Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What God Did When Sid Slid

Click image to watch video highlight of "The Slide"

I remember the night.  I was glued to the TV with my best friend and college roommate at the University of Georgia that fateful October night in 1992.  All seemed hopeless.  It was Game 7, and the Braves were down 2-0 in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Doug Drabek had pitched masterfully - 8 shutout innings thus far.  

The Braves' half-inning started with a double deep into the right-field corner by Terry Pendleton.  David Justice then hits a routine ground ball to Jose Lind, the Gold Glove-winning second baseman.  He boots it.  Runners at 1st and 3rd.  Sid Bream then walks on four straight pitches.  Doug Drabek is pulled from the game.  Enter Stan Belinda.

Ron Gant hits a deep fly ball to the warning track, which plates the Braves' first run.  2-1 Pirates.  Catcher Damon Berryhill then walks to load the bases once more.  Pinch-hitter Brian Hunter then pops up to 2B, leaving the bases loaded with two outs.  

There was one player remaining on the bench.  A kid named Francisco Cabrera, who only had ten at-bats that entire season.  He steps in, and laces a pitch down the left-field line - foul into the stands.  The next pitch is up and out, but Cabrera reaches out and hammers it to left field.  Justice scores easily, but the slow-footed Sid Bream is hoofing it around third base.  He makes a wider turn than Braves fans would like to have seen.  Bonds fields in left center, then throws home...

We see Sid pumping his arms, chugging and willing himself toward home plate.  The throw from Bonds is up the first-base side of home plate.  Catcher Mike Lavalierre has to reach for the throw.  Justice and Otis Nixon are begging for Bream to get there...waving their arms up and down, urging him to get down.  And Sid slides...

We hold our breath and lift up a prayer...SAFE!  And, the immortal words of Skip Caray ring in our ears..."Braves win!  Braves win!  Braves win!  Braves win!...Braves Win!"

The Braves commemorated "The Slide" this past weekend at Turner Field.  On the stage were Sid Bream, Francisco Cabrera, and home plate umpire Randy Marsh.  After the brief ceremony - which took me back to my college apartment to relive those amazing moments - Sid Bream addressed the 30,000+ fans gathered at Turner Field.

I am paraphrasing here, but what Sid Bream shared was something along these lines:

"If we were to go back and do it over again, I am sure Bobby Cox would have put in a pitcher to pinch-run for me.  Things may have been done differently.  But, God had a plan.  He knew that when I scored that I would be able to stand up and tell thousands of people about my personal relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

When Sid slid, the Braves won.  But, more than that, God received glory, and many more people - through Sid Bream's testimony - got to hear about a Savior who often enjoys taking the world by surprise - even by allowing the slowest player on the team to score the most dramatic game-winning run in franchise history.