The year was 1992. It was Game Seven of the National Championship Series. Atlanta was playing Pittsburgh. Sid Bream slid into home like a Pontiac Trans Am piloted by Burt Reynolds.
Bream outran the throw from Barry Bonds, hit the dirt, and scored. The whole world exploded into confetti.
I was a chubby kid, watching the game at my aunt’s house. After the win, my cousin and I started dancing like James Brown, knocking furniture over, spilling my uncle’s beer on the sofa.
We cheered along with the broadcast voice of Skip Caray, who was shouting:
“BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN! BRAVES WIN!”
“Braves win, Braves win…!” we cried, while the coffee table tumbled.
Then my aunt beheaded us with a dull spatula.
Fernando remembers that game, too. He’s 44 years old and a certified baseball lunatic.
This week, while Atlanta fights for a chance at the World Series, Fernando has been watching games from a hospital bed with his leg in a sling. He broke his femur recently from a bad fall.
His wife emailed me. She told me that Fernando has been rooting so loudly in his room that hospital nurses have threatened to gag him with his own sock and sedate him with veterinary-grade tranquilizers.
And there’s Madison, a beautiful 15-year-old girl in Tennessee. Madison is Deaf. Baseball is one of the main things she shares with her father. She also plays third base.
Madison’s messaged me after the Braves victory. She is too young to remember Sid Bream, but we speak the same language.
“Braves win, Braves win, Braves win!” she wrote.
I’ve been getting a lot of emails like this recently. They are sent mostly from fellow enthusiasts who suffer from seasonal psychosis like I do. And now that America’s Team stands on the precipice of the 2020 World Series, people like us are extremely stressed out.
My friend Todd is the biggest Braves fan I know, with a rumored tattoo of Bobby Cox located on his extreme lower back. I asked Todd how he was sleeping lately. He answered, “Man, I sleep like a baby; I wake up every hour and cry.”
I got another message from Raymond, a student at the University of Southern California. He used to live in Columbus, Georgia, once upon a time.
Raymond was 11 when his father died. Raymond’s mother moved the family to California, which is where he grew up. The only thing he remembers about his late father was that he was a Braves fan. These games are his only link to his dad.
A few nights ago, Raymond perched himself on a stool in a popular sports bar in downtown L.A. among Dodger sympathizers. He was clad in head-to-heel Atlanta apparel. He rooted openly for the Braves while large men with names like Vinny, Ramone, and Joey Bananas gave him ugly looks.
But alas, the road to the Fall Classic is jagged indeed. After winning the first two games, Atlanta got slaughtered in Game Three. Our men were bleeding on the diamond. It was a night blacker than the kaiser’s heart.
But then came Game Four. Redemption. The stadium in Arlington, Texas, trickled with a scant 10,000 fans. The game had all the melodrama of a low-budget chick flick. Somehow Atlanta triumphed.
Josh, his wife Kerry, and his two daughters, Kyla, and Kayla, rejoiced from 3,482 miles away in Alberta, Canada. Josh emailed as soon as it was over.
He wrote: “I know it’s late, but we’re breaking out the Pop Tarts and ice cream to celebrate! GO BRAVES!”
But Game Five brought another loss. A bitter one. To many of us, it was about as pleasant as dipping our heads in Miracle Whip and setting our hair on fire with an acetylene blowtorch. Many of us cried for 12 hours straight.
Sheldon and his wife, Jordan, were at their in-law’s house in Metairie, Louisiana, watching the television. Their living room turned into a grim graveyard. Sheldon writes, “My dad was taking Rolaids like they were M&Ms.”
Game Six came next. It was a beautiful game as games go. More ballet than stickball. The leaping pirouettes, the jackknife dives, the feet-first slides. For three hours, those of us with the unfortunate distinction of being called baseball fans sat poised between heaven and hell. The Braves lost.
But the details of the game don’t matter. Nothing matters right now. Because the Braves have one final shot at making it to the World Series, and I have an important message for them. I just hope it reaches them before gametime:
Dear Braves Organization,
I speak to everyone in your ball club. From the starting pitchers, to the guy who cleans the office toilets. I am just one lonesome voice out of millions. But I deliver sentiments that are shared by many. And here they are: Thank you.
You have made our lives abundantly better by giving us the game. This year was the worst year ever, but you lifted hordes of us from the quicksand of a COVID-fueled depression and made us glad.
During a time of misery you gave me something to cheer about. Something to love. Something to do. Your stadiums were empty, but thanks to you I wasn’t. You were the apex of this tragic summer. And I will never forget you for that.
So no matter what the final game’s outcome is, within the heart of this middle-aged fool, the words of Skip Caray will forever ring true:
Braves win. Braves win. Braves win.