October 19, 1991
World Series, Game One
Braves: Lonnie Smith (DH), Jeff Treadway (2B), Terry Pendleton (3B), David Justice (RF), Ron Gant (CF), Sid Bream (1B), Brian Hunter (LF), Greg Olson (C), Rafael Belliard (SS), Charlie Leibrandt (P)
Twins: Dan Gladden (LF), Chuck Knoblauch (2B), Kirby Puckett (CF), Chili Davis (DH), Brian Harper (C), Shane Mack (RF), Kent Hrbek (1B), Scott Leius (3B), Greg Gagne (SS), Jack Morris (P)
It's difficult to say, with the advantage of hindsight, exactly how well things were starting to stack up for the Braves in the early 90s. It's also easy to forget that, in the first of 14 consecutive first place finishes, that Fred McGriff and Greg Maddux weren't part of the party; they'd arrive in 1993. David Justice and Ron Gant were sluggers in their mid-20s. Lonnie Smith and Otis Nixon were veterans with a penchant for getting on base. Jeff Treadway had a career year, and Terry Pendleton was a legitimate offensive threat, too. The rotation was led by Tom Glavine (25 years old), John Smoltz (24), and a feisty second-year pitcher named Steve Avery (21). But the starter for Game One was the rotation's veteran, Charlie Leibrandt, who had just turned 35 earlier in the month.
The Twins countered with 36-year old Jack Morris. Morris had won both of his starts in the ALCS, in spite of giving up a combined 17 hits in just 13.1 innings. In what would turn out to be his last good season, you could almost believe a narrative that led you to believe that each pitcher only has so many good innings in him - and that Morris used the last of his in the 1991 World Series.
With the game underway, Morris and Leibrandt allowed a hit every inning but the game was still scoreless entering the bottom of the third. Dan Gladden walked on four pitches with two away, stealing second and then scoring on a Chuck Knoblauch single. Knoblauch was caught in a rundown between first and second base, although whether his intention - needed or not - was to make himself a sitting duck in order to give Gladden time to score isn't clear. Whatever the case, the Twins took a 1-0 lead after three.
Three Twins in a row reached base to lead off the bottom of the fifth, culminating in Greg Gagne's three-run homer to put Minnesota up 4-0. It was one of just four Gagne hits in the series, and the bomb constituted all of his runs batted in, but it was a major catalyst in the pivotal opening game.
With Leibrandt out of the game, Jim Clancy loaded the bases but tiptoed/lucked himself out of the inning. Brian Harper's line drive was caught by Brian Hunter in left, and his relay to Terry Pendleton onto Greg Olson got Gladden at the plate. Gladden tried to run Olsen over, but Olsen held on and the game stayed 4-0 after five.
Atlanta finally answered in the next frame, using three singles in the top of the sixth to put a run on the board when Ron Gant's single brought home Jeff Treadway. But with runners on second and third and two away, Morris caught Sid Bream looking to keep the Twins lead at three.
Kent Hrbek's post-season career isn't anything to write home about. He had six big RBI in the '87 Fall Classic, but in the only two playoff runs of his career he batted .154/.252/.264. But his solo home run off Clancy in the bottom half of the sixth emphatically put a halt to any momentum the Braves had built up in the top half of the inning. Morris retired the side in order in the top of the seventh, and the Twins entered the eighth up 5-1.
Yet the Braves tried to rally. A pair of walks, a double play, and a third walk put runners at the corners with two out in the top of the eighth. Morris had given way to Mark Guthrie, who in turn had given way to Rick Aguilera. Gant picked up another RBI with a single of Aggie, but Kirby Puckett settled under a Bream fly ball to end the inning and the threat. Aguilera retired the Braves 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth to close it out with no drama.
With the 5-2 win, Minnesota took charge of the series with a big Game One victory. The Metrodome had earned a reputation for itself during the 1987 post-season, and the rabid crowd helped it live up to the hype.
His lackluster performance meant that Leibrandt was removed from the Braves' World Series rotation by first-year manager Bobby Cox. He'd make another appearance a few games later but, sadly for him, it wasn't going to get any better.
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