Cabrera's finish stands test of time

BRAV-O, BUT WAS IT BEST?

October 16, 1992|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer

The greatest baseball comeback ever?

Was it sponsored by Bobby Thomson, or . . . Francisco Cabrera?

Don't laugh. In the Dominican Republic, Cabrera's home country, it's a no-brainer. In the United States the matter is open for debate -- in all precincts except Atlanta, Ga.

When Cabrera delivered a ninth-inning single that enabled the Atlanta Braves to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and win the National League pennant two nights ago, he accomplished a feat that is believed to be unmatched in baseball history.

Without question, Cabrera's line drive to left field capped one of the greatest comebacks ever -- certainly the most dramatic in this generation.

Thomson's three-run homer in the ninth inning of the third NL playoff game in 1951 gave the New York Giants a 5-4 win over the Brooklyn Dodgers. That was the only other time the last swing of the bat changed the outcome of a postseason series -- either World Series or playoff.

The difference -- other than the fact that one was a home run, the other a single -- is that Thomson connected with one out in the bottom of the ninth. Cabrera delivered his game-winner when the Braves were down to their final out.

It's hard to believe, but never before has a team turned a postseason loss into a victory with two outs in the last inning of the last game.

Some historians might make a case for the 1912 World Series, which not only predates the Curse of The Bambino, but memory as well. The Red Sox scored twice in the 10th inning of Game 7 to beat the Giants, 3-2. After Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball, Tris Speaker drove in the tying run and Larry Gardner hit a sacrifice fly -- but that's two swings, and less than two outs.

Bill Mazeroski homered in the bottom of the ninth as the Pirates beat the Yankees, 10-9, in the seventh game of the 1960 World Series. Chris Chambliss did the same for the Yankees in a 7-6 win over Kansas City in the 1976 AL playoffs.

But in both cases the score was tied -- and both Mazeroski and Chambliss homered leading off the last half of the ninth inning.

Kirk Gibson provided, perhaps, the most dramatic ending of a World Series game, with his ninth-inning, two-out, two-run homer off Dennis Eckersley in 1988 -- but that was only the first game.

Carlton Fisk hit a 12th-inning home run as the Red Sox beat the Reds in Game 6 of the '75 Series (after Bernie Carbo had tied the score with a three-run shot in the eighth).

Bert Campaneris hit an 11th-inning homer to beat the Orioles in Game 3 of the five-game AL playoffs in 1973.

Paul Blair drove in the winning run with a two-out bunt single in the 12th inning as the Orioles beat the Twins in the first AL playoff game ever played in 1969. The next day, Curt Motton's pinch-hit single (a la Cabrera) in the 10th inning gave the Orioles a 2-1 win over the Twins.

The Phillies and Astros in 1980, the Astros and Mets, the Angels and Red Sox and then the Mets and Bill Buckner's Red Sox in 1986 all provided games with memorable finishes. But, as great as those playoffs, and countless World Series, were, there hasn't been anything like the finish Cabrera provided.

Cabrera's game-winner won't erase Thomson's home run from baseball's memory bank, but it did earn him a place on center stage.

And, if history is any indication, it will be a long time before anybody matches what he did two nights ago -- and will require extra innings to top it.

Some of the classic clutch finishes

Francisco Cabrera's two-out, ninth-inning hit to drive in the tying and winning runs for the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night brought back memories of other fantastic finishes. A look at some of the most dramatic moments in baseball history:

1912 World Series: In Game 7, the New York Giants took a 2-1 lead against the Red Sox in the 10th. But center fielder Fred Snodgrass dropped a fly ball, Tris Speaker singled home the tying run and Larry Gardner hit the winning sacrifice fly.

1951 National League playoff: In a best-of-three regular-season playoff for the pennant, the New York Giants came back to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers on Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" off Ralph Branca on Oct. 3, 1951. That one-out, three-run homer gave the Giants a 5-4 victory.

1960 World Series: Bill Mazeroski's Game 7 home run gave Pittsburgh a 10-9 victory over the Yankees. The score was tied after the Pirates took a 9-7 lead with five runs in the eighth, only to have the Yankees come back in the top of the ninth.

1976 American League Championship Series: Chris Chambliss hit a home run on the first pitch in the last of the ninth inning to give the Yankees a 7-6 victory over Kansas City. The Royals had tied it on George Brett's three-run home run in the eighth.

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