Atlanta Braves, Pinch Hitter
Bonds didn't have
a good arm."
Brian Hunter was mad. He was fuming. He knew what it felt like to be a hero, and it didn't feel like this.
In the 1991 NLCS, Hunter was, in fact, the hero. He hit a two-run home run in Game 7 against Pirates pitcher John Smiley to put the Braves on top 3-0 in the first inning; and in the top of the fifth, he doubled to left field, scoring Ron Gant. Atlanta won that game 4-0 to advance to the '91 World Series against Minnesota.
So in '92, with one out, the bases loaded and the Braves trailing Pittsburgh 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7, Hunter was ready to feel that feeling again. Manager Bobby Cox called on him to pinch hit for Rafael Belliard.
"I hit one of those bloopers that would have dropped in if they hadn't moved the infield back," said Hunter, who is now a coach for Hard 9 Baseball Club, a traveling team in Anaheim, Calif., for kids ages 8-18. "So, that made it two outs. I'm pissed. We didn't drive one in to tie it."
The next batter was Francisco Cabrera. Hunter said no one knew what to expect because Cabrera had only a few at-bats (11 plate appearances) all season long. Then, he smacked the ball to left.
"He hit it to Barry Bonds," said Hunter. "We knew [Bonds] didn't have a good arm, but we also knew we had the slowest baserunner at second.
"I think more than half the team was on the field before Sid [Bream] even got to the plate. You know, walking towards the plate, or jumping, or running towards the plate to see if he was going to get there
So [Bream] is still barely finishing his slide and everybody is at the dirt. We were all out of the dugout because we knew we tied it up and had to [at least] go extras and we were just waiting on what was going to happen at the plate."
Once the team made it back to the clubhouse, Hunter said it was crazy. The 1992 Braves were young, and they loved water fights. He remembers players running into the showers and getting buckets of water. Anyone -- girlfriends, wives, coaches -- walking into the locker room got soaked.
"Just being in the World Series is like a dream come true," said Hunter.
He wasn't the hero in '92. But the Braves, in dramatic fashion, were on their way to the World Series again, and that was more than good enough.
-- 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."
"You always have
that one out left."
"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