2. 1992 NLCS Game 7 - Sid Bream beats his old team - Sid Bream should have still been a Pirate at that point. But in typical Pittsburgh fashion, they don't pay players to play ball here. If they did, this game would have had a different outcome. Or at least in my mind it would have.
Doug Drabek had pitched an almost flawless game through 8 innings, not surrendering a single run and getting out of his bases loaded jam up during the sixth. Drabek was an animal that day and I hadn't seen him pitch like that, well, ever in my life to that point. The Bucs took a 2-0 lead into the ninth and were inching closer to a World Series birth. That's when the wheels fell off.
Jim Leyland, who must have been high on Jim Beam and cigarettes at the time, decided to let Doug finish it out, despite the obvious fatigue setting in. Terry Pendleton led off with a double. Jose Lind decides to play the ball off his foot instead of his glove, sending David Justice to first (who I don't think was quite married to Halle Berry, yet). Drabek then walked Sid Bream. I always liked Sid Bream. He was always very accomadating and humbled by the fan attention before and after games and was always obliging when it came to autographs. He always signed bible verses to his signature too. Turns out...he was the DEVIL.
Finally Stan Belinda came in for relief. Here we go!! Close these guys out. Ron Gant blasts one almost out but is instead caught at the warning track. Pendleton scores. 2-1. Belinda then walks Damon Berryhill on at least two if not three questionable ball/strike calls and the bases are loaded again. Brian Hunter pops out and I am ready to jump out of my skin. Francisco Cabrera, the last guy on the Atlanta bench, and pinch hitter was due up. He had only had 10 at bats all season. This one was over....CRACK!!
A single to left field!! What? Justice came trodding across the plate and the pokey Bream decided to head for home. Bonds launched the ball from left and I was sure that Spanky would have caught that ball and had plenty of time to establish position and tag Sid out. The ball was about a foot too far toward first and as LaValliere turned to swipe at the slide, Bream was called safe at home. There was definitely crying in baseball for me that day.
(Bream slides past the tag of Mike Lavalliere (from Getty Images; Sports Illustrated Pictures Collection))
The last play of the game single handily changed the course of baseball history in Pittsburgh. Oh, and not for the better, in case you were wondering. Bonilla left, John Smiley left, and Bill Landrum was let go at the end of the season. After 1993, Drabek and Bonds weren't resigned. Van Slyke left...the list goes on and on. For the sake of my fingers, that's enough detail of the epic dismantling of the team that began after that fateful game. They haven't had a winning season since. 17 consecutive years of losing. Go Bucs!!