Another Series loss leaves Braves' emotions on empty

October 26, 1992|By New York Times News Service

ATLANTA -- Jeff Blauser has a videotape of the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and his Atlanta Braves. He never has inserted it into the tape player, and he says he is not sure if he ever will.

As far as the 1992 World Series between the Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays is concerned, Blauser deferred questions about whether he would review it until a later date. Maybe 20 years from now.

Watching either Series would be like the first part of a horrifying double feature for the Atlanta shortstop. Early yesterday morning, the Braves lost the 1992 World Series in six games to Toronto; last year, they fell in seven games to Minnesota. They have lost eight World Series games in the last two years, and seven of the losses -- the last seven, in fact -- were by one run.

The Braves have participated in two classic World Series, bu they have little to show for it. All they have are numerous excruciating losses and a bunch of empty fingers where championship rings might have fit. They have been forced to settle for two National League pennants.

"I'm sure there are people who wonder how can it take a baseball player so long to get over a game," said Blauser, dragging on a cigarette inside an empty clubhouse at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium after the Braves had lost, 4-3, in the 11th inning. "Believe me, this is something that stays with you for a long time. I don't know when I'll stop thinking about this.

"When it ends, you're kind of in a state of shock," Blauser said. "You don't ever expect it to end that way. The thought of losing never crosses your mind. When they started celebrating, I felt like saying, 'Hey, what are you doing?' "

The Braves have developed talented starters, but have not been able to develop an effective closer, and that helped cost them the Series.

With Jeff Reardon, who had frittered away Game 2 and Game 3, ready to come in, manager Bobby Cox made a statement about his sorry bullpen by sticking with the left-handed Charlie Leibrandt against the right-handed Dave Winfield in the 11th inning. Winfield hit a two-run double to give the Jays a 4-2 lead.

Leibrandt said he had pitched about "10 innings of relief in 10 years," and he had not pitched in this Series until the 10th inning of Game 6. Leibrandt, who allowed a game-winning homer to Minnesota's Kirby Puckett in the 11th inning to decide Game 6 of the World Series last season, had been victimized again.

Unlike last year, when Leibrandt avoided reporters, he was cordial after this setback. There was a reason for the change.

"I got a lot of letters last winter telling me the same thing," Leibrandt said. "I didn't realize I was wearing my emotions on my sleeve. I vowed that I would never do that again. I was devastated last year. Now, I'm down, but I'll get over it."

But will the Braves? They won a major-league-best 98 games in the 1992 season, but they hit just .220 in the Series.

"You look back, and you can tell your grandkids that you played in two of the best World Series ever," said Atlanta first baseman Sid Bream. "But when you are on the bottom part both times, it's hard to tell the grandkids that you were the ones who never won."

One player who will have trouble telling the grandchildren any stories about October is Terry Pendleton.

He has played in four World Series and lost every one, twice with the Braves and twice with the St. Louis Cardinals. Pendleton said he gained no satisfaction from playing in two memorable World Series in a row. All he cared about was finally winning one.

"I feel like if I keep coming, I'll fall in the right place at the right time," Pendleton said.

"The hurt is the same each time. You have the chance to win it and you don't. I say the heck with being a bridesmaid; I want to be a bride."

World Series records

Individual records set in the 1992 World Series:

* Most consecutive hitless at-bats, one postseason: 23, Kelly Gruber, Toronto, 1992; old record 22, Dave Winfield, 1981, and Dal Maxvill, 1967.

* Consecutive games batted safely, postseason career, catcher: Pat Borders, Toronto; old record 11, Thurman Munson, N.Y. (AL), 1976-78; and Yogi Berra, N.Y. (AL), 1953-55.

* Most stolen bases, 6-game series: 5, Otis Nixon, Atlanta, and Deion Sanders, Atlanta; old record 4, Davey Lopes, Los Angeles, 1981.

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