Atlanta Braves, Left Fielder
"You always have
that one out left."
Ron Gant says he knew he was going to drive in a run -- one, at least -- a knowledge fostered by a career of hitting in pressure situations. So as he stepped to the plate to face Pirates pitcher Stan Belinda, who had just relieved Doug Drabek, in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded, no outs and Pittsburgh leading Atlanta 2-0, he brought an old friend with him.
"Confidence," he says.
That self-assurance helped Gant hit the ball so deep to left field he almost won the game for the Braves right then and there. Barry Bonds caught the ball at the wall, but the sacrifice fly scored Terry Pendleton for Atlanta's first run of the game.
Once he was back in the dugout, he watched Damon Berryhill walk to reload the bases and Brian Hunter pop out. The Braves were now down to their final out, and Gant suddenly wasn't quite so confident about the Braves' chances.
"You always have that belief that we still have that one guy, that one out left, maybe something good will happen," said Gant, now an MLB Network analyst. "But you also have that other side. It's like the angel and the devil on your shoulder. You still have that other side going, 'Oh man, this doesn't look good. I don't know if we are going to be able to pull this out.'"
So when Francisco Cabrera came on to pinch hit for Jeff Reardon, Gant was hoping that Cabrera would take the same approach to the at-bat that he'd used earlier: Try to take the pressure out of the situation and believe you can get a run in.
"Cabrera just went up there and said, 'I'm just going to have fun, and whatever happens happens,'" Gant recalled. "I think that took all the pressure off of him, mentally."
He stood on the top step of the dugout to watch. The stadium was loud. His teammates were yelling from the dugout.
"As soon as he got the hit, I started running out of the dugout onto the field as the play was developing," said Gant.
He ended up at the bottom of the dog pile. But it didn't matter; the devil -- the one sitting on Gant's shoulder telling him the Braves' season might be over -- was gone. They were on their way to the World Series.
"The emotions went from being kind of low to being so high," he said. "It was just the most exciting moment I've ever had in a baseball game."
-- Anna McDonald, ESPN.com
Randy Marsh, Mike LaValliere, David Justice, Terry Pendleton, Sid Bream, Ron Gant, Brian Hunter, John Smoltz, Andy Van Slyke, Bud Selig
"I wasn't worried
about style points."
"I thought we'd have
[Bream] by a mile."
"Sid was barely safe.
a matter of inches."
"I didn't go to sleep 'til
7:00 the next morning."
"At that point in time,
it was up to me."
"We knew Bonds didn't
have a good arm."
"I was pouting
in the clubhouse."
"I just knew that
it was the end."
Major League Baseball
The celebration began with Sid Bream and David
Justice at the plate as Mike LaValliere's tag was late.
Photo: AFP/Getty Images/Jim Gund