Daytime, Falcons Prime Time, Braves Sanders to try both sports today

NLCS notebook

October 11, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — PITTSBURGH -- In the middle of the National League Championship Series, outfielder Deion Sanders has informed the Atlanta Braves that he intends to play football for the Atlanta Falcons this afternoon against the Miami Dolphins.

Braves president Stan Kasten said he called Sanders at 2:30 p.m. yesterday to ask the two-sport athlete what he planned to do.

"I thought it was about time for us to know," said Kasten, before last night's fourth game of the NLCS.

Sanders, who has declined to talk to the media, has chartered a plane to Miami for the football game and is expected to return to Pittsburgh in time to be available for baseball.

Nike, Sanders' shoe sponsor, is reportedly picking up an $8,300 tab for the charter flights.

Sanders' attorney, Eugene Parker, said last night that Nike's involvement included "logistical help," but insisted that speculation the shoe company had put Sanders up to the trip were wrong.

"Nobody else is orchestrating this. Not Nike, not CBS, not me," Parker said. "Deion is."

Estimates of the cost of the trip have ranged from $7,500 to $22,500, but Parker said his client stands to lose $118,000 if he failed to make himself available for the 1 p.m. kickoff.

"I hope he doesn't get banged up," said Atlanta manager Bobby Cox.

Sanders, an All-Pro cornerback last season who hit .304 with the Braves and led the National League in triples this year with 14, orally committed to the Braves that he would make himself exclusively available to them to play baseball in

the postseason.

"We want him here to be able to play, or pinch hit or whatever we need him to do," said Cox.

However, Sanders would have forfeited approximately $117,000, or one of 17 weekly football paychecks, if he didn't play for the Falcons.

It is unclear how much playing time he will get with the Falcons today, since he did not practice with them Thursday, which is the day that coach Jerry Glanville insists for Sunday starters to be present to prepare for that week's game.

Cox said the Sanders matter was not an issue with Braves players, who, he said, "have understood his situation all year." However, Cox said the matter would have been "huge" if he were a starting outfielder.

Though neither Kasten nor Braves general manager John Schuerholz would say how they felt about Sanders' decision, Schuerholz said the team would probably not have placed him on the postseason roster if they had known he was going to try to play football.

"Why would we volunteer to put ourselves in the position to play with 24 guys if somebody puts a helmet in his knee?" Schuerholz said.

Sanders' teammates, meanwhile, were more intrigued by the idea than anything else.

"We know Deion has to do what he has to do. Whatever he has do is fine with us," said Steve Avery, who will pitch tonight in Game 5.

Schuerholz said: "Their tolerance level for annoyance is probably higher than mine."

Game 5 to Walk

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Jim Leyland is batting .333 in the NLCS with his starting rotation gambles.

After Friday's 3-2 win over the Atlanta Braves, Leyland will roll the dice again, bringing Bob Walk, his most versatile pitcher, out of the bullpen for the start in Game 5 of the NLCS tonight, to face Avery.

Walk, who was 10-6 this season with a 3.20 ERA, gave up a grand slam to Ron Gant in relief of Danny Jackson in Wednesday's 13-5 Game 2 debacle in Atlanta, but Leyland thinks the 35-year-old right-hander will do well in this situation.

"Walk's numbers are pretty good against certain key people in their lineup," said Leyland.

Unlike the Braves, whose strength is in their five-man starting crew, the Pirates are stronger in the bullpen, and Leyland has had to finagle his rotation all year.

Leyland went with 1990 National League Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek in the first game against the Braves, and Jackson, acquired in midseason from the Chicago Cubs, in Game 2.

Drabek was ineffective in the Pirates' 5-1 loss to the Braves, while Jackson, who pitched for World Series winners in Kansas City in 1985 and Cincinnati in 1990, was shelled Wednesday and left after 1 2/3 innings, giving up four runs and four hits.

Leyland's other gamble was to push back rookie knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who got the win Friday, from a scheduled Game 2 start in Atlanta to the Game 3 start in Pittsburgh.

That move was originally made to allow Wakefield the comfort of making his postseason debut at home, but nearly backfired when the Pirates dropped the first two games of the NLCS, putting extra pressure on him to keep Pittsburgh from sliding into an 0-3 deficit.

He responded to the challenge, allowing just two runs and five hits, while striking out three and walking only one in a complete-game effort.

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