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JUSTICE PREVAILS

June 06, 1994
June 06, 1994

Table of Contents
June 6, 1994

Baseball Records
NBA Playoffs
Motor Sports
Special Report
New York Rangers
Dan Marino

JUSTICE PREVAILS

Fate made Atlanta Brave David Justice a star, but it took marriage to actress Halle Berry to put him on top of the world

She is in Charleston, S.C., shooting CBS ministries called Queen. This day in February 1992 is shaping up like any other, except she has time on her hands for a change. So she turns on the TV. She's not a big TV watcher, but there she is, flipping the channels, bored beyond telling. Finally she lands on MTV, a show called Rock 'n' Jock. They're playing soft-ball, it looks like, and someone is introducing the celebrity players.

This is an article from the June 6, 1994 issue

Perhaps it is at this moment that fate intervenes, that some invisible angel benevolently taps her on the shoulder. For the face of the man she is destined to marry has come up on the screen: Why, it's...it's....

"David Justice," the announcer says.

In the studio, Halle Berry does a double take. Hmmmm, she says to herself.

She gathers that he's a baseball player, but she doesn't hear the name of his team and probably wouldn't know the first thing about it anyway. By her own admission she's an idiot when it comes to sports. And yet....

David Justice David Justice David Justice

"Who is David Justice?" she asks one of her friends a day or two later. They're talking on the telephone.

"David Justice? He plays for the Braves."

She sighs and tells her friend that she can't get the guy out of her head. She tells her friend about a scheme she has dreamed up. She's going to meet this David Justice. She's going to go to a game down there in Atlanta and make his acquaintance somehow. She'll finagle something through the studio, some kind of appearance.

On the other end, which happens to be Los Angeles, her friend has fallen silent. "Halle," he says after a while. "Don't go chasing after a man. Let love find you."

"But Paul...."

"No, Halle. You've become infatuated with this person you saw on TV! You don't even know him!" And Halle's friend reminds her about the relationship she was just in, a relationship she herself has described as "really, really bad."

"Why get in another situation, Halle?" her friend says. "Why not take a break?"

She is Halle Berry, after all, one of the most popular young actresses around, making a name for herself in movies such as The Last Boy Scout, Jungle Fever and Boomerang. Soon she would begin shooting The Flintstones. Not so long ago, in a different incarnation, she won the Miss Teen Ohio title and was runner-up in the Miss USA pageant the next year, 1986. And whom does she covet now but some handsome, big-shouldered baseball player she caught a glimpse of on TV.

"O.K., Paul," she says. "O.K."

He comes from Cincinnati and still has scads of friends living there. Has his mother out there too, the single most precious person in all the world to him. David is Nettie Justice's only child, and when she gets him on the phone, all she can say is "I love you, baby" about a thousand times. It's such a pretty string of words to hear, even coming from your mother. Whenever the Braves play the Reds in Riverfront, you should see the crowds that turn out, all his favorite people. Even his old high school basketball coach, Father Ed Heile, is in attendance, shouting encouragement: "O.K., David! Relax, David! You can do it, David! Just concentrate, David!" It's as if they're up in the seats having a contest to see who can say David's name the most, who can hold him the tightest. Nettie always wins.

One day an old pal of his from Cincinnati says, "Hey, Dave, guess who I'm going to interview?" The man works as a newspaper reporter, and it seems he couldn't be more pleased with himself.

"Who's that?" Justice asks.

"Halle Berry."

"Halle Berry! You're kidding! Hey, man, tell her she's got a fan and see if you can get a picture for me. Will you do that?"

"Sure. I'll do what I can."

As it so happens, Justice is in dire need of a pick-me-up right about now. A few weeks have passed since that appearance on MTV, and he has just commenced what will rate as the most god-awful season of his life. He figures there is no way this world-famous woman will know him. No way! And even if she does happen to recognize his name, maybe she'll have heard something about his problems. Lord knows there have been plenty.

Two years earlier, in 1990, Justice was National League Rookie of the Year and impressed the baseball world with his quick intelligence and engaging personality. But in 1991 he reported to spring training driving a Mercedes-Benz with a SWEET SWING vanity plate and wearing gaudy gold jewelry. He had necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings—everything but chains to decorate his ankles. Justice seemed to be emulating star players around the league, but the effect didn't go over well with teammates, and a few of them questioned his attitude. Had one good big league season gone to his head, changing him from a decent, self-effacing guy into a jerk? Justice provided an answer to that question when a couple of writers from national newspapers came to interview him. Maybe they caught him on a bad day, but he certainly made no effort to ingratiate himself with them. Their stories depicted him as the game's enfant terrible and quoted anonymous teammates who had extremely unflattering things to say about the Braves' young star.

The list of grievances against Justice included both the petty and the not so petty: He wants to be called David, not Dave. He often refuses to sign autographs. He rarely has a hello or a kind word for anyone in the clubhouse. He parks his car wherever he pleases, including in no-parking zones. He owns a small computer and keeps a file on it containing a sort of enemies list of sportswriters to whom he will never speak again.

Justice thought the articles added up to character assassination, and he was enraged that some of his teammates had taken it upon themselves to undress him in public. Instead of ignoring the criticism or trying to provide evidence that he had been misrepresented, he lashed out at virtually every reporter who attempted to interview him, and thus he seemed to prove that the bad attitude ascribed to him was real. Anger, he said later, "had taken over my personality. My attitude was, Hey, these people don't give a damn about me, so why should I give a damn about them? And that was the wrong attitude to take. That was my mistake."

In June of that year his batting average was just shy of .300 and he was leading the league with 51 RBIs, but one day he reported to the ballpark and complained of back pain. A few days later, still not feeling like himself, he announced, "It hurts too bad. I can't play." The injury kept him sidelined for two months and limited him to totals of 21 home runs and 87 RBIs for his shortened season. The injury became the subject of much discussion and skepticism. Although it would later be learned that Justice had suffered a stress fracture in his lower back, early X-rays were normal, and some people seemed to think he was faking it.

"Now why would a person having the best season of his young career, and on his way to his first All-Star Game—because I was a shoo-in for All-Star—sit down?" Justice argued. "What would be the point of that?"

During the last week of the regular season Justice got what many still believe is the single most important hit in Atlanta Brave history. It was a game-winning two-run homer that came with one out in the ninth inning against Rob Dibble of the Reds. It happened in Cincinnati before Justice's friends and family, and it helped the Braves clinch the National League West title. As Justice was rounding the bases, his first thought was of the people back in Atlanta: What did they think of Dave Justice now?

His reputation was further damaged in spring training of 1992, when he became involved in a contract dispute and refused to pose for individual pictures in uniform. Justice was acting on the advice of his agent, Eric Goldschmidt, and hoping to send a message to team management, but the move only made him look small and selfish.

Tired of listening to Justice complain about the deal the Braves were offering him, third baseman Terry Pendleton pulled him aside one day during stretching exercises and said, "Dave, we have to talk." They left the field and found a secluded area where no one could hear them. And as Pendleton tells it, he stepped up close to his friend and said, "Dave, you're going to need to get with the program, or you're going to have to pack up your stuff. Now I'll go in there and help you pack it. It's plain and simple—there's no maybe, maybe not. The only reason I'm sitting you down and talking to you is because I think Dave Justice can be one of the greatest players to ever play this game, but he's not going to be that with this attitude.

"The only way you're going to get over these obstacles is to go out and bust your tail. If you have to put blindfolds on, then do so, because if you go between the lines and do your job, they don't have a choice but to pay you."

The lecture seemed to work. Justice listened intently and, according to Pendleton, finally said, "All right. I'll go out there and get with the program."

In early March, Justice was soothed by a $258,500 raise, but soon after, he brought more troubles upon himself by sharing with a reporter his thoughts about racism in baseball, one of which went as follows: "There are a lot of good guys on this team, but there are a few who I know use the 'N' word when I'm not around."

If that wasn't incendiary enough, Justice hastened to add, "How many white players do you see get abused in the paper? We see it happen all the time with black players. No matter what you do, you're still a nigger. Baseball is just an extension of life."

"Damn, cousin," one of his black teammates told him, "I'm glad you said that, but I never could have." According to Justice, others told him that his remarks were accurate, but none made a public statement to that effect. Nettie later told him, "David, you can't fight that battle all by yourself."

The 1992 season was just starting, but already Justice wished he could squeeze it into a tidy little ball and throw it in the trash. At Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium fans booed him whenever his name was announced. One day he received a letter calling him any number of obscene names. He put the letter up on his locker, but somebody removed it as soon as he left the clubhouse.

By now Justice was feeling angry and alone. And it occurred to him that he didn't really have a home, not when it came to baseball, anyway. Each game would be like an away game for him.

How had things come to this? he often asked himself. And how could he ever change them?

"Hey, David, you're not going to believe this."

It was his old friend from Cincinnati, the reporter who had interviewed Halle Berry.

"Dave, she asked me to give you her telephone number," the reporter said.

"She did?"

"David, she knows who you are. And she wants you to call."

"No way!"

Halle Berry Halle Berry Halle Berry

"There's no question things happen for a reason," Justice is saying one day more than two years later. He's sitting in a booth at the Buckhead Diner, an eatery with plenty of what you might call ambience. Some restaurants say, "Remember to bring your appetite," but this one seems to say, "Yes, but don't forget your gold card, either."

For the last hour Justice has been talking about fate, predestination, whatever you want to call it. He has been tracing the arc of events that brought him to this day in the 29th year of his life, and he is feeling slightly awed by the adventure. Two years ago, he says, he "was hating everybody in Atlanta, and they were hating me," but then, just like that, he turned himself around and hit a career-high 40 home runs and 120 RBIs in 1993 en route to finishing third in National League MVP voting, behind the San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds and the Philadelphia Phillies' Lenny Dykstra. He has done all right so far in '94, too, batting .305 with seven home runs, as of May 29.

His marriage to Halle Berry last year, he says, is just one example of how things have happened in his life for a reason. "Like when I was 15," he says, "coming home from school. I put my hand through a door window and cut my wrist right here." He holds up his right arm and shows a thin scar. "I severed the tendon. The doctor said if it had been half an inch deeper I wouldn't have been able to use my hand for two years. Half an inch to the right and it would've cut my main artery, and I'd likely have been dead." He pauses and wags his head. "But it didn't happen like that. And you know why it didn't?"

He waits for an answer, and when none is forthcoming, he provides his own. "It wasn't meant to be."

Another story he tells seems to have less to do with fate than with his own admitted laziness, but Justice is adamant nonetheless. When he was a freshman at tiny Thomas More College, in Crestview Hills, Ky., on a basketball scholarship, his coach had the team run after practice, generally about three miles a day. Justice hated the conditioning work, so one afternoon he drifted over to the baseball field and announced his intention to try out for the team. Three years later he was the prize of many a major league scout and ended up being the Braves' fourth-round pick in the 1985 free-agent draft. Jump ahead to the spring of 1994, past five long seasons of minor league baseball in towns such as Pulaski, Sumter, Durham and Greenville, and past his rocky start with the Braves in 1989, when he hit only .235 in two separate stints. Jump past the day last winter when Justice signed a contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $27.5 million over the next five years.

"Fate," he says again. "Had I not hated running after basketball practice so much, I never would've gone out for baseball. And had I not gone out for baseball...." He seems to delight in the case he's making. He waits a long moment before starting again: "Hey, I've got another one for you. I had this girlfriend once...." And this time, in this story, fate was at its most curious. Fate had him imprisoned in the farm system of love, waiting for his triumphant day in the Show with Halle.

"I went through a whole eight years dating one person, and I break up with her and meet my wife. That type of thing, you know...well, it's just meant to be."

But fate seems to have had David Justice in its sights even when he was a boy. Fate, as Justice tells it, was Nettie's keeping him warm and fed and happy after his father, Robert Justice, left when he was four. And fate was the 30 or so young fellows in his neighborhood whom he counted as friends and with whom he played games every day. Fate was football in autumn and basketball in winter and baseball in spring and summer. It was hitting the schoolbooks and making good grades and going to bed at a decent hour and getting up on time.

"I really wasn't fazed when my daddy left," Justice says. "And I'm not bitter now, never was. The only reason I don't have a better relationship with him is because I think it would be a slap in my mom's face. She was probably hurt by him—it's only natural. We don't talk about him, we don't care about him."

Last time David saw his father, Robert Justice was a security guard at a Cincinnati bank. David has made no effort to get to know him. On the rare occasions when they run into each other, David is cordial if somewhat guarded.

"I grew up great and had everything I wanted," David says, "so I never missed my father. I do feel like he missed me, though. He missed a son I think he would've been proud of."

With a child to raise, Nettie took a job as a housekeeper for a wealthy white family. To make extra money she catered dinners and parties, her cooking skills being somewhat legendary in southern Ohio. When David was in the minor leagues and still short of money, Nettie recalls, "somebody told me, 'Mrs. Justice, why didn't you teach David how to cook?' I said, "What do you mean, teach him how to cook?' And he said, 'Because he's been making popcorn sandwiches.' I started crying, and I had $20 in my pocket, and you know who got it, don't you?"

Justice likes to talk about his mother's selfless devotion to him, but until now he has hesitated to discuss how she made her living. When asked, he either ducked the question or said she was a nurse. "I didn't want to be embarrassed, having people think I was poor." he says. "Because, believe me, I never knew what poor was." I le adds that his mother was constantly showering him with gifts. New bicycles and sporting goods. Clothes and shoes. One year she even bought him a moped. Money always seemed to be handy when he asked for it. "I never felt a struggle in my life," he says. "She did, but I never did. Whatever struggle my mom had to endure, she did it by herself."

"Well, let me be honest." Nettie says when drawn into the discussion. "It was always a sacrifice, because I didn't think of myself. I just thought of David. I mean, yes, it was hard, it was very hard. But we always had plenty of food. I was clean and had a coat to keep warm and a roof over our heads, and I paid our house note and took care of our lives. There was nothing God, St. Jude and I couldn't do together. That's what I felt, and that's what I've lived by."

While David might have been spoiled as a child and given every reason to believe that the world did indeed revolve around him, when he grew up he didn't forget where he came from. To pay homage to his mother, he had a large tattoo applied to his upper arm, complete with Nettie's name, a cross, a cloud and some roses. Later he would have Halle's name applied to the tattoo just a couple of inches south of Nettie's. It seemed only fitting to have these two women linked in his flesh forever. They were the best part of him, after all.

Even after Justice signed for big money with the Braves, his mother continued to work; she still holds her housekeeping job today. But her employers spend only half the year in Cincinnati now, and they've moved from a large house to a smaller town house. Nettie has cut back her workweek from five to three days.

"He would like to have her quit," Father Heile says. "But she refuses to do so. I asked her once why she didn't retire, and she said, 'When I needed them, they were there for me. And now that they're older and need me, I'm not leaving them.' She also told me that David offered to buy her a new house and take care of her for the rest of her life, but she didn't want that. She's happy where she is and with what she's doing."

Heile was the headmaster as well as the basketball coach at Covington (Ky.) Latin School when Justice enrolled there at age 12. Covington is just across the river from Cincinnati and a short drive from the predominantly black neighborhood where Justice grew up. Justice's excellent academic record made him a prime candidate for the school, which requires all students to skip the seventh and eighth grades.

"The school was not for the weak," Justice says. "Everyone was smart. As a 13-year-old sophomore you take Latin, German, chemistry, computer science, biology, history and English. And every teacher treats you like his class is the only one you have, so the homework is unbelievable."

Justice was the only black in his class. He distinguished himself academically, and he also excelled in athletics, particularly basketball. He had been on campus only three days when an excited student ran into the front office and cornered Heile.

"Wait until you see the new colored boy," the student said. Heile rushed down to where Justice was playing basketball, and after watching quietly for a few minutes, remarked, "Incredible."

As a senior Justice averaged 25.9 points a game. But he was only 15 years old, and this kept away all but a few college recruiters. More than one coach was heard to tell him, "David, if you stayed two more years in high school, you could be one of the best ever to come out of Kentucky." His senior year he made the Catholic All-America high school basketball team, but only Thomas More, then an NAIA school with an enrollment of about 1,400, offered him a full scholarship.

As a freshman Justice was redshirted in basketball. He went out for the baseball team but quit when the coach told him no freshman would start. Justice went back out for baseball as a sophomore and quickly established himself as the team's most forbidding hitter.

Scouts came in droves to watch him play, impressed not only with his talent but with the fact that at 18, he was already a college junior.

"One day I got a call from his coach at Thomas More," Heile says. " 'Father,' he said, 'I want to warn you, David's never going to finish college.' Well, I got very upset. I'd been like a surrogate father to David, and I thought so highly of his mother and knew how hard she'd worked and how badly she wanted him to succeed. So I said to the coach, 'Get him in your office. Get him in there now. I'll drive over right away and beat him from one end of it to the other.' The coach said, 'No, Father, that's not it. David Justice is the best baseball player I've ever seen in my life.' "

Not for a moment did Justice—who in fact never finished college—envision a bright future for himself in baseball, no matter what anybody said. The Braves gave him a small signing bonus, and he thought he would toil in the minors for a few years, then give up the game and drift into a job. A minor league season lasts only about five months, so to fill his calendar Justice worked at a number of menial positions. One year he drove a shuttle bus at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport, hauling passengers to and from the long-term parking lot. Another year Cincinnati's University Hospital hired him as an orderly.

Some days, when work was slow, he reported to the hospital morgue and studied the corpses. At night he told his friends stories about what he had seen, sparing no detail. In particular he was horrified by the feet of the dead. He could stare directly into the eyes of a cadaver, but looking at its feet was another matter entirely. He dreamed about those feet, yellow as corn, slipping out from under sheets and chasing him down.

While at the hospital he developed a strong dislike of doctors. The majority of them, he says, were rude and arrogant, and after studying them, he decided—ironically, as things would develop—that "if I ever make a lot of money, I'll never treat people the way doctors do."

One day Justice was pushing a woman in a wheelchair along a corridor, and they came upon a doctor who refused to yield his ground.

"Ma'am, if it's O.K. with you," Justice said, "I'm going to run that doctor over."

"Go ahead," the lady said. "Run him over." And Justice did just that, scraping the doctor's hand and arm and knocking him out of the way. The doctor was too shocked to say anything. Nor did Justice speak, not even to apologize. "I looked at him like. Go on, say something to me," Justice says. His future wasn't in that line of work, after all, so he figured he didn't have to bootlick anyone. Spring came, and he went back to baseball.

The Braves had drafted Justice as a first baseman, but at his first practice he showed off his arm by throwing one heater after another to third base. "I was killing the guy," Justice recalls. "Knocking him down. They said, "Justice, go to centerfield.' So I go to centerfield, and I'm laying down even more ropes. I never saw first base again."

Well, not until May 1990, anyway, when he replaced Nick Esasky at first for Atlanta. Esasky had been suffering from vertigo, and Justice was playing in his first full major league season. He didn't claim rightfield as his own until August, when Dale Murphy was traded to Philadelphia. Over the next two months Justice had 20 home runs and 50 RBIs.

"What I first liked about him was his swing," says Brave manager Bobby Cox. "It was major league, real smooth. Now he's more upright, and he kicks his leg higher, which he didn't do in those days. He's going more with a modern swing. But I think that first one, it was natural. Probably had it since Little League."

Justice might have found a home in the big leagues, but he proved as a rookie that he hadn't left his fiery temper back in the corridors of University Hospital. One day the Braves were facing Chicago Cub pitcher Greg Maddux, the two-time Cy Young Award winner who is now a star with Atlanta. As Justice stood in the box, Maddux met his gaze and, with no apparent provocation, mouthed the words "——you." Justice looked around to make sure Maddux meant him. Then Justice made a gesture with his hands that seemed to say, "And what did I do to you?" Instead of dropping the matter, Maddux mimicked the gesture. Justice didn't charge the mound, but he promised himself. If ever I see Greg Maddux again, I am going to kick his ass!

The next day Justice showed up early at the ballpark, determined to track down Maddux and punch him in the face. He enlisted teammates Ron Gant and Damon Berryhill to help in the event of a riot, but "nothing materialized," Justice says. "In spring training last year, when [Maddux] first joined the Braves, I had decided I was going to ignore him. But then he came up to me and said, 'Hey, Dave, how bad did you want to kick my ass?' And all the frustration and anger seemed to disappear. We laughed, and now I'd walk through a wall for Greg Maddux. I like the way he plays the game."

"It was all just a test," Maddux says with a grin when reminded of the incident. "He was a rookie, and I was testing him and he was testing me back.... I knew him only as an opposing player."

Maddux adds that he did have good cause to say what he did: Justice had been hogging the plate.

"I never knew the old Dave Justice," Maddux continues, "but I did hear things about him, and when I came over here. I just didn't see them. The Dave Justice I know plays the game hard and comes to the park ready to play every day, and—one other thing—he's a good person."

The old Dave Justice. He was the one who started 1992 wishing it would end, having angered the Braves" management and alienated sports-writers and fans.

The old Dave Justice was also the one who was mightily uncertain about his own destiny, never having had the pleasure of meeting anyone quite so extraordinary as Halle Berry.

Justice wasn't supposed to call her until he got home from the ballpark, but he couldn't wait that long. After the game he dressed hurriedly and hustled out to his car. He dialed her number, and they talked as he sped along the winding, shaded roads toward his home in the Sandy Springs neighborhood on the north side of Atlanta.

When at last he pulled up to his house and parked the car, he asked her to hang up; he would call her back as soon as he got inside.

That first night they spent three hours on the phone, talking about everything and nothing, cutting up and being serious. When it was over, he sensed that something important had happened. He was still the old David Justice, but his life was about to change. He could see it coming.

Two weeks later she flew put to meet him. He had arranged to have her travel first-class, just as she deserved. When they met, she couldn't believe how much jewelry he was wearing.

"He had necklaces, and bracelets with charms, and rings on every finger, and earrings," she says. "I felt comfortable with him, and I felt I knew him well enough right away to tell him that all the gold wasn't him. He said that I was right and that he was playing a role of what he thought a big athlete should be. Some of the athletes he admired dressed that way. It was just like a show to him, and he admitted it."

"I knew when I first saw her that I was going to marry her," Justice says. "It was like I heard a voice. 'This is going to be your wife,' something inside me said."

She went to the ballpark to watch him play, knowing little about the game but expecting to learn and to have a nice time. But what she witnessed was "amazing," she says. "All the boos and heckling. I was sitting there in the stadium among all these people, and I thought. Oh, my god, what are they doing to David? And I thought, Well, of course, he has every reason for being down. It was right there in front of me. They were so mean and brutal."

Mean and brutal indeed. "I thought the bull——would never stop unless I was traded," Justice says. "I felt like everybody really wanted me out." It was only May, but already he was looking forward to the next season. Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, he says, was like a "dungeon" or, worse, "hell."

He didn't stand up very well to the daily muggings. Whenever anyone at the ballpark asked him for an autograph, he refused and turned away. By now reporters were reluctant to ask him for interviews, and the Braves' public-relations office dreaded having to approach him about anything, no matter how small. Sometimes he was so rude to people that he later felt guilty. But he wasn't the only one dishing it out.

One Atlanta radio station, borrowing from John Lennon, aired a song with these words: "Imagine no Dave Justice. It's easy if you try." And on more than one occasion a banner that read TRADE JUSTICE was unfurled in the stadium. The first time the sign went up. he didn't see it until after the game had started and he was in rightfield. He stared at the words for the longest time, alone there in the pretty sweep of grass, and then he muttered to himself, simply, "Damn."

Another game, as he was loosening up on deck, shelled peanuts rained down upon him from the sky. He turned to see who had thrown them, then stoically marched to the plate. A strike came and went, and with it a chorus of disapproval. Are you blind? Can't you hit the ball? Justice hammered the next pitch out of the park, and the whole house came to its feet, cheering wildly. As Justice crossed the plate he mouthed the words "Aw, shut up," and gave the crowd a dismissive wave to let everyone know how he felt.

After games he drove straight homo and sat up till the small hours of the morning, trying to figure out how his life had come to this. "Why?" he asked himself time and again. He rarely left the house but to go to work. He didn't want to run into someone who might hassle him or give him a look that said. Hey, Justice, you're nothing but an ——."

"You can change all this," Halle told him one day. "You're a great person, David, but it seems I'm the only one in the whole world who knows it."

Another thing she said was, "Don't give up now. Go out and keep playing hard, and don't let them see you fold." And she advised him to open up to people, to be nice to the fans and gracious to the press, to let people see him as he was with her.

That was what he did. He had thrown the SWEET SWING vanity plate in the trash a long time ago, and now he stored away his jewelry. He played hard and kept quiet and made a pact with himself never to read the sports page. He started saying hello to people before they had a chance to greet him. At the ballpark he stuck around after batting practice to sign autographs, patiently giving one after another. And eventually the boos stopped, the radio station quit airing its awful song, the papers gave him credit for being more than a cocky prima donna. Most miraculous of all, perhaps, was that at last, he was able to feel something quite like peace. Then, late in the summer of '92, he went on a hitting tear, becoming the first Brave since Bob Horner and Dale Murphy to hit more than 20 home runs in each of his first three full major league seasons. His teammates noticed the change in him, and so did the Braves' executives. They whispered the reason among themselves. It was Halle.

"The Number I thing," says Pendleton, "is that no matter what he does out here between these lines, when he gets home, Halle's going to love him. He can make 12 errors and go 0 for 4 with the bases loaded four times—it doesn't matter! She's there for him, and believe me, it makes a difference."

As seemed inevitable from the beginning, he and Halle were married. The ceremony took place in the living room of David's house at 1:30 a.m. on New Year's Day, 1993. They had hoped to exchange vows a little earlier, more toward midnight, but the minister was tied up with a church service. Neither David nor Halle was nervous at all. They knew fate was on their side, along with countless friends and relatives. They felt they were a little piece of history that everyone seemed to have known was coming for a very long time.

"I think if we had ordered her from Sears and Roebuck we couldn't have done better," Nettie was later heard to brag.

Before the ceremony there were cocktails and billiard games and plenty of stories about David and Halle to share. Clarence Jones, the Braves' hitting coach, recalled the time David first told him that he was dating Halle Berry. "You're lying," Jones had said, but then Justice had shown him her picture in a magazine, and you could tell by his expression that he was not only speaking the truth but was also in love.

Shortly before midnight a crowd gathered in front of the television to wait for the countdown to 1993. And there on the screen was none other than Halle Berry, cohosting a show that had been taped earlier but seemed to be happening at that very moment. Appropriately enough, the program was airing on MTV, the same network that had introduced her to David less than a year before.

For a week they honeymooned at a secluded resort in the Caribbean. Every day they lay out on the beach and soaked in the heat of the sun. One afternoon they fell asleep on their chaise longues and didn't awaken until well after dark. A wind was blowing off the water. And the sky was full of stars.

Fate had brought them to this paradise. And fate would lead them home.

PHOTORONALD C. MODRAPHOTOTOM DIPACEBoth Justice and Berry have hits: The Braves are in first, and The Flintstones is No. 1 at the box office.PHOTORON BATZDORFF/UNIVERSAL CITY STUDIOS[See caption above.]PHOTODANA FINEMAN/SYGMAIn 1993 People railed Berry one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world; in '94 Justice made the list.PHOTONEAL PRESTON/OUTLINE[See caption above.]PHOTOPHOTOTOM DIPACEBerry, who's at home in the spotlight, has helped Justice get used to life in the public-eye too.PHOTOBARRY KING/GAMMA LIAISON[See caption above.]PHOTOSYGMAEx-beauty queen Berry's career look off after Boomerang, with Eddie Murphy, and Queen.PHOTODAVE CAULKIN/AP[See caption above.]PHOTOKEN REGAN/CAMERA 5PHOTOJOHN BEIVERBefore he met Berry, Justice wouldn't open up to teammates or fans.PHOTOHARRY BENSONJustice can truthfully say, "Baseball been Berry, Berry good to me."