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Braves savor sweetness of victory

Sometime this morning, when the Atlanta Braves trickle back into the stadium clubhouse, tiptoe around the champagne-soaked carpet and put on their work clothes, they'll start dealing with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Sure, Tom Glavine will be thinking about pitching Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night. Atlanta batters will be going over scouting reports on Toronto starter Jack Morris. Braves manager Bobby Cox and third-base coach Jimy Williams will answer endless questions about their stints as manager of the Blue Jays.

That can all wait for today.

Thursday was a day to savor the special moment in baseball history that unfolded Wednesday night.

If it was exciting enough to make Ted Turner and Jimmy Carter do a high five, who are you to argue?

Atlanta Constitution readers were greeted by a three-inch high headline: OH, YES! Atlanta radio stations howled about being the home of the champion Braves. Fans stood in lines all day to buy $15 Braves NL champ T-shirts and other merchandise.

"It's been crazy here," said Ashley Price, a sales clerk at the Braves clubhouse store at CNN Center. "There's been a line all the way around the store. We sold out of T-shirts already."

And all this because a 26-year-old reserve catcher named Francisco Cabrera got his fourth hit of the season with two outs in the ninth inning Wednesday night and 32-year-old first baseman Sid Bream, a veteran of four right knee operations, was able to race (trot? chug?) home from second base with the decisive run in a 3-2 pennant-clinching victory.

"I was thinking two out and I'm going to get a hit," Cabrera recounted for about the 100th time early Thursday morning. "I was just trying to make contact. The next thing I know is I'm at first base and yelling "He's safe.' I don't remember anything after that. Just that we won and I am the hero tonight. I used to dream about this.

"I'll be in somebody's memory for a long time. Maybe I'll even be famous some day."

Just think: Francisco Cabrera being mentioned in the same breath with Bill Mazeroski, Bobby Thomson and Kirk Gibson. Cabrera was not the sole Atlanta hero. Stymied most of the night by Pittsburgh ace Doug Drabek, the Braves finally pieced together a rally in the ninth inning.

Team MVP Terry Pendleton dropped a double into the rightfield corner. David Justice hit a ground ball that normally sure-handed Pirates second baseman Jose Lind booted. In the dugout, an overly excited Cabrera jumped up and cracked his head on the ceiling.

Bream walked on four pitches. Drabek was done, and Pirates manager Jim Leyland had to go to his bullpen, a sore spot in an otherwise great season.

With the crowd noise reaching a deafening roar, Ron Gant hit a long fly ball off Stan Belinda that scored Pendleton. Damon Berryhill walked to reload the bases. Pinch-hitter Brian Hunter hit a soft liner that became the second out.

Cabrera took the count to 2-1, then drilled his Single Heard 'Round the South to leftfield. Justice scored easily. Bream scored less than easily, just beating Barry Bonds' bullet throw.

"When Frankie hit the ball," Pendleton recounted, "I came out of the dugout and said, "Come on Sid! Bring the medal home! Bring it home!' Barry came up throwing. Sid slid. The ump called him safe. And then I lost consciousness."

Pendleton and the rest of the Braves will come to sometime today.