Bill Shanks

October a time for baseball memories

In this Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen (37), cather Roberto Perez (55) and teammates Andrew Miller and Coco Crisp celebrate the team's 3-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays during Game 5 of the baseball American League Championship Series, in Toronto. Four months after LeBron James and the Cavaliers ended the city’s championship drought at 52 years by winning the NBA title, the Indians are back in the World Series for the first time since 1997.
In this Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, file photo, Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Cody Allen (37), cather Roberto Perez (55) and teammates Andrew Miller and Coco Crisp celebrate the team's 3-0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays during Game 5 of the baseball American League Championship Series, in Toronto. Four months after LeBron James and the Cavaliers ended the city’s championship drought at 52 years by winning the NBA title, the Indians are back in the World Series for the first time since 1997. AP

Every October, that same feeling washes over baseball fans whose team is not playing. They watch postseason baseball and can only wish it was their favorite team feeling the joy of clutch hits, big strikeouts and winning clubhouse celebrations.

It was 25 years ago when the Atlanta Braves had the best season in their history. Yes, even better than in 1995 when they won the World Series. The 1991 season was magical, and to think it has been a quarter-century is unbelievable.

Do you have any memories of that season, when the Braves went worst-to-first? There were many bandwagon jumpers that year, and that’s OK. I was there when they won the division, on that early October Saturday against the Houston Astros.

That was only the beginning, as we were treated to a dramatic playoff series against Pittsburgh. Then it was the World Series, and what a World Series it was. The pain of watching Kirby Puckett hit the home run off Charlie Leibrandt has subsided a bit through the years. Well, only a bit.

The next night was perhaps the best World Series game seven ever, with John Smoltz dueling his childhood hero, Jack Morris. The Twins won in 10 innings. Remember Lonnie Smith getting duped on the base paths or Sid Bream grounding into the double play? OK, I’ll stop.

Twelve months later, the Braves had the remarkable hit by Francisco Cabrera that scored Sid Bream. That hit made both legends in Atlanta’s history, and we can only be so lucky to see another dramatic hit by a Braves player in our lifetime.

The 1995 postseason was somewhat easy for the Braves. They beat the Rockies in four games in the NLDS and then swept the Reds in the NLCS. And when Atlanta faced a Cleveland Indians team with a remarkable lineup, the Braves’ future Hall of Fame pitchers shut them down.

If you had been a Braves fan for any of the 30 years leading up to the moment Marquis Grissom caught the ball in left-center field, you’ll never forget that feeling. They could win the World Series 10 times before you die, but it would never feel like that.

Twenty years ago, the Braves should have won their second straight World Series. When 19-year-old Andruw Jones hit those two home runs in Game 2, it looked like a cinch. But the four-game losing streak to the New York Yankees after being up 2-0 in the series, with the two wins coming in Yankee Stadium, still stings. That likely hurts more than that Leibrandt pitch, knowing how close the Braves were to being back-to-back champions.

Most of the Braves’ memories in October got a little bleak after that. They didn’t win as many series, and unfortunately had to watch more teams celebrate on their field than they’d like to remember.

With the Braves’ late-season success this year and the belief that more young talent is on the way, one could only hope we have more good postseason memories to come. Since it has been a while, it will likely once again be an event, like it was in 1991 when Braves’ fans had never experienced such euphoria over a winning team.

We’re down to the Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs in this year’s postseason. The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. It has been 28 years for the Dodgers, and we all know it has been 108 years for the Cubs. You think those fans are getting ready for a few memories?

That’s what the postseason is all about, and we’re due for some around these parts.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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