President Carter fondly recalls Bream's famous slide
Former Braves manager Cox honored to throw out first pitch before Game 2
ATLANTA -- The Sid Bream slide.
It really doesn't matter how much time goes by, or how many more exciting moments the Atlanta Braves experience in the postseason, or how middle-of-the-road ordinary and slow-footed Bream was as a Major League player.
None of that matters. "The Slide" made Bream a hero in Atlanta in 1992, and regardless of how somewhat forgettable his career was, his place in Braves lore is firmly stamped and immovable. That improbable slide that beat a slightly offline throw from Barry Bonds sent the Braves to the World Series that year, and the scene that followed is a shining example of how one under-the-radar player can change the fate of a franchise in one split second.
If you were watching that game or, better yet, were there, it's likely you have your own story about how you reacted when the umpire called Bream safe. But there's one lifelong Braves fan that probably trumps all others in the category of "I was there" -- former President Jimmy Carter.
"I was right there when we had the slide with Pittsburgh," Carter said from his seats behind home plate before Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Turner Field.
He wasn't gesturing to the stands when he said that. He was gesturing to third base, because, as the story goes, that's exactly where he ended up when the pandemonium began.
Jimy Williams, former manager of the Red Sox and Astros, was the third-base coach for the Braves that season, and it was his decision to send Bream home. The very second Bream was declared safe, chaos ensued. The entire team piled on Bream, prompting one of the announcers to wonder if Bream was going to need medical attention once he was recovered from the bottom.
Over at third base, Williams found himself being embraced by who he thought was an overzealous Braves fan. Technically, it was true. Except that fan was also a former U.S. president.
As Williams recalled, Carter hugged him. But on Friday, Carter spilled the beans as to what really happened.
"I kissed one of the coaches," he said with a chuckle. "I hate to admit it now. But I did."
Carter, who was also present when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run and attends several Braves games with his wife throughout the season, said no moment will ever beat the Bream slide.
"We all rushed on the field afterward," he said. "It was the most exciting moment of my experience with sports."
Dignitaries from all walks of life were everywhere at Turner Field in the minutes and hours leading up to gametime between the Braves and the Dodgers. Magic Johnson, part of the Dodgers' ownership group, again worked the crowd during and after batting practice, engaging several reporters and posing for photos with fans as he chatted it up with anyone within earshot.
In the Braves' dugout, former manager Bobby Cox exchanged pleasantries with uniformed personnel as he waited to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Once the anthem -- performed by Sarah Dugas and Zac Brown of the Grammy Award-winning Zac Brown Band -- had concluded, Cox's pitch ended up perfectly on target, which the longtime skipper admitted was a relief.
"I was a little nervous because you want to throw a strike," he said. "I've seen a lot of guys throw it right at their feet. But it's fun. Throwing out the first pitch is a big honor. Not a lot of people get to do that."
Cox also said it was a little strange being on this side of it during the postseason, which is to be expected, given how many times he resided in the dugout as manager during the Braves' rash of playoff appearances during his tenure.
"I miss it," he said. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss the competition. When you're as old as me, it's time to retire and I'm enjoying that."
The first two games of the Division Series featured Chipper Jones and Cox throwing out the first pitches, a perfect duo given where those two have landed in Braves history.
"Two of the recent inductees into our Hall of Fame, their numbers are retired, they're two of the living, breathing iconic Braves names and uniforms," club president John Schuerholz said. "Who better? Chipper is the most recent and dynamic player of all time for this franchise. And Bobby's the most dynamic and iconic manager of all time. So who better than those two guys?"
All true. But, still ... they're no Sid Bream.