Mark Millican: 'The Run'

Mark Millican

We arrived late for the youth baseball game, and as I was pulling our fold-up chairs out of the slim nylon bag as you well know, an easier task than getting one back in a glance at the scoreboard revealed it was not working. I asked about the score.

“We're ahead by one point, Pop!”

Heh heh. Gently, I revealed that in baseball, unlike football, basketball and tennis, we don't call them “points.” True, hockey may have its “goals” scored, but we call a full trip around the bags in the game of baseball a “run.” By the way, in his book "Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game" by John Thorn (the official historian of Major League Baseball), he claims Abner Doubleday would have been surprised that he's been credited with inventing the game. Thorn cites instances of early renditions of baseball being played in the 1750s, 1740s and even 1735.

If so, that's a run of more than 280 years, but that's not the run to which the title of this column refers.

One could easily say the Atlanta Braves of 2021 had quite a run to win the World Series. Remember in mid-summer when we were all pulling for them just to break .500 and get a winning record? Much ink has been spilled in the last week about that run, including the Bravos outhitting the best-hitting team in baseball (the Astros) and out-hurling the vaunted Dodgers pitching staff.

However, that's not “The Run.”

It's entirely possible that thousands and thousands of current Braves fans in the Southeast were not even alive when they won the World Series of 1995. Also a Game 6 victory for the Braves, it was a one-run and I mean just one run feat resulting in the first-ever pro sports championship for Atlanta.

For the record, yours truly attended a World Series game in Atlanta with my brother, Max, late friend Dale Morrison and a workmate of his. I honestly can't remember if it was against Toronto or Minnesota in the early 1990s. We didn't win the Series, but came from behind to win that game in the old behemoth known as Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

A couple of years later in 1995, Braves outfielder and team leader David Justice was disillusioned with the Atlanta fans going into that sixth game of the World Series against the Cleveland Indians, and publicly berated them for their lack of enthusiasm. The fans pushed right back, but then held their breath as they hoped and prayed Justice's solo home run in the sixth inning would be enough.

It was, but that's not the run I'm talking about.

With the Braves clinging to that 1-0 lead over the Indians, “The Run” occurred in the top of the ninth inning in that Game 6. With one out and no one on base, the Indians' speedy Kenny Lofton was at bat. He lifted a pop fly over third base off relief pitcher Mark Wohlers into no-man's land. Leftfielder Ryan Klesko was shading to center, and there was no way he could track down the ball curving foul. However, diminutive Braves shortstop Rafael Belliard wasted no time and took off on a dead run to reach the ball in time and snag the second out.

The third out was a fait accompli, as they say. When it was a done deal, I rose from my easy chair in the living room, raised my fists above my head with my face looking toward heaven and walked around the living room three times. No words needed to be said the Braves had won the World Series.

Atlanta had the “Young Guns” pitching squad in '95 Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Steve “Poison” Avery and Game 6 winner Tom Glavine and the bat of Justice. However, it was "The Run" of 5-foot-6, 150-pound Rafael Belliard when he flagged down that foul ball in the top of the ninth that embodied the spirit of the World Series Champion Atlanta Braves. For those who didn't see the second out in the top of the ninth of Game 6 en route to that title, it's a good point to make.

Mark Millican is a former staff writer for the Daily Citizen-News.

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