent, leaving him to sign with Atlanta.
But, 28 years ago, standing on second base, in the ninth inning with his team down, 2-1 in the deciding game of the NLCS, he had one job to do:
Find a way to cross home plate with the winning run.
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Pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera, at the plate facing Pirates closer Stan Belinda, hit a line drive to left field. David Justice easily scored from third base with the tying run when Pirates All-Star left fielder Barry Bonds picked up the ball. Bream, who remembers having a monstrous lead off second base, so big that he probably would have been picked off base if Belinda or catcher Mike LaValliere threw behind him, took off running.
This was a 32-year-old man, who already had six knee surgeries, and was the slowest position player on field, painfully trudging around the bases.
“I still have no recollection whether (third-base coach) Jimy Williams was giving me the stop sign or not, no idea,’’ Bream says. “I didn’t even look at him. I just know you were taught to put pressure on the defense, and getting another base hit or walk is difficult.
“Besides, there were things in my favor. There were two outs. I didn’t have to worry about where the ball was hit. I just had to take off at the crack of the bat.
“And if you look at the video, I had a tremendous lead. If they had thrown behind me, I was dead.’’
Bream rounded third and slid straight to home plate, tucked in his left knee, LaValliere slapped the tag, a split-second after Bream’s left heal touched the plate.
Home-plate umpire John McSherry, who would die four years later of a heart attack on opening-day in Cincinnati, correctly ruled safe.
And Bream laid on the ground, screaming, with Justice the first one jumping on him, and then the entire team.
“It was all a blur, that’s why I’m going to go home and watch the whole game,’’ Bream said . “I remember that ninth inning, of course, but there’s a lot more I want to recall from the game. A gentleman was telling me about David Justice throwing out Orlando Merced in the eighth inning, and how our defense was impeccable. I want to see that again. I want to feel it again.’’
Bream, who spent parts of 14 years in the major leagues, never made an All-Star team. He was never a Gold Glove winner, but four times led National League first basemen in runs saved. He was uncanny in his consistency, hitting .253 to .275 for seven consecutive years excluding his injured 1989 season, averaging 12 homers a year.
“I wasn’t a franchise player,’’ Bream said, “but I saved a lot of errors from my infielders. You could always depend on me.’’
There may not be a soul who can remember any other detail about Bream’s career, but on the evening of Oct. 14, 1992, in front of a paid crowd of 51,975 fans at old Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, they will forever remember the slide heard ‘round the Deep South.
“Everywhere I go, to this day,’’ Bream says, “people still want to talk about it.
“And that’s just fine by me.’’
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