Alas, Neon Deion (or Prime Time if you prefer) never had a walk-off RBI in his 641-game MLB career. So I’ve decided that telling a story of a walk-off in which Sanders scored the winning run is good enough.
Fortunately there’s a game that doesn’t disappoint. My guess is that it’s forgotten by many, because it was played in the strike-shortened 1994 season. It’s also a game whose ending most fans of the home team’s fans didn’t see.
The host Braves trailed the Phillies 8-1 in the bottom of the ninth inning on May 10 of that year. This was meant to be a loss, a day in which Kent Mercker, Mark Wohlers and Steve Bedrosian combined to give up eight runs.
But as were the ways of the 1990s Braves, they found ways to win this sort of game sometimes. The way they won this one was a little wacky.
The Braves scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth before making an out. The last three came in on rookie Mike Mordecai’s three-run home run, which was his first career hit.
The tying run came in when Javy Lopez singled just over the glove of Phillies first baseman John Kruk, plating Sanders with the tying run.
Over the next five-and-a-half innings, neither team could score. Phillies reliever Mike Williams survived four hits and five walks to pitch four scoreless innings. Mike Stanton matched that with four scoreless of his own.
The first two batters in the Braves’ 15th made outs, but Sanders then doubled on a 3-0 pitch and stole third after an intentional walk to Dave Gallagher forced Stanton to the plate.
Stanton was a decent hitter, one who ended his career 8-for-24. They weren’t all pretty hits.
After the stolen base, Stanton bunted. Or did something resembling bunting.
The writer Thomas Stinson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution described the quality of the bunt as “an artistic atrocity.”
It was a pop up, an ugly bloop. Ugly, but perfectly placed. Phillies third baseman Dave Hollins had come charging in to field what he thought would be a ground ball. The bunt went right over his head and landed untouched.
Sanders came home with the winning run and the Braves had an improbable victory.
There’s one other cool story to go with this game, as documented by Stinton in the AJC. He noted that Bedrosian’s six-year-old son, Cody, was at the game that night and threw out the first pitch to his father. Cody Bedrosian battled leukemia during his childhood and was well known to members of the Braves. It wasn’t a great start to the day, given that his father gave up a 481-foot grand slam to Pete Incaviglia. But the finish made up for it and then some.
“Cody came up and gave me a hug,” Stanton told reporters afterwards. “And I said this night was for him – because it was before the game even started. Winning just made it better.”
Steve Bedrosian later told Jack Wilkinson for the book Game of My Life: Memorable Stories of Braves Baseball: “Deion Sanders was the biggest person who befriended Cody … Deion and Mike Stanton. A lot of people look at Deion in a different way. But if you get to know him, he’s a great guy. I don’t know if it’s because he played two sports or rubbed people the wrong way. But he made Cody sparkle.”
Cody Bedrosian survived his battle. If my check of LinkedIn is correct, he’s currently working for Turner Sports in television commercial scheduling and placement.