Thursday, October 28, 2010

October 28, 1995: Dancing in Dixie

ATLANTA - The ball was crushed, a no-doubter to deep right. After five and a half tense, scoreless innings, Atlanta's David Justice had opened the scoring with authority, crushing a 1-1 pitch deep into the Atlanta night to give the Braves the lead in game 6 of the World Series. They needed nine more outs.

Normally, as well as Tom Glavine was pitching - he had just given up his first hit of the game the previous half-inning - a person could have reasonably thought the World Series was over when Justice hit that home run. This was Cleveland, after all - a team with a powerful, deep lineup that ran roughshod through the American League. Sure, Atlanta's pitchers had done a great job against Cleveland so far in the series, but there was no way one run was going to beat the Indians, right?

But on this night, with the championship in sight, Glavine wasn't giving in. Cleveland went down meekly in the top of the seventh. No threat at all. The threat came from the Braves, who loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh but failed to score. No worries, though. Cleveland went down in order in the eighth.

In the bottom of the eighth, Glavine's turn to bat was approaching. It was the ultimate tough decision: do you let the unhittable pitcher bat for himself, knowing it would be unlikely he would help the cause but hoping he had enough left for the ninth? Or do you hit for him, try for the extra run, then bring in your closer? Ultimately, Glavine was replaced. Whether he was wearing down or Atlanta just wanted to try for an extra run, it didn't matter. He was out. Atlanta didn't score, though, taking a 1-0 lead into the top of the ninth.

In the 1991 series, the Braves' first series while based in Atlanta, they lost in seven games, including three one-run games. All four of their losses in the 1992 World Series were also one-run affairs, and three of their four losses in the 1993 NLCS were by a single run. Even in ths series, the two losses they had suffered thus far were by one. So for the Braves, a one-run game was something they were used to, and their fans, knowing their recent history, couldn't have been too comfortable.

They didn't need to worry, though. With closer Mark Wohlers on the mound, the Indians hit the ball in the air three times, each one further from home plate than the last, but each one settling into an Atlanta player's glove. Centerfielder Marquis Grissom got the honor of closing his glove on the last out that gave the Braves their first title in Dixie.


The Braves were in the middle of a dynasty in 1995, and the World Series victory was supposed to be both the icing on the cake and the final break in the dam that allowed them to run off several championships in a row. But the 1995 series was the top of the mountain for Atlanta. Despite making the playoffs each of the next 10 seasons, Atlanta never won another title.

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