Sunday October 20, 1991
Prior to the start of Game 2, there was still some discussion about a play at home plate during Game 1. From Jeff Lenihan’s story in the Star Tribune:
Twins outfielder Dan Gladden was surprised to learn Sunday evening that many of those attending Game 1 of the World Series considered his fifth-inning collision with Atlanta catcher Greg Olson a cheap shot.
CBS-TV analyst Tim McCarver called the play “dirty pool” and Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, working the series for CBS radio, criticized Gladden for going into the plate with his spikes high.
“I’m surprised to hear that,” Gladden said. “I don’t think it was dirty. I thought it was a good hard slide. I guess you have to figure that they’re former catchers.”
McCarver and Bench both are former catchers. Bench is in the Hall of Fame and considered the best player ever at his position.
McCarver said on the air he thought Gladden put Olson at peril by sliding in with his feet raised as Olson received the throw from third baseman Terry Pendleton.
“I would have said the same thing,” Bench said. “I said (on radio) I didn’t like it. Sure, this is a World Series and anything goes, but still. That was like Ty Cobb.”
Olson was not injured. In fact, he handed Gladden his helmet and slapped him on the rear end. Gladden and Olson were teammates with the Twins for three games in 1989.
“I thought it was just one of those hard-nosed plays,” Olson said. “Dan Gladden plays the game real hard. It was just unfortunate for me that his spike went up near my glove and fortunate for me it went into my glove. If it would have gone into my hand, it could have hurt. . . . But it made a heckuva picture in the paper. He asked me if I was OK and I said I was and handed him his helmet.”
Not to be outdone, Game 2 had its own controversial plays. From Noel Holston’s critique of the CBS crew:
Nothing brings out the best in a good sportscasting team like a controversial call.
Game 2 of the World Series provided one in the third inning when the Twins’ Kent Hrbek tagged Atlanta’s Ron Gant out at first base, apparently after first lifting Gant’s leg off the base.
First base umpire Drew Coble ruled that Gant didn’t have control of the base, so Hrbek’s tag was a good one.
Even before multiple replays suggested otherwise, CBS’ broadcasters labeled it a bad call. Guest commentator Tommy Lasorda, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, asserted that Hrbek “deliberately pulled Gant off the bag.”
Analyst Tim McCarver, a pretty wily player himself in his day, said Hrbek did exactly what he should have done with the Braves in the middle of what could have been a big rally – and was lucky enough to get away with it.
“Nice effort by Hrbek,” commented play-by-play man Jack Buck. “I bet he was surprised when he got the call.”
During one of the many replays that showed Hrbek using – how shall we put this? – a little leverage on Gant, McCarver mentioned that Hrbek “is a big wrestling fan. I think this might be a wrestling move right here.”
But it was Buck who came up with the best comment on what might have been the game’s pivotal play: “I know some of you fans like to keep score,” Buck said. “That play went 7-1-3-Umpire.”
While the play at first base would resonate in the minds of Braves fans (and would pop up again throughout the series), Twins fans enjoyed another memory from an unlikely source. From Jeff Lenihan’s game story:
Gene Tenace. Brian Doyle. Rick Dempsey. Joe Oliver. They were the least likely of World Series heroes. Sunday night, in a game he never expected to play before a screaming crowd he never expected to hear, Scott Thomas Leius made a spirited bid to join that list.
Leius, a rookie third baseman who was the last player to make the team out of spring training, hit the first pitch Tom Glavine threw in the eighth inning over the fence in left-center, sending the Twins to a 3-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves that gave them a two-games-to-none lead in the 88th World Series.
Leius spent his minor league career at shortstop and expected to play the position for Class AAA Portland this season. But when free agent signee Mike Pagliarulo began struggling at the plate midway through the spring, Leius was moved to third base three weeks before the team broke camp.
“I can remember when guys were getting cut in the spring,” fellow rookie Jarvis Brown said. “He kept saying, `I’m next. I’m next. I’m not going to make the team.’ I’m sure this was nothing he even could have thought about back then.”
Indeed, the chances of the Twins, a last place team in 1990, being in the World Series in the first place were remote. The chances of Leius, a .229 hitter for Portland last season, making the team were low. The chances of him making it as a third baseman were even lower.
“I’m sure in his wildest dreams he didn’t expect to make the team as a third baseman,” Knoblauch said. “And this? He’s the guy in here who hates the attention the most. He’s probably going to run away from everyone. Actually, he’ll say he hates it but probably like it. You have to like this.”
In 199 at-bats this season, Leius hit five homers, including a 10th-inning game-winner Aug. 22 that capped a comeback victory over Seattle.
Last night, he was facing a pitcher who had allowed only two hits, Davis’ first-inning homer and Brian Harper’s single with one out in the seventh. Glavine had retired 15 batters in a row over one stretch and had not allowed a Twin to reach second base since Davis’ homer.
“We talk before each at-bat,” hitting coach Terry Crowley said. “We hadn’t been able to get anything going off Glavine, so he asked me if he should take a pitch. I said, `No, get something you can hit.’ He’s got some power. He’s shown that.”
Leius got a first-pitch fastball and lifted it just over the plexiglass wall in left-center. It was the Twins’ fourth homer of the Series and the first by a rookie since 1982.
“I don’t know what I was thinking,” Leius said. “I was just trying to make sure I touched all the bases.”
Crowley, recounting game-turning homers in the playoffs by Pagliarulo (six regular-season homers) and Greg Gagne (eight) said, “It looks like it’s going to be someone new every night.”
The Twins struck first when Chili Davis put a Tom Glavine pitch in the stands for a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. After that, Glavine held the Twins scoreless until Leuis’ home run in the eighth. The Braves managed two runs on sacrifice flies off of Kevin Tapani, Brian Hunter in the second and Rafael Belliard in the fifth. Rick Aguilera came on for the ninth inning. He allowed a single to Hunter, but struck out the other three men he faced to give the Twins a 2-0 lead in the World Series.
The two teams will take a travel day before Game 3 opens in Atlanta. The scheduled pitchers are Scott Erickson and Steve Avery.