Please note that at present, no video footage of what I'm about to talk about exists online. However, I assume that if you're going to keep reading, you either know what I'm talking about, or are in some way curious about it. If anyone has knowledge of online footage, please let me know. Soon, I might be able to provide footage myself.
The 1991 Atlanta Braves season started off like many others with two quick losses to our NL West (back when we were in the NL West) rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
But after that, any Atlanta fan could tell you that something was different. Sure, a chunk of the team was made up of players that had been with the Braves for a few seasons. Our untested pitching staff, consisting of future Cy Young winners Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery was backed up by others like Ron Gant, David Justice, Jeff Blauser, and a very tiny Mark Lemke, who back in 1991, would easily fit in your Levi 501 jeans side pockets.
Looking over a simple statistic in 1991, the number of games they were behind (or ahead) in first place in the NL West Division, it's easy to see why Atlantans were watching with one eyebrow raised.
From May 7th through June 15th, the Braves were never more than 2.5 games out of first place, either tied for first or a close second to the Dodgers. On May 12th and 13th, in fact, they were up one game, which is to say they were in first place by themselves.
But as the season wore on, the old Braves started to come back. The Braves that were selling tickets at the local Kroger buy one/get one free during the 1980s. Between July 2nd and July 4th, they were 8.5 games out of first place, reaching the bottom on July 7th at 9.5 games out.
Braves fans hadn't given up. The summer was hot like every other summer in Georgia, and Braves fans were hard to find. On July 8th, when the Braves returned from L.A., Fulton County Stadium hosted the St. Louis Cardinals and a mere 17,060 ticket holders showed up.
However, this is where the Braves came back. By August 13th, the Braves were a mere half game out of first place. Between August 27th and September 21st, the Braves had more days either tied for first place or in the lead. Something was up.
The important thing I really want to express here is how much this was unexpected for Atlanta, but why we were all so excited. And why our parents let us stay up late to watch the games that went until midnight or 1am.
At season's end, the Braves came out ahead of the Dodgers and went on to the NLCS and then, for the first time since the Milwaukee Braves did it in 1958, the Braves went to the World Series.
One of the students who works under me, named Greg, was raised a Twins fan. If you haven't guessed, I was raised a Braves fan. Being that Greg is a few years younger than me, he was not fully aware of the play at first base back in 1991. However, being a Twins fan, he could not assume that Kent Hrbek really would have pulled Ron Gant off base.
So we argued, debated, and generally made fun of one another. After the 1991 season, places in Atlanta were selling a VHS tape that highlighted the entire year. My hope was that my parents still had it at their home in Stone Mountain and that they would bring it up on a recent trip.
My Mom couldn't find the tape, but when Greg was home this past weekend, he found that his Dad had an entire set of World Series tapes, including the infamous 1991 series.
So Greg and I rigged up a TV/VCR combo and sat to watch the hour long tape. As we approached the inning in game two, I had Greg make sure he was ready with remote in hand. We had agreed prior to starting the tape that we would remain impartial and be honest with one another. If Gant was truly out, I would agree to it. If Hrbek pulled Gant off base, then Greg would admit he'd been wrong.
Upon viewing the play (which I would show here if there was somewhere online to find it) Greg and I decided that, to an extent, we were both right. And both wrong.
I agreed that Gant's momentum might have carried him past the base. Greg, however, countered that Gant would certainly have stayed on the base, if Hrbek (and this is VERY CLEAR on the tape) had not had BOTH ARMS wrapped around Gant's leg, literally pulling him off first. What the umpire saw, I'm not sure, but Greg and I clearly saw that Kent Hrbek had a hold of Gant and was pulling him.
In a more exact way, I was right and Greg was wrong :).
However, we're talking about something 16 years ago, when I was 8 and Greg was maybe 3 or 4 (?). Neither of us was expected to know, but the discovery of the answer to this question which had long plagued us could finally allow some peace.
The Braves are playing the Twins this week in Minneapolis. They are certain to get crushed, and it makes me sad.
1. If I ever meet Kent Hrbek, I'm going to sock him.
2. If I ever meet Bobby Cox, I'm going to ask him "WHY THE FUCK DID YOU PUT LEIBRANDT IN TO PITCH TO PUCKETT IN GAME SIX???"