Sanders goes the extra mile Falcon/Brave falls short in two cities

October 12, 1992|By Phil Hersh | Phil Hersh,Chicago Tribune

MIAMI -- He was already known as Prime Time, among other things, and this was the day Deion Sanders would show he could be the man of all the hours.

It would be the first time a man had tried to play two professional sports in the same day, and Sanders had to do it in two cities separated by 1,180 miles. He actually was trying to play three games, two in baseball and one in football, in barely 24 hours.

It would make this 25-year-old who doubles as the Atlanta Braves' sometime outfielder and the Atlanta Falcons' full-time cornerback into a cross between man and superman.

Sanders, who talks only to major networks, told CBS, "This is the sort of thing every kid dreams about. ... I'm a kid still."

He would soon look like the star of the Thousand-Year-Old Man. Playing beat the clock was proving a lot tougher than it seemed, even with the help of chartered planes, helicopters and limousines.

After 16 hours of what Sanders may remember as the longest day of his life, he was lying on a training table in the Falcons' locker room with two IV bottles dripping saline solution into his arm.

The Falcons had lost to the unbeaten Miami Dolphins, 21-17, yesterday afternoon. Sanders was still two limousine rides, a helicopter ride and a plane ride from Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, where he sat through the Braves' 7-1 loss last night.

Tick ...

For Sanders, Oct. 11, 1992, began with a limousine ride from Three Rivers, where he had played left field for the final three innings of the Braves' 6-4 win in Game 4 of the National League playoffs Saturday night.

And it went like this:

* 1 a.m. EDT: A Canadair Challenger jet arrives late to pick up Sanders' entourage at Allegheny County Airport because it had first gone to the wrong airport. The plane leaves a few minutes later with 10 passengers: Sanders; his girlfriend, Carolyn Chambers; their 2-year-old daughter, Deiondra; his agent, Eugene Parker, and Parker's assistant; Nike representative Anne Scearce; and a four-person CBS crew, including commentator Pat O'Brien and producer Rob Silverstein.

Silverstein later says CBS paid none of an estimated $20,000 cost for the trip, which allowed Sanders to earn his $118,000-per-game salary.

* 3:52 a.m.: Plane arrives in a remote area of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and is met by two limousines. Sanders and five others are driven to the Sheraton Design Center Hotel in Fort Lauderdale.

* 10:45 a.m.: Sanders boards Falcons' team bus for Joe Robbie Stadium.

Tick, tick ...

* 1:01 p.m.: Sanders takes a touchback on the game's opening kickoff. He will handle all four Miami kickoffs, taking touchbacks on two and returning the two others for 42 yards. He also will handle all three Miami punts, taking two fair catches and getting a 1-yard return.

* 1:07 p.m.: Sanders lines up at his usual position, right cornerback, at which he goes on to play all but one down.

* 1:40 p.m.: Sanders is flagged for a 47-yard pass interference penalty against Mark Duper. Later, Sanders is flagged again, but the penalty is waved off because the ball is ruled uncatchable.

* 1:51 p.m.: Sanders lines up at flanker and catches a 9-yard pass, his first reception of the season and third in his four-year NFL career.

* 3:01 p.m.: Sanders makes one of his three tackles during an afternoon when he studiously avoids most contact. But he does limit Duper to three catches for 27 yards.

* 4:02 p.m.: The game ends. With a swarm of TV cameras in his wake, Sanders is escorted to the locker room.

* 4:22 p.m.: Sanders is seen on the training table with the IVs in his arm.

"Contrary to a lot of the things that have been written and said about Deion, he is a very loyal player," Falcons offensive tackle fTC Mike Kenn said. "We love him, and he loves us.

"I don't think he is a distraction for the Braves, either. I think the press wants to make him a distraction. He is one of us, and he is one of the Braves."

4:34 p.m.: Parker removes Sanders' brown suit, blue designer shoes and white shirt, monogrammed Prime Time on the cuffs, from the player's locker.

Tick, tick, tick ...

* 4:49 p.m.: Sanders is the last Falcon to leave the locker room. He is dressed in an orange-and-black shirt with a peace sign on the back, matching shorts and flip-flops. A minute later, entering the limo, he winces as the door hits his sore leg.

* 4:55 p.m.: The limo leaves Joe Robbie Stadium for a 1,000-yard trip to a nearby helipad, where two helicopters wait to take the Sanders entourage two miles to Opa-Locka Airport for the flight back to Pittsburgh.

* 7:45 p.m.: Sanders' chartered jet touches down at Allegheny County Airport in West Mifflin, Pa. According to the Associated Press, he has eaten, told some jokes and napped briefly during the flight. Shortly after landing, he and Parker and an aide board a helicopter for the short flight downtown.

* 8:01 p.m. in Pittsburgh: The helicopter lands on the roof of a building in downtown Pittsburgh, according to the AP. Sanders heads downstairs for a waiting limousine.

* 8:28 p.m.: At a side entrance to Three Rivers Stadium, Sanders emerges from the limousine and walks into the Braves' clubhouse, minutes before the first pitch.

Tick, tick, tick, tick ...

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