October 14, 1992, was one of those nights. One of those nights when every Braves fan can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing.
Like countless others I was watching Game 7 of the National League Championship Series in my living room, jumping, dancing and celebrating without the slightest hint of shame.
Nearly 52,000 others were packed into Fulton County Stadium doing the same.
Sid Bream was there too, lying on his back at home plate at the bottom of a pile underneath David Justice, a couple of bat boys and the rest of his teammates after scoring from second to send the Braves back to the World Series for the second straight year.
For those unfamiliar with "the slide," here’s the Cliff’s Notes version:
The Braves trailed the Pirates, 2-0, entering the bottom of the ninth. By the time pinch hitter Francisco Cabrera (10 at-bats all season) stepped into the box, there were two outs and the score was 2-1. Justice represented the tying run on third base. At second, Bream stood on injury-riddled knees.
As Bream took his lead, Cabrera slapped a Doug Drabek offering on the ground toward Barry Bonds in left field. Of course, Justice scored easily to tie the game. The drama was in watching Bream truck it around third base.
Something you need to understand here: Even before surgeries did a number on his knees, nobody every confused Bream with Vince Coleman. He did swipe 13 bases in one season as a spry 26-year-old. In his other 11 big-league seasons he stole a total of 37.
Even running on contact, there was no way he should have beat that throw.
But he did, just barely, setting off the aforementioned celebration and etching his name forever in baseball history.
It’s a moment that stands out in the minds of fans everywhere.
For Braves fans, it helped catapult their team to more than a decade of national relevance and an unprecedented 14-year run of division titles.
For Pirates fans, it opened a wound that’s yet to heal. Bream, after all, spent the prime of his career in Pittsburgh and the Pirates haven’t finished over .500 since.
For Bream, it’s a moment that has come to define his 12-year career.
And he’s fine with that.
Bream was in Gainesville on Sunday, speaking to more than 175 students in Sunday School and more than 600 in worship service at Air Line Baptist Church. It’s just one of many opportunities "the slide" has opened for him.
"As a player you’re hoping for something like that," Bream said Saturday in the church’s fellowship hall after arriving in town with Air Line’s student ministries pastor, Darryl Womack. "There’s a lot of people that have had better careers that have kind of been lost in the shuffle because there’s been no defining moment for them."
These days Bream makes his home in Zelienople, Penn., about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh with his wife and four children. Since retiring from baseball after the 1994 season, he’s tried his hand in a few different business ventures and recently got back into baseball in the Pirates organization. He’s happy to be back in the game, though after 14 years of being a stay-at-home dad he said he’s missing his family quite a bit.
Some Pirates fans would be fine if he just stayed back home. Sixteen years later, their anguish is still as fresh as the Braves’ joy. Strangers on the Pennsylvania streets still mention that fateful slide "all the time," he said.
"They remember me from the slide and it’s not a pleasant remembrance," said Bream, who added he has had his name in the mix for a few job openings with the Pirates. "But I’m the reason they didn’t get to the World Series. They have a thing going right now — the Bream curse. It’s been 15 years and they’ve never been back.
"When they hired me about half the people were happy about it, but half the people remember that play and they didn’t like it a bit. So I mean there’s mixed reviews as far as me being with them right now."
But Bream isn’t bothered by that. The Braves have "been really good" to him since that night, and he’s grateful for every door that’s been opened to him.
"That moment is something that’s stuck around," he said. "It’s still in the top 75 greatest moments on ESPN, and CBS has put it up there, too. So it’s hanging around.
"It’s a blessing."
Speaking for Braves fans everywhere, we feel the same way.