So when Gladys Knight flawlessly—and Piplessly—sang the national anthem on Saturday night, and Jack Morris took the mound for the Twins, and the World Series opened in 68° nonweather beneath Teflon skies, Hrbek and Gagne were not foremost in Atlanta minds. What the Braves didn't know was that Hrbek had told his teammates before they took the field, "Get on my back, boys—I'll carry you." (Then again, "I said that before every game of the playoffs, too," Rex acknowledged later.)
No, foremost in the minds behind the furrowed Braves foreheads was the Metrodome itself. Gant, upon first seeing the Dome's camouflaging, baseball-colored ceiling, voiced this inquiry about the park's creator-perpetrator: "What was he thinking?" The place was of enough concern to Braves manager Bobby Cox that he made his usual leftfielder, the fielding-impaired Lonnie (Skates) Smith, his designated hitter. Cox replaced Smith on defense with rookie Brian Hunter, who had all of six games' experience in the outfield this season.
As it turned out, however, the only ball that was lost in the roof on Saturday night was one fouled into the VIP seats along the third base line. "I lost it," baseball commissioner Fay Vincent confessed of the ball that dropped painfully but harmlessly onto his daughter Anne's head. "Everyone seated around us lost it." And American League president Bobby Brown, wearing a fielder's glove to protect his wife, was in no position to make the play.
Nor was Atlanta rightfielder David Justice in the third inning, when Minnesota second baseman Chuck Knoblauch's single to right was enough to send leftfielder Dan Gladden safely home from second base, his trademark mud flap of hair fluttering behind him all the way. When Hrbek doubled in the fifth and Scott Leius singled him to third, Gagne came to the plate with nobody out.
Now devoutly religious, Gagne was a troubled kid while growing up with nine siblings in a hardscrabble neighborhood of Fall River, Mass. Against almost impossible odds, young Greg was kicked off of his baseball, football and basketball teams—for three different disciplinary reasons—in the 10th grade. "I call it," he has since said, "the sophomore jinx."
How inspiring, then, to see Gagne drive Leibrandt's second pitch to him over the plexiglass panels above the leftfield wall for his fourth career postseason home run. As he circled the bases, Gags waved to his parents and pointed to his wife out there in the blizzard of rayon rags. But what with the jet-engine roar of the crowd and all, Gagne was unable to hear a voice high up in the press box whispering, "C'est Gagnifique!" When Hrbek smashed a solo shot to the upper tank in rightfield an inning later, our French-Canadian friend looked a genius: Erbeck and Gagner had combined to produce four of the Twins' runs in their 5-2 win.
On Sunday night, Brown, the league prez, threw out the game's ceremonial first pitch, and Cox looked on wistfully, as though he wished he could have left the 66-year-old righthander in there. Or thrown instead his spontaneously combustible 21-year-old superstar, Steve Avery, who, alas, couldn't start until Game 3 because he had worked the sixth game of the League Championship Series. Or even his sizzling righthander, John Smoltz, whom Cox had to save for Game 4. Instead, the Braves were forced by their rotation to start Cy Young shoo-in Tom Glavine.
Glavine, who hadn't won a game in nearly three weeks, was immediately touched for a two-run homer in the first by Twins designated hitter Chili Davis. Atlanta tied the game, however, scoring once in the second on a sacrifice fly and again in the fifth, when catcher Greg Olson was sac-flied home to the only ovation for a Brave all weekend in the Dome: Olson grew up in Edina, Minn.—yes, kids, baseball can be a ticket out of your affluent suburban neighborhood—and he brought much of the town's population with him. "My parents were saying, 'We think Hazel down the street should have some tickets,' but you've got to draw the line somewhere," said Olson, who drew his at Hazel's lot line.
What Hazel missed were masterly performances by Glavine, who would allow only three more hits after the Chili Dog's dinger, and Des Moines's very own Tapani, who held the Braves to seven hits in eight innings.
The score was still 2-2 when the rookie Leius, who soberly limited his ticket allotment to his mother, father, sister and aunt, led off the bottom of the eighth inning. The No. 8 hitter against lefties, Leius usually sits on the bench versus righthanders. After hitting just .229 in Triple A last season, he seemed to have made the Twins roster this spring for no better reason than because he knows actor Matt Dillon, a boyhood buddy from the same neck of Mamaroneck, N.Y.