"It should be dropped" said Atlanta's Cox on Thursday night. "Poor Charlie Leibrandt, too.... You have to live with it, I guess. But it's unfair."
Did vengeance await in Atlanta? When the Toronto charter landed there last Friday, Delta baggage-handlers greeted the Blue Jays with a 20-foot tomahawk. (And you wonder how those nicks got in your Samsonite?) In truth, Toronto would consider itself lucky if it lost only its luggage on this trip, for the home team has a history of winning Game 6 of the World Series in utterly absurd fashion: Carlton Fisk waving a home run fair at Fenway Park in 1975, Mookie Wilson splitting the wickets of Bill Buckner at Shea Stadium in '86, Puckett taking Leibrandt long in the 11th last season.
"Any pitcher worth his salt would relish this opportunity," Toronto's Cone said of his starting assignment for Game 6. Salt? Relish? Sounded like "a recipe for disaster," another coinage that talking-head Cone bandied about frequently last week.
Before Game 6, author W.P. Kinsella appeared on the field looking understandably discombobulated, as he is at once a Canadian citizen and an honorary Brave scout. Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe was the basis for the movie Field of Dreams, but last Saturday night's game was more interesting than the film, not to mention more preposterously plotted.
Maldonado's solo home run off Avery in the fourth inning gave Toronto a 2-1 lead that lasted until the ludicrous ninth, when Henke took the mound for the Blue Jays. As midnight approached in Atlanta, the Terminator became the Germinator, the ordinarily fail-safe closer cultivating a Brave rally that put two men on with two outs as Nixon came to the plate.
Nixon had watched from a drug-rehabilitation clinic as his teammates played in the 1991 Series and had found many of that Series' more dramatic moments difficult to watch on TV. On Saturday night he stepped into just such a scenario: His team was trailing 2-1, and he was trailing 0-2 in the count. Which is when Nixon sent Atlantans into momentary ecstasy, taking a fastball to leftfield and bringing home Jeff Blauser to tie the score.
Even after Winfield answered the prayers of his mother-in-law in the 11th—condemning Leibrandt to another off-season of suffering—the show simply would not end. "I've seen this team do it so many times, you had to have faith we'd do it again," Atlanta's Sid Bream would say later.
So the Braves again put two runners on base in the bottom of the 11th. And again Nixon came up with two outs. On the second pitch, he laid down the bunt that Timlin fielded and threw so carefully to Carter at first for the final out, whereupon a people pile consisting entirely of Blue Jays arose in the infield. Everyone remained in the stands, uncertain, perhaps, that the game had actually ended. "It felt weird when Carter caught the ball at the end," Bream would say in the somber Brave clubhouse. "We were supposed to come back and win again."
"The Atlanta Braves," Winfield said while shaking his head when it was all finally over. "Man. They're like...like trying to hold water back with your hands. It just keeps coming through."
Indeed, Atlanta was fascinating in defeat for the second consecutive fall. The Braves are acutely aware of their place in history, however, and that place is second place. "It's something we can tell our grandkids," Bream said. "We played in two of the greatest World Series of all time. But at the same time, it's hard to tell your grandkids, 'We're the ones who never won.' "