Golden Baseball Magazine

The Ultimate Game

This series presents the final game of each post-season series that went all the way.
Until 1946, that means World Series Game Sevens (none of the best-of-nine World Series went the full length).
1991 - Game 7: Atlanta Braves @ Minnesota Twins


John Schuerholz


Steve Avery


Tom Glavine


Charlie Leibrandt


Juan Berenguer


Braves owner Ted Turner and his wife, Jane Fonda


Kevin Tapani


Scott Erickson


Tom Kelly and Bobby Cox


Kirby Puckett makes great catch in Game 6.


Twins celebrate Puckett's HR to win Game 6.


Jacquelin Jaquez

After the Atlanta Braves lost to the Cardinals in the 1982 NLCS, the franchise gradually sank into a deep depression.
  • Following 2nd place finishes in the West in '83 and '84, they sank to 5th, then 6th (last), 5th, 6th, 6th, 6th through 1990.
  • The turnaround began with Bobby Cox's hiring as general manager in October 1985. He immediately began building up the farm system. When manager Russ Nixon was not able to lead the young team out of the West cellar, Bobby named himself manager midway through the 1990 season. Cox hired John Schuerholz as GM in October of that year.
  • Prognosticators expected the Braves to end their three-year stay in the West cellar, but no one gave them any chance at the pennant, which was expected to go to either the defending World Series champion Reds or the Dodgers.
  • No team in the Division started strong, and the Braves stood in 1st place May 14 with only a 16-13 record. They spent most of the remaining days of spring in 2nd place before descending to 3rd by the All-Star break with a 39-40 record that put them 9.5 games behind Los Angeles.
  • Continuing to run 3rd would have pleased Braves fans no end after seven miserable years at the bottom, but what actually happened surpassed all expectations.
  • 55-28. That was the unbelievable record the rest of the way.
  • But it wasn't easy as the race went down to the last weekend. Atlanta entered their final series at home against Houston tied with the Dodgers for 1st. With help from the Giants, who gleefully beat L.A. twice in a row, the Braves won identical 5-2 games to clinch the crown. They finished the season on a 21-8 run. Their total of 94 victories was an Atlanta record and 29 more victories than the year before.
  • The NLCS against Pittsburgh showed that the young Braves starters could handle the pressure of post-season play. 21-year-old Steve Avery won two 1-0 nail-biters in Three Rivers Stadium, the second one in Game 6 to stave off elimination. John Smoltz, a comparative old-timer at 24, extended the team's shutout innings string to 22 in a 4-0 triumph in Game 7.

The balanced Braves ranked second in the league in runs and third in ERA (3.49).

  • Cox's four-man rotation escaped injury, with each starting 34, 35, or 36 times. Tom Glavine (age 25) led in wins with 20 against 11 defeats. Avery added 18 more with only 8 setbacks while "Ancient" Charlie Leibrandt, the 34-year-old southpaw, contributed 15 victories. Smoltz finished 14-13.
    Smoltz's season was the tale of two halves. After starting 2-11, he benefitted from the counseling of a sports psychologist to go 12-2 the rest of the way. He ended the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.
  • Juan Berenguer topped the bullpen with 17 saves, although Alejandro Pena, who was traded by the Mets August 28, ended the season as the closer.
  • CF Ron Gant anchored the batting order with 32 HR and 105 RBI, plus 101 runs - all tops on the team. 3B Terry Pendleton, signed as a free agent after appearing in the '85 and '87 World Series with the Cardinals, brought a veteran presence as well as 22 homers and 86 RBI. He also won the NL batting title and the NL MVP award. David Justice, who took over RF following the trade of fan favorite Dale Murphy after the 1990 season, completed the power triumvirate with 21 HR and 87 RBI.
    Pendleton, who toiled for another Hall of Fame manager, Whitey Herzog, in St. Louis, loved playing for Cox. Bobby had the patience of grandma out there. The rest of us could be in a mean, crazy panic and Bobby would be saying, "No, no, we're good. Things are going to be just fine. You wait and see."
    Cox saw the potential of young players and helped them fulfill their promise. As one player put it, Often Bobby had a better idea of how good his players could be than they did.
The American League also produced a worst-to-first champion.
  • The Twins had fallen on hard times since their world championship in '87. They went from 2nd in '88 to 5th to last (7th). The franchise stayed with Tom Kelly who, like Cox, was known for his steady approach that emphasized the fundamentals although Tom didn't show as much patience with youngsters as his Atlanta counterpart.
  • Four of the eight position players remained from the '87 titlists: 1B Kent Hrbek, SS Greg Gagne, LF Dan Gladden, and CF Kirby Puckett. Of the others, switch-hitting DH Chili Davis was by far the most valuable - 29 HR, 93 RBI, and 84 runs.
  • The main new addition was 2B Chuck Knoblauch, the AL Rookie of the Year who hit .281 with a .351 OBP.
    Twins GM Andy MacPhail praised Knoblauch. Chuck's development is a major reason why we're here (in the World Series). What I first liked about him is that he knows the game.
  • A major change on the pitching staff occurred at the trading deadline during the '89 season when ace Frank Viola was traded to the Mets for three pitchers, Rick Aguilera, Kevin Tapani, and David West. Tapani contributed 16 victories as a starter for the '91 Twins, but Aguilera proved even more valuable as the closer with 42 saves.
  • The bell cow of the '91 staff joined the team in February when he was signed as a free agent. Jack Morris provided the Detroit Tigers with 209 victories in 14 seasons and won more games in the 1980s than any other hurler. The St. Paul native added 18 more for the Twins in '91 against 12 losses and led the team with 10 complete games, one less than the rest of the staff combined.
    Morris used baseball to help him through a difficult year personally. He was going through a contentious divorce and was separated from his two sons. The clubhouse was my family, he said years later. It was my peace of mind. It was my serenity. It was everything to me.
  • The big surprise of '91 was another righthander, Scott Erickson, who led the AL in victories with 20 to go with only eight losses.
    Erickson became the first P since Bob Grim in 1954 to win twenty games in his first calendar year in the big leagues. The 23-year-old adopted Johnny Cash's "Man in Black" motif. He wore black spikes with any white covered by black shoe polish and pulled his black stirrups down so low that no white sock showed underneath. He even sported a black glove. That earned him the nickname "The Prince of Darkness."
  • The Twins needed only five games to dispatch the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS. After Minnesota split the first two games at home, they swept all three games in the Skydome, making them the first team to win three games on the road in a league championship series. Puckett hit .429 with two HRs and drove in five. Knoblauch led the team in hits with seven and runs with five while hitting .350. Aguilera saved three of the wins.
Series Results
  1. Saturday, October 19 @ Minnesota: Twins 5 Braves 2
    WP: Jack Morris; LP: Charlie Leibrandt
  2. Sunday, October 20 @ Minnesota: Twins 3 Braves 2
    WP: Kevin Tapani; LP: Tom Glavine
  3. Tuesday, October 22 @ Atlanta: Braves 5 Twins 4 (12 innings)
    WP: Jim Clancy; LP: Rick Aguilera
  4. Wednesday, October 23 @ Atlanta: Braves 3 Twins 2
    WP: Mike Stanton; LP: Mark Guthrie
  5. Thursday, October 24 @ Atlanta: Braves 14 Twins 5
    WP: Glavine; LP: Tapani
  6. Saturday, October 26 @ Minnesota: Twins 4 Braves 3 (11 innings)
    WP: Aguilera; LP: Leibrandt
The first six games followed the same pattern as the 1987 Series; that is, the home team won every game.
  • Minnesota enjoyed the best home field advantage in baseball. The crowd in the Metrodome made so much noise that the players had to read lips to know what teammates were telling them on the field. Add the Homer Hankies that fans waved, and visiting teams had more to cope with than at any other venue.
    The '91 Twins didn't have a good a home record as the '87 champs.
    1987 56-25 home, 29-52 away
    1991 51-30 home, 44-37 away
    However, the 51 wins in '91 were still the best in the AL by five.
  • After six games, many considered the 1991 World Series the best ever. Two games went extra innings. Those two plus two others were decided by one run. Would Game 7 cement the '91 Fall Classic's place in history?
  • Game 6 had already been proclaimed a classic. Kirby Puckett's HR in the 11th staved off elimination. He also made a fabulous leaping catch against the LCF fence in the 3rd inning.
    Puckett predicted his big night. Despite hitting only .167 after five games, Kirby gathered the Twins in the clubhouse before Game 6. He recalled what he said years later. Everybody together, we're going to have a short meeting. Everybody comes in, and I said, "Guys, I just have one announcement to make. You guys should jump on my back tonight. I'm going to carry us." And he did.
    When a reporter asked Kirby after Game 6 if he had the energy to play a Game 7, he replied, I'll get my rest when I'm dead.
  • Game 7 pitted Morris against Smoltz, a pairing that held some special significance in addition to matching the two teams' aces. John was born in Detroit and grew up in Lansing. His favorite player was Jack Morris. As a senior in 1984, John watched Jack lead the Tigers to a World Series title. Like any young pitcher, Smoltz imagined himself pitching in the World Series some day. Now here he was not only taking the mound in Game 7 but also facing his idol. Both hurlers had done well in the postseason. Morris was 6-1, mostly with Detroit, in post-season play and Smoltz was 3-0.
    Morris loved to throw his split-finger fastball (forkball), one of the best in baseball. He especially liked to throw it when ahead in the count. As a result, the Braves' game plan against him was to try and stay out of two-strike situations.
    Smoltz's best pitch was his fastball, which he complemented with a slider, changeup, and curveball. He would later in his career develop an outstanding split-finger fastball.
The morning of Game 7, Morris sat with his parents and two sons eating breakfast. Jack recalled his father's gaze. He's watching every bite I'm taking. Just watching, just starting at me. Finally, I looked at him and said, "What? He goes, "How you doing?" .... A very open-ended question. My dad would never ask me something like that. I said, "Dad, I feel great. I got a great night of sleep. Don't worry. We're going to win." He looked at me, and he got this smile on his face, but I don't think he believed me. To this day, I don't think he got what I was trying to tell him. He was so nervous.
Years later, someone asked Kent Hrbek what he had done before Game 7 that Sunday. I watched football like any normal American.

CBS was in its second year of TV coverage of the World Series.

  • Jack Buck handled the play-by-play with Tim McCarver doing the color commentary.
  • Pat O'Brien hosted the broadcasts, and Jim Kaat provided commentary from field level.
  • The broadcast would reach an estimate 50.3 million viewers.
    In contrast, the audience for Game 7 in 2014 was less than half that.

L-R: Pat O'Brien, Tim McCarver, Jack Buck, Jim Kaat
Both teams held pregame meetings.
  • Cox asked Braves great P Phil Niekro to address his troops. I wanted him to come up because he pitched for the Braves for 22 years and never pitched in a World Series, and he's an Atlanta Brave at heart.
  • Puckett recalled the Twins' gathering. Before Game Seven there wasn't much to say. TK just reminded us that we might never get in this position again, so we should just give it our all and enjoy ourselves, too.
    7-year-old Jacquelin Jaquez sang a sensational rendition of the National Anthem. John Smoltz recalled: I was warming up in the bullpen with (pitching coach Leo) Mazzone, and I looked at him and said, "If she can do that, then I can pitch this game."
Atlanta Lineup
Lonnie Smith DH
Terry Pendleton 3B
Ron Gant CF
David Justice RF
Sid Bream 1B
Brian Hunter LF
Greg Olson C
Mark Lemke 2B
Rafael Belliard SS
Minnesota Lineup
Dan Gladden LF
Chuck Knoblauch 2B
Kirby Puckett CF
Kent Hrbek 1B
Chili Davis DH
Brian Harper C
Shane Mack RF
Mike Pagliarulo 3B
Greg Gagne SS

Jack Morris


Lonnie Smith


Terry Pendleton


Ron Gant


John Smoltz


Chuck Knoblauch


David Justice


Greg Olson


Kent Hrbek


Greg Gagne


Harper talks with Morris

The crowd of 55,118 saw a pitching duel for the ages.

1st inning

  • With his bushy mustache, Morris took the mound looking like "an ornery aging gunslinger" (in the words of Tim Wendel).
    Jack recalled: There was no question in my mind that we would win the game. I was pitching, and I wasn't going to let us lose. I was so confident about what was going to happen, and I felt like I could pitch all might if I had to. ... I think if you're a competitive athlete ... you dream of being in that situation. And when that situation arises, you love being out there in front of the whole world. I was very much aware that there were millions and millions of people watching all around the world, and they were all focused on the guy holding the baseball on the mound. I loved that feeling.
    Lonnie Smith, hitting only .175 in the Series, shook hands with his former Cardinals teammate, C Brian Harper, before stepping into the right-hand batter's box. In the CBS-TV booth, Tim McCarver said he couldn't remember ever seeing that in a World Series game. Jack Buck likened it to the beginning of a heavyweight fight. Lonnie had only four hits in the Series, but three of them were homers. He flew out easily to Shane Mack in RF.
    Terry Pendleton (.319 with ten hits and six for his last seven) bounced to Kent Hrbek at 1B.
    Facing Ron Gant, Morris looked in several times at home plate umpire Don Denkinger when close pitches were called balls. Gant fanned on a 2-2 fastball.
  • LF Dan Gladden (4-for-25) swung at two low outside sliders to fall into an 0-2 hole. After fouling off a pitch, Dan went for the unhittable slider again to strike out.
    2B Chuck Knoblauch popped to David Justice in short RF.
    The fans gave Game 6 hero Kirby Puckett an extra loud welcome as he stepped in. Smoltz again got ahead 0-2 before receiving a bouncer to the mound.

2nd inning

  • Puckett admitted playing hitters deeper than most CF would because of the large dimensions of the Metrodome. Justice took advantage of that with a liner that Kirby fielded on one hop.
    Morris was not known for holding runners well although he had worked to develop a slide step in '91. Still, he hadn't picked off a runner all year. He threw to 1st to keep Justice close. But Dave took off on the third pitch to 1B Sid Bream. The hopper straight to Knoblauch normally would have been a DP but became the equivalent of a bunt when Chuck looked at 2nd but turned and tossed to 1st.
    Rookie LF Brian Hunter banged the first pitch on the ground just foul down the 3B line. Then he swung through a 2-2 fastball and took a seat in the dugout.
    C Greg Olson (.261), from Edina, a suburb of Minneapolis, popped to Knoblauch.
  • Hrbek, 0 for his last 13, hit a soft liner to Justice.
    Chili Davis (only three hits but two of them HRs) fell into an 0-2 hole, took a ball, then watched a curve drop over for strike three.
    Harper (6-for-17) lined a 1-2 pitch over Smoltz's head for the Twins' first hit.
    Shane Mack (.310 for the season but only 2-for-19 in the Series) grounded a single just to the left of SS Rafael Belliard to put runners on 1st and 2nd with two out.
    Facing his first jam, Smoltz got 3B Mike Pagliarulo to ground out 3-1.

3rd inning

  • Mark Lemke, who had three triples in the Series, including two in one game to tie a record, grounded out 4-3.
    Lemke, who led all hitters with a .450 average going into Game 7, had taken over the 2B position only because of Jeff Treadway's late season injury.
    Belliard got his sixth hit of the series, a sharp grounder through the 1B-2B hole.
    Morris: These are the kind of guys that always bothered me. The Belliards and the Lemkes. The typical power hitter I always figured I had bullets for, but these guys, nothing was safe. They could hit from the top of their head to the bottom of their shoes because they're swinging. They're hacking.
    The first pitch to Smith bounced off Harper's mitt far enough for the runner to sprint to 2nd. The scorer ruled it a passed ball. Morris fell behind 3-0, then threw a nasty slider on the outside corner. But the next delivery, a fastball, sailed wide to put runners on 1st and 2nd.
    Pendleton, who had yet to win a game in the Metrodome with the Cardinals in '87 and the Braves in '91, lofted a fly to Gladden in LF.
    Gant chased the first pitch splitter straight to SS Greg Gagne, who tossed to Knoblauch for the forceout.
    Gagne: Jack was locked in, able to get out of trouble, and when a pitcher is on like that, you get excited playing behind him. You tell yourself to just do your job. He's on - just back him up and make the plays that come your way.
  • Smoltz continued to get ahead of the hitters.
    Gagne grounded an 0-2 pitch to Pendleton.
    Gladden also fell behind 0-2 before lining a 2-2 hanging slider over Pendleton's head down the LF line for a double.
    For a change, John faced a 2-0 count to Knoblauch. But he fought back to even before the batter flew to Justice near the warning track in RF. Gladden took 3rd after the catch. Since Smoltz led the major leagues with 20 wild pitches, the extra base might prove to be important.
    Could Kirby, who homered to end Game 6, come through again? But Smoltz struck him out on a wicked 2-2 slider.

4th inning

  • Morris began Justice with a lollipop changeup that floated over. Then he threw another that dropped down and away from the hitter. Another pitch in the same spot provoked howls from Morris and Harper when they didn't get the call from Denkinger, who was known in the AL as a hitter's umpire. But that just delayed David's agony as he swung over a forkball.
    Bream hit the 1st pitch in the air down the LF line. Gladden caught it as he crossed the foul stripe.
    Hunter smacked a fastball on one hop against the LCF wall and slid into 2nd with a double.
    Once again, Atlanta needed to two-out hit to break on top. But Olson failed to capitalize after he got a 3-1 advantage, smacking a low liner to Mack racing in from RF.
    Morris recalled that he found calm amid the din inside the dome. It was so loud, it was almost peaceful.
    Jack recalled that his mother was not so calm. She left her seat at the beginning of the 5th inning to use the restroom and never returned. She stayed in the concourse the rest of the game, using the fan reaction to determine ;how well her son was doing.
  • The 0-1 pitch grazed Hrbek's left elbow according to Denkinger. Bobby Cox made a brief protest before returning to the dugout.
    Davis skied to Hunter in LF.
    Harper hit the ball off the end of the bat into RCF. Justice made a sliding catch.
    Now it was the Twins' turn to get a two-out hit. But Mack popped to a back-pedaling Lemke.

5th inning

  • Lemke, a 27th round draft choice, stroked his tenth hit of the Series, a liner on one big hop to Mack.
    Belliard bunted a high chop off the plate, Harper throwing to Hrbek as Lemke advanced to 2nd.
    Seeing Pagliarulo playing back, Smith dropped a bunt. Mike fielded and threw in one motion but pulled Hrbek off the bag as Smith slid into 1st as if he were sliding into another base.
    Amid the din that made it impossible to hear someone standing next to you, Morris later said he never felt more at peace, more determined to do what he had to do.
    Kelly stationed his middle infielders halfway and his corner men pulled in.
    Working slowly against the NL batting champ, Morris induced Pendleton to pop up to Gagne on a split-finger on the outside corner.
    There were two outs now, but the Braves had their best hitter, Gant, at the plate. However, he didn't have a hit in his last seven ABs. The 1-1 pitch sank into the dirt and bounced off Harper's chest and mask back toward the pitcher's mound. Lemke came halfway and just beat Morris's throw back to 3rd. He somehow found an opening to get his foot to the bag despite Pagliarulo taking the throw on one knee. Pags fell over Lemke after making the tag.
    I don't know why I threw it, Morris admitted of an action that could have resulted in a wild throw that sent the go-ahead run home. I should have been taken out of the game for throwing that ball right there.
    A pitch later, Jack almost picked Smith off 1st - another risky maneuver that could have scored the run if it went awry. The count went full. With the crowd roaring, Gant took a fastball on the outside corner. Morris whirled his arm around in jubilation. Meanwhile, Gant dropped his bat and stared at Denkinger.
  • "Pags" whacked the first pitch deep into CF. Gant ran to his right and caught the ball at the edge of the warning track.
    Gagne struck out on a full-count slider.
    Gladden picked on the first pitch and grounded a single up the middle just past the glove of a lunging Lemke.
    Would Gladden run with two outs? The Braves thought so as Smoltz threw to 1st twice before delivering a pitch to Knoblauch. Chuck lined it to Gant in CF.
6th inning
  • Morris got his first 1-2-3 inning since the 1st. He needed only nine pitches.
    Justice slashed a turf hugger just inside the foul line to Hrbek, who juggled the ball, then threw to Morris in time.
    Bream also grounded to Kent, who took it himself this time.
    After doubling his last time up, Hunter flew to Puckett.
    Morris said after the game: Early on I had a good fastball and slider. I threw a few changeups and forkballs, but they weren't that sharp. My forkball came back around in the sixth, and it was a very effective pitch for me in the late innings.
  • Puckett made Smoltz work, walking on a 3-2 pitch. It was John's first base on balls.
    Hrbek, now 0-for-14, flew to Gant in straightaway CF.
    Davis spanked the first pitch right to Bream, the threw left-handed to Belliard to get Puckett. The return throw got Chili by six strides at 1st.
    The game became only the second 7th game in World Series history to go the first six innings scoreless. The other one was 1968 - Tigers at Cardinals.

7th inning

  • Another 1-2-3 for Morris, this time on 11 pitches.
    Olson
    struck out swinging.
    Lemke lined the first pitch to Puckett.
    Belliard ran the count to 3-2 before becoming Morris's eighth in a row when he fanned on an outside fastball.
    Morris: I grew up in the Cities. I was a Minnesota sports fan. I was thinking about the Vikings. I was thinking about all the Super Bowl losses. ... I remembered how disappointed I was as a Minnesota fan when we lost. Now I'm looking at everybody (in the stands), and they're spent. They're literally drained. And I said, "We're not losing. If it takes until the sun comes up tomorrow morning, we're not going to lose." I never had so much will to win a game as I did that day.
  • Could 24-year-old Smoltz continue to match 36-year-old Morris, his boyhood idol?
    Playing well off the line with his P throwing so hard, Pendleton was in the right place to field Harper's grounder and throw him out.
    Then Terry showed why he was an outstanding fielder as well as hitter. Mack dropped a good bunt only to have Pendleton race in, grab it barehanded, and throw to 1st for the out.
    Olson turned to Denkinger when Don called a 2-1 slider a ball against Pagliarulo. But no damage was done, as Mike bounced to 3rd.

Smith approaches 2nd as Knoblach and Gagne fake double play.


Smith stops as he tries to pick up the ball.


Smith continues to 3rd while Pendleton chugs into 2nd.


Sid Bream


Harper completes DP to end 8th


Morris leaves mound.


Leo Mazzone


Mark Lemke


Mike Stanton


Chili Davis


Alejandro Pena


Mike Pagliarulo


Braves
rally caps in 10th.


Harper catches foul in 10th.


Gladden with broken bat watching his 10th inning hit


Twins celebrate.


Smoltz watches Twins celebrate.

8th inning
  • Smith checked his swing, but the ball flew into RF for a single.
    With his leadoff man on, a whole range of strategies opened up for Cox - sacrifice, steal, hit-and-run. But Pendleton matched up better than Morris than the next batter, Gant. With Hrbek holding the runner on, Bobby let the left-handed batter hit away. Jack threw to 1st several times as a righthander and a lefty, Steve Bedrosian and Mark Guthrie, warmed up in the bullpen down the LF line. Morris threw a 1-2 curve that broke into the dirt. Pendleton swung over the ball, which skipped off the dirt into the mitt of Harper. Terry immediately signaled that he tipped the ball. Denkinger ruled the ball hit the dirt and was not caught cleanly by the C and 3B umpire Terry Tata agreed.
    Morris: That was strike three. Never touched it. Look at it (the replay) all you want. He struck out.
    That set the stage for the most talked about play of the game.
    Pendleton blistered Morris's 100th pitch, a hanging slider, on one hop off the LCF wall. Smith should have scored on the ball, which had no chance of being caught. But Knoblauch and Gagne tried to deke him by pretending to go through a double play. Smith looked at Knoblauch, then lost sight of the ball and stopped despite 3B coach Williams screaming at him to keep going. When he saw the ball in LCF, he continued to 3rd.
    Different participants have varying opinions about what happened on the play.
    McCarver, whose view was heard by millions, thought that Smith had fallen for the DP pantomime. However, later in the game when the play was reviewed, Tim backtracked somewhat, acknowledging that Smith probably lost the ball and stopped because he didn't know where it was.
    Smith, whose nickname was "Skates," later said: Nobody ever realized I was naturally clumsy. You can ask my mother ... I was always knocking over things - falling. Earlier in my career, I was known more for falling and tumbling than anything else. Lonnie maintained that he wasn't fooled by the DP charade, pointing out that, if he had been, he would have slid into 2nd. If I'd taken the time to take one look, that could have been the difference. If I saw the ball off the bat, there's a good chance I could have scored. But I didn't see it. I didn't take that look in. That's my mistake. ... I just didn't pick up the ball and didn't pick up Jimy. People want to blame me, that's okay. The media's version that Knoblauch fooled me is not true. I just didn't see the ball. The only part the media got right was that I didn't score on the play.
    Gagne: To this day, I have no real clue about everything that happened on that play. In fact, I've never studied a replay of it. I don't want to. That play exists in some sweet spot in my memory. I don't want to overanalyze it too much. What I do remember is that, when the ball was hit, my first reaction was to get to the outfield. I was the relay man on that side. But then Knoblauch yelled, "Gags," and I knew immediately what he was up to. We had been talking about deking their base runners - see if we could slow them down a bit. We practiced it too. It was just something we messed around with during infield practice. ... I peeled around toward second base, like we were going to do a double play. He made the false throw, and I even made a kind of a fake throw on to Hrbek at first. Knoblauch sold it so well that I felt I had to do the same. Lonnie Smith froze for a few steps, but I didn't know if our fake play had much to do with it, honestly. As soon as it was over, I was on my horse, running back into short left field for the throw. ... We caused enough confusion for him not to score on the play. That's all I know.
    Kelly agreed that Smith didn't take the fake. He just didn't know where the ball was.
    C Harper saw the whole play from behind home plate. He agrees that Lonnie has gotten a bum rap. People forget that Gladden faked like he was going to catch it too. You actually had two fakes on that play. ... In the Metrodome, especially when you're the visiting player, it was really hard to pick up the ball. ... Lonnie looked for the ball and he couldn't see it. And then he saw Gladden raise his glove for an instant, like he was going to catch it. And so he stopped, which is probably what he should have done. With no outs, you can't just keep running if you don't know where the ball is. The ball hit the wall, and Gladden played it perfectly and got it in quickly. I don't believe the criticism was justified. It was a tough play, it's tough to pick up the all, and you had three guys in Gladden, Gagne, and Knoblauch trying to fool him.
    Morris: People think Knoblauch and Gagne tricked him with the decoy double play. I don't know for sure what happened. I do know that, with the noise, you couldn't hear anyone if they were standing right next to you. It was loud in there.
    Pendleton remembered pulling into 2nd base and looking over at 3B coach Jimy Williams. I was ready to give him a pump of the fist or something. I mean, we finally were on the board, and that's when I realized that Lonnie was standing there right next to him. I couldn't believe it, but it wasn't any panic or anything like that. We had second and third with nobody out. It was no big deal. We've been here before. Frankly, I still expected us to score a couple of runs that inning. Break it open against Jack Morris. Some want to say that the shortstop and second baseman faked Lonnie. Well, I beg to differ. On the play, he's looking all over the place, and that's because he couldn't find the ball off the bat.
    Harper agreed with Pendleton's assessment. Maybe you try to score even if you're not sure where the ball is. But it was three-four-five - Ron Gant, David Justice, and Sid Bream - coming up for Atlanta after that. Maybe the blame should be more on those guys.
    Still, the Braves had men on 2nd and 3rd, no out, and their best hitter, Gant, at the plate. Knowing one run might be enough, Kelly played his infield in except for Gagne, who was halfway. Remembering how Denkinger had called him out on a 3-2 pitch his last AB, Ron swung at the second pitch, which he should have let go, and hit the ball off the end of the bat to Hrbek, who tagged 1st as the runners held.
    Kelly went out to talk to Morris as some fans yelled, No! Keep him in! The discussion centered on whether to walk Justice to get to Bream.
    After the game, Morris recalled the visit this way. Tom asked me what I thought. I told him, "I think I can get Bream out." Years later, he added, There was no talk of how I was feeling. And no talk about taking him out.
    However, Harper, who joined the conference on the mound, had a different recollection. Kelly comes out to the mound ... and he tells Jack to walk Justice. And Jack keeps saying, "No, I can get him out. I can get him out. I don't want to walk him." Finally, Kelly says, "Jack, we're going to walk him." Jack replied, "All right. I don't like it, but I'll walk him."
    Justice took the four wide ones and trotted to 1st to fill the bases.
    At this point, Harper visualized the worst-case scenario for himself. I envisioned a come-backer to Jack, he throws it to me at home plate, and then I airmail one past Hrbek and down into RF. We lose the World Series, and I'm the goat of all time. I would be the next Bill Buckner. I literally thought this right after we walked David Justice. So I'm thinking, "Okay, get that thought out of your head. Lord, please help me to relax here and let me do my job." I had to really push that negative thought out of my mind. I had to do it right then and there.
    Gagne stayed halfway, but Knoblauch joined him at DP depth as Jack prepared to pitch to the Brave 1B.
    Morris: He was thinking flyball. I was thinking groundball.
    Morris threw high and wide. Ball one. Sid fouled off a high hard one. Then another foul. 1-and-2. Bream, who wore a brace on each knee, bounced a fastball right to Hrbek, who threw to Harper for the force at home and took the return throw for the inning-ending 3-6-3 DP as the roar reached its highest level yet. Hrbek spiked the ball on the artificial turf as he left the field. Morris waited for Kent at the dugout and slapped gloves with him.
    Harper: You're never really looking for a 3-2-3 double play because that is so rare. But here it comes, rolling out for real. Herbie threw it to me, and all I have to do is throw it back to him, nice and easy. Bream was the slowest guy on the Braves, so I have plenty of time. Maybe too much time. So now I get to thinking about it, remembering what flashed through my head seconds before. But somehow I did it. Just nice and easy back to Herbie, and we've survived this jam. In that game there was so much pressure - a passed ball, a wild pitch - one thing like that could lose you the game, and everybody knew it.
    Morris
    recalled the roar of the crowd at that point. Deafening. Simply deafening. You could feel it shake.
    Pendleton: Jack Morris was never afraid about pitching in big games, and that's not good if you're on the team that's facing him in one of them. When we didn't score in that situation you knew it was going to be tough. Because this was Jack Morris. Somehow we hadn't dented him.
    In the pressbox, a young reporter named Tim Kurkjian turned to the young man next to him, Steve Rushin, and tried to say something but realized he couldn't be heard in the deafening roar. When the sound lessened, Tim said, I can't write tonight. I'm not worthy. The noise, the pressure, Jack Morris, Game 7? I'm just not worthy. Kurkjian recalls, The Twins getting out of that eighth inning is still the loudest sound I've ever heard anywhere. It was like being at a Springsteen concert, strapped to a speaker while he's playing "Thunder Road."
  • The fans stood and waved their hankies throughout the bottom of the 8th.
    Randy Bush pinch-hit for Gagne and grounded a single to CF for Minnesota's fifth hit. Al Newman ran for Bush.
    While pitching coach Leo Mazzone visited the mound, Alejandro Pena and Mike Stanton started throwing in the Braves bullpen down the RF line.
    Now Kelly had the options that Cox had in the top of the inning. TK chose to have Gladden bunt, but he fouled twice. After a wide fastball, Dan fouled off two more pitches before popping up Smoltz's 100th pitch to Gant. An unproductive out.
    With one strike on Knoblauch, the Braves pitched out to no avail. Kelly knew that a hit-and-run is hard to accomplish against a high fastball hurler like Smoltz. But he still called it on the next pitch, which Chuck inside-outed just over Bream's glove into RF. Newman coasted into 3rd.
    Cox went to the mound, but Smoltz insisted he could get Puckett. Looking beyond the next batter, Bobby called for Stanton. Smoltz didn't hide his disgust as he flipped the ball to Mike and headed to the dugout. McCarver guessed that Atlanta would walk Puckett, a righthanded hitter, and pitch to Hrbek, who was hitless in his last 15 ABs, 0-for-8 in the Series with runners in scoring position, and had struck out three times against southpaw Stanton. That indeed is what happened.
    Amazingly, the Braves now found themselves in the same bases-loaded, one out jam the Twins faced in the top of the inning.
    The infielders stayed back at 2nd and SS, hoping for a DP as Kent stepped in. Stanton threw a curve that sailed outside. Then the big 1B bounced another curve foul down the 1B line. A ball low and inside made it 2-and-1.
    Hrbek hit a weak line drive that Lemke ran in and to his right to grab on the fly and continue to 2nd to complete the DP. Stanton pumped his fist in celebration. Knoblauch, the Deceiver in the top of the inning, made his own mistake, taking off with the hit to be doubled up easily.
    Kelly: The anxiety level was very high, trying to score a run. If we could score one run, we were probably going to win, but we couldn't score a run. It was getting to be very disturbing. I tried all the tricks, and I couldn't get a run on the board, so I decided, "Well, I'll just wait it out."

9th inning

  • Newman took over at SS.
    Hunter, who had iced his thumb in the dugout when the Braves batted in the 8th, bounced the second pitch to Pagliarulo.
    Olson grounded the first pitch to Newman.
    With the crowd roaring and hankies waving, Morris fanned Lemke on a high outside hard one, his eighth of the inning.
  • No activity in the Minnesota bullpen meant that Jack would return to the hill if the Twins failed to score.
    Kelly told the press after the game: I told him after the ninth, "That's enough, Jack." He said, "TK, I'm fine, I'm fine." I said, "You did enough. It's time for the boys to carry some of the load." He said, "TK, I'm fine. I'm REALLY fine. Then Suchy (pitching coach Dick Such) came by and said, "He's fine. He really is." And I said, "What the hell. It's just another game."
    I was going back out, period, recalled Morris. I was pitching the 10th. They would have had to tear the uniform off me to keep me from going back out.
    Fortunately for Jack, who had thrown 118 pitches at that point, Kelly didn't bother with pitch counts. Instead, he kept track of how much time his starter spent on the mound. TK began to worry when his hurler went past the two-hour mark. But if the Minnesota skipper were to make an exception to his rule, it would be Morris, his workhorse.
    Stanton stayed in to face Davis, who moved to the right-side after going 0-for-3 lefthanded against Smoltz. Chili fought off four two-strike deliveries before driving the ball to RCF. Justice did a good job of grabbing the ball on one big hop, whirling, and throwing to 2nd to hold the batter to a single. Jarvis Brown came out to run at 1st.
    Stanton threw several times to 1st, causing Harper to show bunt. His first pitch to plate handcuffed Olson, who grabbed the high fast ball to keep it from sailing to the backstop. The batter swung at the next fast ball and fouled it back. Would TK return to the bunt? The answer was yes, and he got a surprising dividend. Harper's bunt found the seam between Stanton and the charging Bream into no-man's land between 1st and 2nd. Stanton pulled a muscle in his back tracking down the ball and was helped off as Pena came to the mound.
    1st and 2nd, no out. Would Mack bunt also? He tried on the first pitch but fouled it. Then he hit a bounder that Lemke glided to his left to take. Mark pivoted and threw back to Belliard for one. The flawless relay to 1st completed the DP.
    Lefthanded Pagliarulo got a free pass to 1st.
    The wheels continued to turn as Paul Sorrento hit for Newman. The backup 1B, making his second plate appearance in the Series, swung through the first fastball, then fouled off three more, before foul tipping the next one into Olson's mitt.
    For the first time since 1924 and the third time overall, a World Series 7th game went into extra innings. But this was the first World Series to have three extra inning contests.
    When a reporter asked Kelly after the game whether he thought about taking Morris out after the 9th, TK answered, It probably would have taken a shotgun to get him out. I told him, "What else could you do? What more can you do for us?" The guy tore his guts out for nine innings. He kept saying, "T.K., I'm fine. If I wasn't fine, I'd tell you." I finally said, "What the hell? It's only a game, and I let him go.

10th inning

  • Scott Leius, usually a 3B, played SS.
    The Braves in the dugout had their caps on upside down and backwards to inspire a rally. But Morris needed only eight pitches to retire the side.
    Jeff Blauser pinch-hit for Belliard and popped the first pitch high behind the plate. Harper lost the ball, then found it, and made the catch next to the stands.
    Smith, hoping to make amends for his base-running boo-boo in the 8th, became Morris's eighth K.
    Pendleton bounced to Leius.
    Morris on pitching the 10th: He (Kelly) put his ass on the line by leaving me in there, and you don't realize it at the time. You start reflecting back on the reality of the situation, and even me, if I was managing, I'd say to myself, "Man, I've got Rick Aguilera, who's done a pretty damn good job. What do you do here?" And he did something 99 percent of the baseball world wouldn't do.
  • The Twins now faced their second opportunity for a walkoff championship win.
    Pena returned to the hill, and Blauser stayed in the lineup at SS.
    Gladden broke his bat on the first pitch and hit a popup into LCF. Knowing the ball would take a high hop off the turf, Dan continued to 2nd and just beat Gant's throw.
    Gladden: The bat broke on the handle, about six inches above my hands. It was a little flare in front of Hunter and Gant, and I was digging right out of the batter's box. I was going to second as soon as I realized that the bat had broken. I know I surprised some people, even some in my own dugout, but I had played in that ballpark long enough to know where the ball was going and what would probably happen next on that turf. I knew I was good unless it was somehow caught, and I really didn't see that happening. By that point, frankly, I was tired of playing too. I had to get to second base somehow - just try to end things.
    Puckett said later, That was Dan Gladden - all or nothing.
    Morris on Gladden's baserunning: That took guts or stupidity, one of the two. He willed that to happen, and, if he wasn't on second base, I don't know if the outcome would have been the same. After that, Cox had to manage different. Everything had to change because he's standing on second base.
    Jim Clancy and Kent Merker, righty and lefty, got up quickly and started throwing in the Atlanta bullpen.
    Would Knoblauch bunt? He turned around to do so but took a high hard one for ball one. 3B coach Ron Gardenhire gave a new set of signs, but the result was the same. This time Chuck pulled the bat back and took a strike.
    In the Twins dugout, Kelly muttered, Bunt the damn ball.
    The third pitch was the charm, as the 2B laid the ball down to Pendleton, who threw to 1st while Gladden headed to the uncovered bag at 3B.
    The Braves may have been conceding 3rd base to Gladden by having Pendleton charge on the bunt instead of wheeling the opposite way and having the P cover the 3B line. If they had done that, Pena may have nailed the runner at 3rd.
    Cox and coach Jimy Williams conferred in the dugout and decided to do the obvious: Walk Puckett and Hrbek to set up a force at the plate and pitch to Jarvis Brown.
    But Kelly wouldn't let that happen. He batted infielder Gene Larkin, a lefthanded hitter, in place of the righthander, Brown. With a swollen left knee, Larkin could hardly run, making him vulnerable to a double play.
    Larkin had been swinging a bat for a long time in the runway leading back to the home clubhouse. The tendinitis was really bad, he recalled. By that point of that season I couldn't play defense or run the bases hardly at all. If anything, I felt fortunate to be in uniform frankly. I could have easily been left off the (World Series) roster. In fact, Twins management had strongly considered that option, but Kelly liked Gene's grit to play through pain and the methodical way he approached each at-bat.
    Larkin grew up a Yankees fan and played for Lou Gehrig's alma mater, Columbia. In fact, he had broken Lou's school record for HRs.
    I knew I was getting the call, said Larkin. It was nothing extraordinary in how it happened. TK just called my name, and I went up there. But I'll tell ya in the on-deck circle, my knees were shaking, and when I'm walking to the batter's box, I'm still shaking. You cannot tell when you see it on replay, but I was as nervous as an athlete can be right then. But the funny thing was, once I stepped into the batter's box, a sense of calm came over me. It wasn't like I hadn't been in a situation like that before. Certainly not as big as that - seventh game of the World Series. But I took a deep breath, and mentally I was telling myself that I had to hit the first pitch fastball that Pena gave me. I didn't want to get into a situation where it was two strikes, and the umpire could come into it.
    Mazzoni ran out for a quick confab with Pena.
    The Braves infield looked confused as to how to play it. Finally, they played halfway at 2nd and SS and tight on the corners.
    But it made no difference as Larkin smacked the first pitch, a tailing fast ball, high into LCF. As soon as the ball left the bat, Jack Buck proclaimed, "The Twins are gonna win the World Series." Hunter ran after the ball but didn't come close as it dropped a few feet short of the warning track. Even if he had caught it, Gladden would have tagged up and scored easily. Dan ran home as players from the 3B dugout raced past him to congratulate Larkin. Gladden punctuated the victory by jumping on the plate with both feet as his teammates, led by Morris with his glove and hat still in his hands, greeted him. Meanwhile, Pena dropped his head and walked slowly toward the 1B dugout.
    FINAL SCORE: TWINS 1 BRAVES 0
    Larkin: Pena's history was that he liked to get ahead of the hitter. With the bases loaded, he doesn't want to walk me. His best pitch was a fastball. And fortunately for me, he threw a fastball up and out over the plate, which is the perfect pitch to put a fly ball into play. It would have been a routine fly ball if the outfield was at normal depth. Once I put the bat on the ball, I knew it would be far enough out into LF to drive Danny from 3B. It was going to carry over Hunter's head, and I didn't have to worry any more about running. Right then and there, I knew we were going to win the game and be World Series champions. There's no greater feeling than when you know that's about to happen to you, to your team. ... When I look back on it, I think I was swinging the bat for every average or even below-average player who ever played this game. I just got the chance to come through.
    Morris
    : I remember the noise, the jubilation, the feeling you have for your teammates. It's just pure joy. It was such a wonderful baseball game that it was just fitting for that Series to end with such a brilliant game. It shouldn't have been any other way. ... I felt like it was for us, for Minnesota, and I was so proud and happy to be a part of it. It was never a "me" thing on that team or in that city. It was always "we" and we won that World Series. ...
    As the Twins made a victory lap around the field, Jack spotted his parents and his sons in the stands. His younger son, Erik, a grade-schooler, was crying. Morris went closer to find out why. What's wrong? he asked the boy. He said, "Dad, I'm so happy." There's nothing better.

Larkin smacks his winning hit, and Gladden rejoices at 3rd.

Twins mob Larkin.
Postgame

Twins Clubhouse

  • Kelly: It was a storybook ballgame. The whole series was like a storybook. When commissioner Fay Vincent presented the championship trophy, Tom added: We played it out, chapter 7. I don't know which team player better. By rights, they should cut this thing in half and give half to us and half to the Braves. ...I don't know who the better team is. All I know is we scored a run. It was a storybook Series and a storybook game. ... I don't think there's a classier bunch of people than the Braves. I'm not just blowing smoke because I don't do that. But when Lonnie Smith shook Brian Harper's hand and said, "Let's have a good one," that was class. It starts at the top in the front office from Bobby Cox to John Schuerholz on down. It was unbelievable.
    On Morris, the Series MVP: To pitch ten innings on three days' rest against a Braves team of that caliber is quite a remarkable effort.
  • Vincent said this series was as good as I've seen and placed in the same class with '75, '67, and '60. He took the opportunity to renew his fight against the DH, saying the home-field edge is a result of "two games" (DH in AL city, no DH in NL) being played in the same Series. You should play one format, he said.
  • Morris: Somebody had to go home a loser, but there's no loser in my mind. Those are two of the greatest teams. I just didn't want to quit. Somehow, we found a way to win this thing. ... It still hasn't sunk in yet. I'm sure it will someday. It was a beautiful, beautiful game, a flat out classic in every aspect. ... Tom said I was out after nine. I told him I had a lot left and tomorrow we don't play. Asked how he managed to wiggle out of the jams, Jack said, You just concentrate after every pitch. You don't give up. Could he have pitched longer? I'm glad I didn't have to.
  • The Twins broke into a rendition of Queen's "We Are the Champions."

Braves Clubhouse

  • Cox: We had numerous opportunities to win that ballgame. We just didn't get the big hit. ... Morris would get into jams, and each time he worked out of them. ... I hate to come out on the short end of it, but we did. We're all a little bit frustrated and mad.
    On Smith's baserunning gaffe: Why he stopped, I just don't know.
    Bobby refused to blame his relievers. The bullpen was outstanding. They're not to blame.
  • Smoltz said it was hard to realize all the Braves accomplished at the moment. It's tough right now. Especially with another team over there celebrating. You never think about losing. But if we don't learn from this, there is something wrong.
  • Lemke: It's a sad ending to a great story for us. But you've got to lift yourself back up. This was a classic as far as I'm concerned. You've got to feel good about being part of one of the great World Series in history.
  • Asked what he was thinking about, Justice replied, The lost opportunities. We battled and battled. We came so close ...
  • Pendleton, who was 0-8 in the Metrodome: I hope I never have to play another Series game here - unless I'm on the Twins. I'm tired of being a bridesmaid.
    Two days later, Smith gave his side of the baserunning story to a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter. What nobody realizes is I was going with the pitch on a delayed steal. I got about halfway, and I heard the sound of the bat. I made the mistake of not looking in when I started running. I just assumed that the ball would be hit on the ground.
Both cities held celebrations, as was fitting for such a sensational World Series.
  • First, about 5,000 fans turned out to welcome the Braves home at the Atlanta airport at 4:30 AM of the morning. Amazing, said Lemke. Win, lose, or draw, they were with us. It's nice to think that so many people would be up to see us.
  • An estimated 240,000 fans who packed Twin Cities streets Tuesday, October 29, to hail the World Series champions. A cavalcade of pickup trucks carried the Twins through the downtowns of both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Many waved their Homer Hankies and at times surged into the streets to exchange handshakes and high fives with players. I've got goose bumps all over. This is the greatest! said Mike Pagliarulo. The wintry (mid-30s) weather kept the crowd to about half the 500,000 who jammed the streets to cheer the '87 champions. Police described the crowds as much more good-natured than those in '87 when many threw objects at the Twins and terrified their wives.

    Jack Morris with his two sons in the Twins victory parade
  • Nearly 750,000 attended a parade that same day in downtown Atlanta. Trans-Lux of Connecticut donated 100 miles of ticker tape to the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce for the occasion. Almost 3,500 people participated in the procession, including more than a dozen marching bands, floats with a baseball motif, tomahawk brigades, and tom-tom teams. A contingent of twins (the biological kind) carried banners that said "Twins Salute the Braves." The centerpiece of the parade was the convertibles carrying the Braves players, coaches, and their families. Coca Cola, headquartered in Atlanta, produced Classic Coke cans featuring the Braves logo, the silhouette of a baseball player, and the World Series emblem.
  • On Wednesday, the Twins traveled to Washington where President George H. W. Bush, a baseball player at Yale, hosted them at the White House.
Postscript
The Minnesota and Atlanta franchises went in opposite directions after 1991. Or, rather, the Braves stayed at the top while the Twins sank again.
  • Under Bobby Cox, the Braves won the NL West again in '92 and '93. After switching to the NL East when the league expanded in '94, they won their division an unprecedented 11 years in a row. After losing the Series again in '92, they won it in '95 but lost to the Yankees in both the '96 and '98 Fall Classics.
  • The Twins have never returned to the World Series. Assigned to the five-team AL Central in '94, they didn't finish above 4th until 2001, when they rose to 2nd in Kelly's last season at the helm.
1991 World Champion Minnesota Twins
References:I Love This Game: My Life in Baseball, Kirby Puckett (1993)
The Seventh Game, Barry Levenson (2004)
"Strong Arms, Long Memories for Smoltz and Morris," Tyler Kepner, New York Times, May 7, 2011
"Jack Morris and Tom Kelly relive Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, Kelsie Smith, Twin Cities Pioneer Press, August 4, 2011
"Greatest World Series Moments: Greatest Game Ever Part 2," baseball.blogspot.com, 11/3/2012
Down to the Last Pitch: How the 1991 Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves Gave Us the Best World Series of All Time, Tim Wendel (2014)
"The Game I'll Never Forget," Jack Morris as told to Barry Rozner, Baseball Digest July/August 2015
"Former Twins manager Tom Kelly: I 'took the game of baseball very personal.'" As told to Bob Sansevere, Twin Cities Pioneer Press, November 9, 2015
"Still a Series to Savor," Steve Rushin, Sports Illustrated, October 24, 2016
Next in this series: 1997 Indians @ Marlins