They call it the Sid Bream Game.
That’s because after trailing Van Slyke’s Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth inning during Game 7 of that National League Championship Series, Bream’s Atlanta Braves completed the impossible before the home crowd. They got a single to left by pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera, followed by Bream leaving second, rounding third and sliding home with the pennant-winning run. . . .
There was another scene for the ages involving Van Slyke that night (or shall I say during the early morning) at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, but let’s return to the present for the moment. Van Slyke just said the most fascinating thing about the Sid Bream Game to MLB Network as part of its series on MLB’s 20 Greatest Games.
According to Van Slyke, he asked Bonds to move in a few steps for the light-hitting Cabrera.
Bonds reportedly refused.
Boy, did he. Said Van Slyke to the MLB Network, “He turned and looked at me and gave me the international peace sign. So I said, ‘Fine, you play where you want.’ “
Van Slyke wasn’t just any center fielder, by the way. He was on the verge of capturing the last of his five consecutive Gold Gloves. Not only that, he was playing a position whose occupants are generally allowed to bark orders to the other outfielders.
And, generally, those other outfielders listen. But, generally, they aren’t as famously strong-minded and talented as the guy who was in the midst of snatching eight consecutive Gold Gloves.
So Bonds didn’t listen.
Soon afterward, Cabrera dropped a single to the left of Bonds that required the left-handed outfielder to race toward the ball and throw home across his body. The throw was off slightly in the direction of the first base, but Pirates catcher Mike LaValliere made the grab and then whirled with his glove toward the plate for the tag.
It’s just that Bream and his knees that required five surgeries through the years reached home about a millisecond earlier.