AS RAIN and darkness fell like a soggy blanket over Atlanta last
Friday afternoon, two men sat in a car slogging north through
downtown traffic, two men who over the past five years have
accounted for every National League Cy Young Award, 181
victories and a .691 winning percentage. This is how the Atlanta
Braves would win the 1995 World Series: with Tom Glavine in the
driver's seat and Greg Maddux riding shotgun.
It was on their ride home from a workout that Maddux talked an
uncertain Glavine into a game plan for Game 6 the following
night. Glavine, having watched the Cleveland Indians get to
Maddux in Game 5, wondered what adjustments the Indians had made
against him with their second look. "I don't think they adjusted
well," Maddux said. "I was off a bit. It was more me than it was
them. Just go out and pitch your game. Don't change."
Glavine decided that he would live on the outside corner, mostly
with his changeup again, even though he beat Cleveland 4-3 in
Game 2 with just about no other pitch working for him. "What
Greg had to say reassured me," Glavine said. "To hear it from a
pitcher like him meant a lot." Glavine also remembered how Steve
Avery had pitched Game 4 and won, 5-2. "Avery couldn't believe
they never adjusted to his changeup," said Atlanta pitching
coach Leo Mazzone. "So he just kept throwing it."
For the fourth time in five years the Braves would play a game
that could bring Atlanta its first world championship. They were
0-3 in the other tries, with each game started by a different
Brave pitcher and ending with the same maddening margin of
defeat: a single run. This would be Glavine's first crack at the
November 6, 1995
He was ready to be rid of the blabbering Indians--who during the
Series sometimes acted like louts crashing a black-tie
affair--especially after reading in the morning newspaper that
Cleveland's punchless shortstop, Omar Vizquel, had said of the
Braves, "They know they can't win a World Series."
Said Glavine, "That statement made me madder than anything else."
So he took the mound intending to throw his best pitch, the
changeup, until the Indians proved they could hit it. They never
did. Glavine did not paint the lower outside corner so much as
he coated it with lacquer, pitch after pitch after pitch. Asked
how many times Glavine ventured inside with a delivery, Atlanta
catcher Javy Lopez replied, "I can count them on one hand."
Glavine, with last-inning relief from Mark Wohlers, came within
one bloop single of a no-hitter; Tony Pena's leadoff hit in the
sixth--off one of those nasty changeups--checked up in centerfield
like a wedge shot. Supported only by a solo home run by David
Justice (page 32) in the bottom of that inning, Glavine pitched
the Braves to a 1-0 victory.
Can't win a World Series? Well, shut your mouth. At last, Atlanta.
It may have been the best-pitched game among the 91 that have
ended a World Series. It definitely was the only one-hitter
among them. The mystery to Glavine's mastery was how the Indians
could lunge and flail time and time again at pitches that almost
never varied in location. "His changeup is that good," Maddux
said. "He throws it with the exact same arm speed as his
fastball, so it's impossible to pick up. Yeah, you may be
looking for something away, but is it hard or soft? And every
time he did come inside, he got them out. And that plants a seed."
"Number one, you've got to trust yourself," said Glavine, who
was voted Most Valuable Player of the World Series. "I've got so
much confidence in my changeup that I can stand on the mound and
tell you it's coming and, if it's a good one, you're not going
to hit it."
The Indians never did adjust to the way Atlanta pitchers worked
away from them, particularly with changeups. "They knew not to
challenge our hitters," said Vizquel, whose .174 Series average
contrasted with his brilliant play in the field. "They didn't
come inside against them."
Cleveland scored more than five runs 69 times in the regular
season, winning all but three of those games. They scored that
many just once in the World Series, in Game 3--the only time an
Atlanta starter, John Smoltz, came at them with fastballs and
sliders instead of good off-speed pitches. The best hitting team
in 45 years was held to six hits or fewer in all four losses,
and batted .179 overall.
Maddux and Glavine put ornate bookends on an otherwise ordinary
Series (only once did the winning run score after the seventh
inning, and only one player, Cleveland second baseman Carlos
Baerga, drove in more than two runs in a game). Maddux opened it
with a two-hitter, and Glavine closed it with the combined one-
hitter. Not until they ran into the Braves did Cleveland have
fewer than three hits in any game this year. "That says more
about their pitching than our hitting," said Indian coach Buddy
Bell. "They pitched that well. They should get the credit for
Baerga, who made the last out of all three losses in Atlanta,
was not as gracious as Bell. "I think we have a better team than
them," he said. "It's hard for me to take." That was typical of
the tough talk of the Indians, the kind of team you would not
want to bring home to Mom. Hanging in their clubhouse is a
framed and matted essay called The Art of Getting Along, by
Wilfred Peterson. Now if only they would read it.
Cleveland's comportment took some of the shine off Game 3, a
tense 7-6 Indian win, in which the two closers, Wohlers and Jose
Mesa, combined for 5 2/3 shutout innings and 92 pitches--most of
them unleashed at or near 100 mph. The night began with one
Indian, Albert Belle, unloading a profanity-laced tirade at
reporter Hannah Storm of NBC, one of baseball's national
television rights holders, and ended with another Indian, Eddie
Murray, refusing to talk to reporters about his game-winning hit
in the 11th inning. From his training-room bunker Murray issued
an innocuous statement through the team's p.r. director. Two
On the same day as his altercation with Storm, Belle snapped at
a photographer near the first base line during batting practice.
"Move your ass out of the way," Belle said. When the
photographer did not move quickly enough for him, Belle added,
"I said move your ass out of the way."
Then, after banging six straight pitches over the leftfield
wall, Belle ordered a TV cameraman to move away from the batting
cage. "And turn the ---- camera off," he said. The cameraman did
not move. Belle poked him in the shoulder with the butt of his
bat and said, "Put the damn camera down."
This was the first World Series in which a team's general
manager (Cleveland's John Hart) fielded a question in the
interview room before the deciding game about whether his
cleanup hitter required psychological testing. The commemorative
World Series patches on the sleeves of the Cleveland uniforms,
which included baseball's hollow slogan WELCOME TO THE SHOW,
needed an addendum stitched underneath: NOW GET THE ---- OUT OF MY
On those occasions when the Indians did choose to talk, they
didn't know when to shut up. Pitcher Orel Hershiser annoyed the
Braves with his proselytizing, his chirping that Atlanta felt
pressure from not winning the 1991 and '92 World Series, and his
public scolding of Maddux in Game 5 for buzzing a fastball that
nearly trimmed the whiskers of Murray's mustache. Murray glared
at Maddux as if he were a sportswriter, causing benches and
bullpens to empty. Hershiser approached Maddux on the grass near
the mound and asked, "Did you try to hit him on purpose?"
"No," Maddux said. "I'm just trying to come in."
"You can do better than that," scoffed Hershiser, and shot him a
look of warning. Or as Hershiser explained later, "It's kind of
like, 'I can have as good control as you have.'"
Said one Brave, "[Hershiser] thinks he's pitching coach, hitting
coach and p.r. director." Atlanta chafed, too, at how Tribe
third baseman Jim Thome stopped to marvel at his home run in
Game 5, as if it were the space shuttle Discovery--well, it did
travel almost as far--and flung his bat away with an arrogant
flourish. "They're a cocky team," said Glavine, "and they don't
need to be. You hoped that some guys over there would be more
professional than they were. Those guys don't need to be talking
[trash] and tossing bats on home runs practically into our
dugout. We don't play that way."
So annoyed were the Braves at what Hershiser and Vizquel later
dismissed as meaningless psychological warfare that they called
a team meeting before Game 6 to get over it. "We were a little
too concerned about it," Glavine said, "and a couple of guys got
up and said it didn't matter what they said. We controlled the
Series, and if we just played our game, we'd win it."
The Indians were bullies in the regular season, coasting to the
American League Central title by a record 30 games while
pounding the back end of opposing rotations. But, as Mazzone
said, "They found out we don't have a back end to our rotation."
When Cleveland needed to beat Avery, the Braves' No. 4 starter,
at home to even the Series at two--Atlanta manager Bobby Cox took
some heat for not using Maddux on short rest--the Indians failed
miserably, losing the only game not decided by one run, 5-2.
Atlanta pitched Belle magnificently throughout the Series. The
only player ever to slug 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same
season did not pull a hit to leftfield in the six games. He
batted only seven times with a runner on base and was walked on
four of those occasions. At a paltry .235 he led all Cleveland
hitters with more than two at bats. Likewise, Murray's play was
nothing to talk about. He batted .105 (2 for 19), dragging his
average in 18 World Series games down to .169.
The Braves and the gritty Glavine were almost beyond
remonstration, especially from a team that, according to its own
general manager, "took a couple of ball games to get a sense and
feel for what the World Series is about." Atlanta's skin has
been thickened by 47 postseason games since 1991, during which
Glavine has logged a 1.83 ERA in 86 2/3 innings.
While everyone talked about Atlanta's unfulfilled world
championship quest starting with the torturous 1991 World
Series, the time line actually began in the summer of 1987:
Starting in July the Braves called up shortstop Jeff Blauser
from the minor leagues, traded pitcher Doyle Alexander for
Smoltz and promoted Glavine to the majors. Smoltz was assigned
to the minors and Blauser returned there for half the next
season, leaving Glavine as the current Brave with the longest
continuous service with the club. All three of them spent time
with the 1988 Braves, who lost 106 games and finished 39 1/2
games out. "See that light tower up there?" Blauser said,
pointing to the rim of Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium on the
first base side. "One night a lightbulb fell out and came
crashing down into the stands. It didn't come close to hitting
anybody. That's how empty this place was. There must have been
about 2,500 people."
Last Saturday night the place swelled with 51,875 people and the
anxiety of a city that had never before celebrated a
championship in a major professional sport. TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT
proclaimed one banner. Only two other World Series ended so late
in the year--Daylight Savings Time ended just after the game--and
those were delayed by a strike (1981) and an earthquake ('89).
This was a year that began late, too, because of another strike,
one in which Glavine played a prominent role as the team's
player representative. For that he was booed when Opening Day
finally arrived on April 26. "It hurt, sure," he said late
Saturday night. "I hope now I've given them something else to
associate me with."
Glavine allowed only one runner as far as second base. He
dominated the Indians even when he was tired in the eighth
inning. "I really got out of the inning without making a good
pitch," he said. He could thank Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove,
who allowed Thome (0 for 8, including four punch-outs against
lefthanders) and weak-hitting Pena and Ruben Amaro to bat that
inning while leaving two of his better hitters against lefties
during the season, Sandy Alomar (.364) and Herbert Perry (.344),
on the bench.
It was after the eighth inning that Glavine told Cox and Mazzone
he was done. "Look up at that scoreboard," Mazzone said to
Glavine. "You've got a one-hitter in the World Series. What if
it was a no-hitter?" Said Glavine, "Whew. Tough call."
The last three outs belonged to Wohlers, whose ability to slam
the door on a game plugged the last hole on the team. The very
last out, the one he had dreamed about "since I was five years
old," was too much for him to even watch. When Baerga lifted the
baseball in the air toward left centerfield, Wohlers looked
away, into the stands. When the crowd let loose a great
cathartic roar, he knew the end had been secured in Marquis
Grissom's glove. "I kind of blacked out," he said. "Then I saw
Javy running at me, and I figured I'd better do something before
he ran my butt over."
Almost two hours later Glavine kicked off his spikes and handed
them over to a representative of the Hall of Fame for transport
to Cooperstown. He thought out loud about the victors' spoils.
"A putting green," he said. "[Atlanta president Stan Kasten]
promised us a putting green in the new stadium if we won the
Next door, a new stadium is going up. It will serve as an
Olympic venue for the Summer Games in Atlanta next year and,
after some downsizing, as the Braves' new home in 1997. It rises
like a monument to baseball's team of the 1990s, promising all
the proper amenities. It will have luxury boxes, the finest
grass field and, now, besides the putting green, a world
championship banner. They say the lightbulbs will stay in place,