On the Periodic Table of Family Elements, Roberto is Hg for mercury—fast, excitingly fluid and able to provide a bunt, a home run or a stolen base when necessary. Sandy is Fe for iron—a solid team leader and family man who draws less notice and, largely because of injuries that lave interrupted his career, fewer decorations. On the center of Sandy's family-room mantel, for instance, gleams his only Gold Glove Award, from 1990. Roberto has von six of them.
This season, for once, iron proved more precious than mercury. Sandy hit .324 in a career-high 451 at bats, while Roberto endured ankle, groin and shoulder injuries, though he still averaged .333. For the first time in the eight years in which both have been in the big leagues, Sandy led the family in hits. Like a hyperactive graffiti artist, he tagged his signature all over this season: a 30-game hitting streak, the longest ever by an American League catcher; a game-breaking home run that made him the first MVP of the All-Star Game to win the award in his home park; the hit that Clinched Cleveland's third straight Central Division title; and a pivotal home run against the Yankees in Game 4 of the Division Series, when the Indians were four outs from elimination.
Yet the American League Championship Series began as last season ended for Sandy: with his brother sticking a dagger of a home run through it. Roberto's two-run blast helped send a dominant Scott Erickson and the Orioles to a 3-0 victory in Game 1. Last year Roberto eliminated Cleveland with a 12th-inning home run in Game 4 of the Division Series, just eight days after earning the wrath of the nation for using Hirschbeck as a spittoon. Sandy walked into the Baltimore clubhouse after that playoff game and threw his arms around his brother. Roberto wept. "I went over there because I knew how much he was going through, with everyone yelling at him and booing him," Sandy says. "He just broke down."
When Roberto took his position for Game 1 of this year's Championship Series, the second base umpire was Hirschbeck. "Hi, John," Roberto said. "How's your family?"
In Game 2, Cleveland jumped to a 2-0 first-inning lead, an advantage that would have been larger had Roberto, lunging to his left, not robbed Sandy of a hit with two runners aboard. Baltimore rallied to go ahead 4-2 and was four outs from leading the series two games to none when righty reliever Armando Benitez blew a lead as surely and as unsightly as Grissom blew his lunch four innings earlier. Grissom had been so sick an hour before Game 1 that as he sprawled on a trainer's table with an IV hooked to his arm, Indians manager Mike Hargrove had barked, "I'm giving you 15 minutes. You had better look better, or else I'm scratching you." Grissom, no better 15 minutes later, talked himself into the lineup. He felt only slightly improved the next night, rushing into the bathroom after the fourth inning to vomit. But in the eighth, after two walks by Benitez, he crushed a lazy slider for a home run that sent the Tribe to a 5-4 win.
The series moved to Cleveland last Saturday, as did the elder Sandy, a roving instructor for the Chicago Cubs who arrived from Arizona, where he had been tutoring minor leaguers. Before and after Game 3 he moved quietly between dugouts and clubhouses with a credential inscribed, INDIANS/ORIOLES. "I just sit and watch the games without rooting," he says. "If I root for one, that means I would be rooting against the other."
Sandy Jr. was 0 for 5 in Game 3, extending his hitless streak in the series to 12 at bats. He had squatted in front of all 166 Cleveland pitches, so when Roberto came back to the house the next afternoon to play ball with Marcus, Sandy rested on a leather couch. Later, upon arriving at Jacobs Field, Sandy watched video and noticed he needed to shorten his swing. He also ditched his 35-inch, 32½-ounce bat for a model one inch shorter and half an ounce lighter. "It just felt better," he said.
His signature season continued in Game 4 when he smoked a two-run homer his first time up against Erickson. In the fifth Sandy scored from second base on a wild pitch that bounced no more than 15 feet from the plate. Webster, looking more like the sorry sitcom character of the same name, made a poor flip to pitcher Arthur Rhodes, who was covering home plate as David Justice scored from third. Then as Sandy dashed home, Webster stood around in such a daze you expected to see cartoon sparrows and stars circling above his helmeted head. When Webster batted the next inning, the appreciative Cleveland fans saluted him with a standing ovation, whereupon he bent down to the crouching Sandy and cracked, "You guys should trade for me. They love me here."
Baltimore, though, rallied for a 7-7 tie until the game came back to Sandy as naturally as a tide to the shore: runners at first and second with two outs in the ninth against Benitez. "The whole year," says Roberto, who had been held to a meaningless single in 12 at bats after his home run, "it seems like everything comes around to him. Every time you look up, he's in the right spot at the right time."
Sandy blasted a Benitez fastball on a line to the warning track in leftfield, a single to give the Indians their third straight one-run victory in which the winning rally began with a walk in the eighth inning or later. "I don't know if it's my turn," Sandy said after his game-winner, "but I think it's the Indians' turn."