“Line drive and a base hit! Justice has scored the tying run, Bream to the plate, and he is ... SAFE! Safe at the plate! The Braves go to the World Series!”
— Baseball announcer Sean McDonough
Bottom of the ninth inning,
Game 7, 1992 NLCS
It’s a game that Sid Bream and his son, Tyler, like to play.
The one other than baseball, of course.
“We’ll be walking into a Pirates game and I’ll say to Tyler, ‘Guess how many people are going to say it to me this time,’ ” Sid said.
“The last game we went to, the number was 22,” Tyler said with a laugh. “It’s usually anywhere from 20 and 30, so I almost always guess pretty close.”
What Sid and Tyler are “guessing,” of course, is how many times someone will come up to Sid and utter the magic words: “You broke my heart.”
“I feel bad for people because after all these years, they’re still so passionate about it,” Sid said. “But I was just doing my job.”
Sid’s “job,” as a Pittsburgh Pirate from 1985-1990, took him to Atlanta when he became a free agent following the 1990 season.
Although he set a Major League Baseball record in 1986 with 166 assists at first base, he forever will be known for “the slide,” in the ninth inning of Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, when Bream’s Braves were taking on his old team, the Pirates.
The Pirates carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth behind pitching ace Doug Drabek, who needed just three outs to put Pittsburgh in its first World Series since the Pirates of New Castle native Chuck Tanner made it there in 1979. Drabek gave up a leadoff double to Terry Pendleton, then allowed David Justice to reach base on an infield error by second baseman José Lind. Drabek was pulled by Pirates manager Jim Leyland after he walked Bream to load the bases. Drabek was replaced by reliever Stan Belinda, who got two outs despite giving up a run on a sacrifice fly by Ron Gant. Braves third-string catcher Francisco Cabrera then belted a single to left field, and Justice scored easily to tie the game. Pirates left fielder Barry Bonds fielded the ball as Bream (known as perhaps the slowest runner in baseball), plodded around the bases toward home plate. Bonds’ throw arrived first, but it was slightly offline toward first base. Catcher Mike LaValliere received the ball and desperately lunged toward the plate to tag out Bream, but Bream was able to slide just underneath the tag to score the winning run.
Sid, 51, retired during the baseball strike after signing with the Houston Astros in 1993. Nearly 20 years after the moment frozen in time that denied Pirates fans their last real chance to reach the World Series, Sid has accepted that as part of his legacy.
LIFE AFTER BASEBALL
Sid now serves as a motivational speaker and conducts occasional clinics such as the ones ongoing on Sundays at Hitters, Hackers and Hoops. There, during the eight-week clinics for 92 aspiring baseball players ages 7-12, he has received the chance to work side-by-side with 22-year-old Tyler, an up-and-coming third baseman in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization.
Tyler is the second of Sid and wife Michele’s four children. Youngest son Austin followed in Tyler’s footsteps, starring for a Seneca Valley High team that won the WPIAL championship last season. Tyler’s Raiders team won a PIAA title when he was a senior.
Sid was born in Carlisle and grew up a St. Louis Cardinals fan.
A deeply religious man, he said he tried his hand at “different businesses” following his retirement from baseball, but nothing clicked.
“Christian speaking seemed to be a natural fit for me,” he said.
He says he got “immense enjoyment” from coaching his kids’ sandlot teams at Seneca Valley, but never really considered going to the next level until three years ago, when the Pirates hired him as hitting coach for their minor league affiliate in State College.
“I loved being back in baseball and loved working with young talent, but I hated being away from my best friend (Michele) for a big part of the year,” he said. “The tradeoff wasn’t worth it.”
WORKING WITH KIDS
The Zelienople resident revels in occasionally being able to work with youngsters, such as those he has been instructing at Hitters, Hackers and Hoops.
On a recent Sunday, a group of 11-12 year-olds got instruction from Sid and Tyler on — of all things — the art of sliding.
“Use your butt,” Tyler said as each kid started his feet-first slide while Sid, who looks as young and fit as he did during his playing career, stood at second base, holding his hands in the air and telling each youngster when to extend his leg to begin the slide.
Each one who did it successfully was greeted with a big smile from Sid and a high-five.
When one insisted on using his hands to slide, Sid gently scolded him.
“You’re going to break your arm,” he said. “Let your butt take the impact.”
When the youngster repeated the same thing on his next trip, Sid’s tone turned more serious.
“Go do 10 pushups then come back and do it right,” he said. “You’re not breaking your arm on my watch.”
The third time was the charm for the young player, who did it perfectly on his final try and was rewarded with a high-five and slap on the butt by both Breams.
Sid will be keeping a close eye on Tyler as he continues his journey with the Diamondbacks, who picked him in the 42nd round of the 2011 amateur draft.
He spent his first year in the Short Class A season with the Yakima Bears. This year, he hopes to land with a Diamondbacks’ Class A team.
“He’s a workaholic, a lot like I was,” Sid said. “I am very proud of what he has accomplished through hard work. He has all the tools to succeed.”
So how does Sid rank his son in terms of talent?
“On a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give his arm a 4-plus,” Sid said. “Power, I’d give him a 4. Speed, a 3,” he said with a laugh as Tyler groaned.
“Thanks, Dad, obviously I inherited the Bream speed,” Tyler said as the two burst into laughter.
On that fateful night in 1992, Sid had all the speed he needed to break Pirates’ fans hearts forever.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.