by David Sisler

I remember that night, like it was last night.

We came out of church, got into the car, turned the radio on, and dialed up the baseball play-offs. It was the seventh game of the 1992 National League Championship Series. The NLCS was knotted at three games each for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves. The winner would advance to the World Series.

The Bucs jumped out to an early lead, and I greeted the score with the words, "Only 27 outs till the World Series!"

We managed only 26.

This year as the Braves celebrate ten years of division titles, National League pennants and World Series appearances, Pirate fans look back to 1991 (when the Braves beat us in the NLCS) and 1992 (when the Braves beat us in the NLCS) and wonder, "What might have been?"

The winning run in that 1992 series was scored when Sid Bream, a former Pittsburgh Pirate, lumbered around third, and slid across home plate with the winning run.

As the Braves celebrate the ten years, they are showing a replay angle that I don't remember, or have blotted from my mind.

When Sid scored, I turned off the television without a single word, and my sons and I just walked silently to our bedrooms. We could not believe that the Pirates had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

But this new replay angle.

Sid Bream was out.

Pinch hitter Francisco Cabrera singles to left off of Stan Belinda, scoring David Justice to tie the game while Sid chugs around third. Barry Bond's throw home is to the first base side, but Pirate catcher Mike LaVallier grabs it and dives back to the plate. Sid's leading leg is raised, maybe four, maybe six inches off the ground, and it slides above the plate and does not touch it until after "Spanky" blocks Sid's trailing leg and tags him out.

But that, unfortunately, was not the way the umpire saw it.

I am a life-long Pittsburgh Pirate fan. I grew up in Loch Lynn, Maryland, 2 hours south of Pittsburgh. We received two TV stations, KDKA and WJAC. Both of them carried the Bucs, and televised maybe two dozen games a year. I listened almost every night to Bob "The Gunner" Prince and Jim "The Possum" Woods call the play by play on radio. Win or lose, and there has been more losing than winning, I am a Pirates fan. I didn't jump on the band wagon during the good times and I'm not about to jump off of it during the bad times.

That paragraph explains why I had my TV set tuned to the Braves network this past Friday night, May 25. They were playing the Bucs. That paragraph explains why my wife, Bonnie, my oldest son, Michael, and I, were in the stands Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

Friday night, Jason Kendall tried to steal second. The umpire called him out, but the replay showed he was safe. A couple of batters later, Brian Giles struck out and John Vander Wal tried to steal third. The umpire called Vander Wal out, but the replay showed he was safe. And the Bucs lost 1-0.

Sunday afternoon Jason Kendall attempted another steal of second and was called out. Seconds later, my pager went off. The number on the display was my youngest son's cell phone. Matthew is working in Florida, and while his seat was empty at Turner Field, he was in front of the TV set in his motel room. I returned Matt's page and was greeted, not with, "Hello," but with, "He was safe! Jason was safe! They missed another call!"

Well, this time it didn't matter. The Bucs won Sunday's game 6-3.

And those replays, which clearly show the calls were blown, do not matter either except to Pirate fans. The calls were made, the calls stand. The games are over. Could the umpires have reversed themselves? Of course. But that is not the way of baseball. Baseball does not use instant replay. And partisan cries of, "We was robbed," will always be part of the game.

Maybe you've experienced some blown calls in your life. Instant replays will not repeal those events. But you can have your errors reversed, at least where eternity is concerned. "There is one Umpire between God and man," the Bible says, "the man Christ Jesus." You were out a country mile. But if you fall on his mercy you will be safe at Home.


Extra! Extra! Read what you said!

Bob is an Atlanta Braves fan. The only person who is a bigger fanatic is Bobby Cox, the Braves manager. Bob read the above column and wrote, "Yeah! And Al Gore is President of the United States!"

Sherrie is a health care professional in Dallas, TX and a supporter of a certain professional hockey team who plays there. Sherrie wrote, "And in 1999's Stanley Cup Final, Bret Hull's foot was in the crease! But as the Ref called it a good goal. What we were supposed to do except celebrate!"

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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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