January 20, 2013

Former Brave Sid Bream wows fans at expo

Devin Golden

— CHATSWORTH — Without his most famous play, Sid Bream believes he would’ve fallen into obscurity and not many would remember him.

Around here, there is always a line just to shake the former Atlanta Brave’s hand.

Bream’s famous play in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, known as “The Slide,” is still remembered as one of the most exciting and memorable plays in Braves history. On Saturday, Bream was a high note of the Murray County Sportsman’s Expo, held at North Murray High.

Bream — who played in the MLB from 1983-1994 with the Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros — was the keynote speaker at the event, which was hosted by Holly Creek Baptist Church. Within the two hours, people navigated the numerous booths — including archery, snake exhibits, fishing, guns and other outdoor activities.

In previous years, the expo was a Sportsman’s Banquet held at the church.

“This year we wanted to expand it,” the church’s pastor, Danny Cochran, said. “People can come in and look at different exhibits. ... In years past we’ve had around 350. We were expecting many more with this, and that’s why we moved to a bigger facility. We’re going to be beyond that. Right now, we estimate at around 400-500.”

Fans also got the chance to meet Bream and get his autograph on baseballs, player cards and other items.

As one of the most famous players in Braves history, he is mostly remembered for one play, a slide home to capture the NLCS pennant and send the team to its second consecutive World Series.

“It just takes one play,” Murray County native Jerod Hobbs said. “Who hit the ball? I don’t know. It just proves the point.”

With the Braves trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Francisco Cabrera’s line drive to left field easily scored David Justice from third base. Bream, on second when the ball was hit, rounded third and barely beat Pirates outfielder Barry Bonds’ throw home. The play clinched a win and a second consecutive World Series appearance for Atlanta.

“When you play baseball, you have goals,” Bream said, “but one of the things I think you’ll hear from every ball player is they want to be remembered. Other than that play, I would’ve gone into obscurity. I played in four National League Championship series, two World Series, but at the same time that play has been the thing that has kept my name around.”

Any time it seemed the line to meet Bream was about to end, another two handfuls of people would arrive with objects and souvenirs in hand ready to be autographed. Jason Bunch, 25, had a bobblehead figurine of the entire scene at home plate with the umpire, Bream and the Pirates catcher. He walked away with Bream’s autograph on it.

“It’s one of a kind,” Bunch said. “One of the best plays in the history of the franchise.”

Bream has spoken at a number of events throughout the Southeast. To the Murray County crowd, the speech was for fathers in the audience. Bream said steroids and performance-enhancing drugs were not prevalent in the sport when he first joined the Pirates in 1985. However, there were other vices available to players.

“It was the uppers,” Bream said, referring to drugs that increase energy and possibly improve one’s physical activity. “I can remember too many people, my coach from Liberty University, whose kids were always in the clubhouse and on the field. When I started my career in Pittsburgh, it was an opportunity for my kids to start being in the clubhouse. They banned it because of all the stuff with drugs going on.”

That was just part of the reason he wanted to focus on being good role models.

“It’s tailored to everybody, but it was more tailored especially to the dads and grandfathers here,” Bream said. “What are you teaching your kids? Are you concerned that what you’re showing is the right thing? We certainly have politicians and baseball players who have not been good heroes, and the dad is the one who needs to step up to the plate and show ethics and be the right thing.”