Finally, revel with a cause MVP Devereaux earns celebration

October 16, 1995|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- The night the Atlanta Braves doused each other with champagne to celebrate their victory over the Colorado Rockies in the divisional series, reserve outfielder Mike Devereaux stood on the fringes sheepishly, not really feeling that he had done enough to share in the revelry.

He had not taken part in the long march. He had shown up in late August, one of those hired guns that every contending team seeks out in late summer. It wouldn't have been right.

That was nine days ago, and a lot can change in nine days. Devereaux was bathed in the bubbly on Saturday night, and he had no reason to be shy about it, not after hitting a three-run home run to help the Braves complete a four-game sweep of the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Championship Series.

It was his second big hit of the series and -- in a series that did not feature a lot of hitting by either side -- it was enough to make him the NLCS Most Valuable Player on the night that the Braves won their third pennant in five years.

"Can you believe this?" he said. It was more than an hour after the game, and he still was saying that. "You envision it, but when it happens, you go, 'Is this really happening to me?' "

It was. After two tough-luck seasons with the Orioles and four months near the wrong end of the standings with the Chicago White Sox, Devereaux finally got a break. The Braves picked him up and took him to his first postseason. So last week, he picked them up and helped take them to the World Series.

Delivered the game-winning hit in an extra-inning victory in Game 1. Crushed the three-run homer off reliever Mike Jackson to open up an insurmountable lead on Saturday night. Became a hero in the town he had chosen as his new home even before the Braves traded a prospect to the White Sox to add him to their bench.

"It's unbelievable, isn't it?" he said. He was really having trouble finding any other adjectives, but maybe that was because it was, well, unbelievable.

What were the odds? He was acquired to give the Braves a right-handed power hitter off the bench and a solid all-around outfielder in reserve, so he didn't figure to play much in the postseason. Until strange things began to happen to outfielder David Justice -- first a foul tip off his knee in the divisional series, then a freak batting-practice line drive off the same knee on Saturday night. And suddenly Devereaux was the man of the hour.

Interesting situation. He left Baltimore an everyday player, worked in a platoon situation in Chicago, was down to utility status with the Braves and now he's on top of the world. He probably never thought he'd be happy in a reserve role, but he never got champagne poured on his head as a starter.

"First of all, I'm in the situation that they brought me here for a particular purpose," Devereaux said. "When someone does that, you want to do the best that you can do. I can't look back and be upset that I'm not starting. How can you not be happy in this situation?"

Presuming it is a temporary arrangement. Devereaux will be a free agent again this year, and he can only hope that a lot of general managers were getting the National League half of The Baseball Network's regionalized playoff coverage. He still wants a full-time job, and he will be looking for one in a couple of weeks.

"I still think I'm young enough to play every day," said Devereaux, 32.

Devereaux was on his way to proving that in Chicago, where he bounced back from two terrible seasons in Baltimore with a .306 average, 10 home runs and 55 RBIs in little more than a half-season's worth of at-bats. He wasn't quite as productive in his five weeks with the Braves (.255), but proved the importance of the club's late-season maneuvering with his .308 performance in the NLCS.

He figures to be a valuable addition to the club's World Series roster even if he doesn't spend a lot of time on the field. He is one of the few members of the team who will be familiar with either one of the teams that comes out of the American League Championship Series.

"No doubt, they are going to ask me [for scouting information] since I have played against both teams," he said. "I expect that. You always want to be in a situation where you know what's going on."

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