1. Archive


When it was all over, when Mark Wohlers threw the final pitch and Marquis Grissom squeezed the final out, the Atlanta Braves converged on the mound in a raucous huddle.

Thirty minutes later, as the sense of what they had accomplished set in and We Are The Champions continued to blare over the PA system, they returned to the field. Players hugged, gulped champagne, and basked in their hard-fought victory.

Then came the crowning touch. Ted Turner, the 56-year-old owner, balanced the 86-pound World Series trophy on his head as the players circled around and cheered.

They had a lot to celebrate.

Having lost the World Series to Minnesota in 1991 and Toronto in 1992 and having been upset by Philadelphia in the NL playoffs in 1993, the Braves silenced the Cleveland Indians and their own critics Saturday night with a 1-0 victory in Game 6 to win the Series.

"There was a lot of pressure riding on the Atlanta Braves," said David Justice, who homered to lead off the sixth inning. "Having gone through two World Series and not winning, the thought of losing a third was almost unbearable."

Three of the eight active players who lived through the three failures played key roles Saturday.

Tom Glavine, a Braves-organization man all 12 of his professional years, held the Indians to one hit over eight innings in a spectacular 109-pitch performance and was named MVP of the Series.

Justice, who blasted the Braves' fans Friday for their lack of support, blasted a stinging homer for the game's only run.

And Mark Wohlers, who this season emerged as the missing ingredient in the bullpen, closed out the game with a perfect ninth.

"I told somebody the other day it would be perfect if I got the win, David got the big hit and Mark got the save," Glavine said.

The victory is the Braves' first world championship since 1957, when the team was in Milwaukee, and the first for the city of Atlanta in any of the four major sports.

But it is perhaps most precious for the eight players, manager Bobby Cox and general manager John Schuerholz, and the other members of the organization who have been listening to seemingly endless criticism about their post-season failures.

"This team was not going to be denied," Schuerholz said. "It just wasn't."

Tampa's Fred McGriff, who joined the team in 1993, said victory provided a tremendous relief.

"Nobody knows the pressure this team went up against every night to win," McGriff said. "You're picked every year and you feel the pressure. To get over the hump, there's no better feeling."

Said pitcher John Smoltz, another of the core players: "This feels like something we should have done a long time ago."

As if the need to exorcise the ghosts of post-seasons past were not enough motivation, the Braves said they were inspired by comments by some Cleveland players.

Especially riling was something shortstop Omar Vizquel said Friday: "They know they can't win a World Series. They already lost twice. When you have that on your mind, it's tough to get out."

"They did some things and said some things that maybe added some fuel to the fire," Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones said. "It got us more pumped up. They tried to play mind games. It didn't work out. Have a nice flight home."

Glavine was tremendous from the start, allowing just three walks and a leadoff single by catcher Tony Pena in the sixth inning. He said he didn't make any specific adjustments since Game 2, but that things just worked better on Saturday.

"I just wanted to keep things simple," Glavine said.

"It was a tremendous performance," Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove said. "I don't think we hit one ball hard of him all night."

Glavine came out of the game for pinch-hitter Luis Polonia with two outs and none on in the eighth. Wohlers closed out the game for the first combined one-hitter in Series history and the fifth overall.

Cleveland starter Dennis Martinez was just the opposite, working in and out of trouble in three of the first four innings. He left after 4 innings, having allowed four hits and five walks in throwing 82 pitches.

"I was hurt," Martinez said. "My elbow was stiff."

The Indians were depressed but realized the value of their season. "We're not world champions, but we're very close," pitcher Orel Hershiser said. "We're American League champions."

Saturday's game came down to the littlest of things. The Braves had two early opportunities to score, but shortstop Rafael Belliard twice killed the rallies.

Then in the fifth, the Braves got runners to first and second with two outs, but Jim Poole came out of the bullpen to strike out McGriff and end the inning.

Hargrove then made a curious decision in the top of the sixth after Pena got the first and only hit. He sent Poole up to the plate to bunt in what was his first-ever major-league at-bat. Poole popped out, and the rally died when Kenny Lofton hit into a force and Vizquel popped out. That was the closest the Indians came to scoring.

"Our pitchers have been bunting for a month now." Hargrove said. "I wanted to have a left-hander start the inning. I'd do it again."

The decision really looked bad when Justice sent Poole's third pitch of the sixth screaming over the rightfield fence.

"I had watched him throw Fred three straight curveballs and only one of them would have been a called strike," Justice said. "So I was thinking I was going to give him curveballs for strikes if he could throw them for strikes and I would sit on the fastball. He threw me three straight fastballs and the third one was inside. I knew I hit it good."

"They were lucky tonight," Vizquel said. "It was just one pitch, one bad pitch."

The Braves became the first franchise to win the World Series representing three different cities. They won in 1914, when they were in Boston, and in 1957, when they were in Milwaukee.