Game 7 sure to produce yet another lasting image
In the process of covering the Braves for the past 11 years, there have obviously been many occasions when I have mentioned something about the epic 1991 World Series. Twenty years later, fans still passionately talk about Kirby Puckett’s 11th-inning home run and the pitching duel John Smoltz and Jack Morris waged the following evening in Game 7.
This was a Fall Classic that epitomized drama. Five of the seven games were decided by one run and nine innings were not enough to determine a winner in the final two games. Puckett’s walk-off homer in Game 6 forced the Braves to bring a 24-year-old Smoltz back on short rest.
Foreshadowing some of the success he would enjoy in the postseason over the next 15 years, Smoltz responded with 7 1/3 scoreless innings. Unfortunately for the young right-hander, his effort was not enough to trump the one produced by his childhood idol. Morris went the distance while leading the Twins to a 1-0, 10-inning, Game 7 victory.
Those who watched the game still talk about the tension it created. Those of us who chose to pout and ignore the game now simply wish we had taken advantage of the opportunity to experience the rare opportunity to experience the splendor created by Game 7 of the World Series.
Once the Braves eliminated my beloved Pirates in the National League Championship Series that year, I figure I essentially put an end to my baseball season. As hard as I try, I really do not remember seeing anything more than highlights from the ’91 World Series.
I remember being at my grandmother’s house the night a disgusted John Tudor sliced his finger while punching a mechanical fan after being pulled in Game 7 of the 1984 World Series. I remember my dad driving us from Pittsburgh back home to Wheeling, WV in time to see the grounder go under Bill Buckner’s legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
I know where I was sitting when Edgar Renteria produced his two-out, 11th-inning single to end the 1997 World Series. And I remember I was sitting in a black papasan chair when Luis Gonzalez hit his game-winning single off Mariano Rivera in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
But I really have no vivid memories from the 1991 World Series.
I still remember coming home from football practice a few weeks later to learn Magic Johnson announce he had contracted HIV. But other than what I gained from highlights, I really don’t remember anything about Puckett hitting that home run or Kent Hrbek lifting Ron Gant off the first base bag.
At 17-years-old, I did not have any desire to watch the World Series after seeing the Pirates bounced from the NLCS for the second straight year. Twenty years later, it’s quite obvious that I was simply denying myself a chance to experience some of the greatness the postseason brings.
Fortunately this year’s postseason as a whole might be the greatest in baseball’s history. Unfortunately for Braves (and Red Sox) fans, the drama actually began on the regular season’s final day. Fortunately for baseball fans everywhere, the postseason has been extended to its limit with the Cardinals and Rangers set to play Game 7 of the World Series tonight.
It will seemingly be impossible for the Rangers and Cardinals to top what they created in Game 6. It was ugly from both a pitching and defensive standpoint. But from simply a competitive standpoint, it certainly felt like one of the greatest sporting events I have ever witnessed.
Twice the Cardinals tied the game in the ninth inning or later after being pushed to their last strike. The guy (Lance Berkman) that they could have traded to the Rangers when they were seemingly out of contention in August produced a two-out game-tying single in the 10th inning. Then the St. Louis native (David Freese) who had tripled off the right field wall to tie the game with two outs in the ninth inning drilled a walk-off homer to begin the bottom of the 11th inning.
You can’t make this stuff up. The team that trailed the Braves by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25 is now just one win away from winning the World Series. Standing in their way will be Rangers left-hander Matt Harrison, who of course was part of the prospect-laden package the Braves used to bring Mark Teixeira to Atlanta.
This is just the fifth time in the past 20 years that the baseball world will have the pleasure of watching Game 7 of a World Series. I suggest you don’t miss it. You might still regret it 20 years from now.