Reminiscing with Lemke about 1991 World Series

LemmerWS

Lemmer gets mobbed after scoring winning run in bottom of the ninth in Game 4

With the World Series set to begin between the Tigers and Giants, thought I would share excerpts from a recent interview I did with former Brave Mark Lemke, one of the heroes of the 1991 Braves World Series team that charmed this city and re-defined the course of this franchise. That was the first of a record 14 straight division titles won by the Braves.

On Lemke’s poignant memories from that postseason:

“The biggest thing that sticks out to me obviously is the final catch when we finally clinched. David Justice catching the ball, (John) Smoltz and (Greg) Olson (embracing), that kind of stuff sticks out, and obviously the great pitching up in Pittsburgh by (Steve) Avery and Smoltz. But the thing that sticks out the most to me was how packing your bags was surreal for that trip to Pittsburgh because the trip continued on if you win. And we were down three games to two. I’m not saying you don’t think you’re going on, but it seems like ‘How far can this little miracle season go?’ And then I’ll never forget me and Ron Gant saying to each other when we were boarding the plane in Pittsburgh: ‘We’re going to the World Series,’ because you’re thinking you’re boarding it and going back to Atlanta. We boarded it and went to Minnesota.”

On his role with the team late that season:

“Really how it went that year, me and Rafe (now Tigers infield coach Rafael Belliard) would come in as defensively replacements for (Jeff) Blauser and (Jeff) Tread (way). The seventh, eighth or ninth, those guys would get their at-bats, Jeff and Jeff, then me and Rafe would go in the game for defense…I think that role might have played into being able to perform in the pressure situations because all season long, the hardest innings to play for a defensive guy are those late innings because nobody wants to make the boot in a one-run game. So I think pressure-wise you got used to it. Me and Rafe used to kid each other and say, ‘This is kind of a tough job, you know?’ We’d sit around for seven innings, then we’d go in for the last two. Then basically you’re in there because you’re not supposed to miss a ball.’

On what made him so successful that World Series; he hit .417 (10-for-24) with one double, three triples and four RBIs, and would have been MVP had the Braves won:

“I enjoyed the ‘91 World Series. I think part of me said ‘These are the things that you’ve done everything your whole life for. You get this opportunity once in a lifetime.’ I always remember the sign in spring training in West Palm Beach where the minor league clubhouse was, that always hit me when I’d walk in there. It said ‘Preparation meets opportunity.’ So to me I was ready for the opportunity. We had other superstars, so right away that took a lot of pressure off me. I would in turn look out at the pitcher and say, ‘The pressure’s on you. We all know who the big bats are. You have to get me out.’”

On actually hitting even better in the 1996 NLCS when the Braves came back from 3-1 down to beat the Cardinals (Lemke hit .444, 12-for-27, with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs):

“I was batting second. I felt more comfortable, like ‘Wow, I’ve moved up in this order.’ You’re not going to play in the NLCS with a weak hitter hitting second, so it gave me a lot of confidence. Marquis Grissom was getting on base all the time. Then put yourself in a pitcher’s position. You’ve got Marquis Grissom on first, Mark Lemke at the plate and behind him you’ve got Chipper Jones, Fred McGriff, Dave Justice, Ryan Klesko, Javy Lopez. You think I would maybe get a little cookie thrown up there for me? I don’t think you’re walking him. That’s how I used to always evaluate. I’d always say to myself, ‘They’re not pitching around you buddy, so get ready to swing.’”

Lemke and Justice at the parade down Peachtree in 1991

Lemke and Justice at the parade down Peachtree in 1991

On what that 1991 World Series meant to this city:

“I don’t think you can duplicate that kind of emotion that ran through the city of Atlanta at that time. It was like nothing I’d ever seen or experienced before in my life. I still don’t think I’ll ever have as big of an adrenaline rush as what was going on at Fulton County Stadium and around the city of Atlanta. I remember not just coming home and being greeted at the airport at 2 o’clock in the morning. But you’re going by, watching a chain gang working on the side of the road, and they stopped, put their tools down, and tomahawk chopped the bus. It was ridiculous the way the city just went crazy.”

On losing what’s considered one of the best World Series ever played in Game 7 against the Twins:

“That was a heartbreak losing that. I always wondered what would have happened had we won. Would we have gotten fat and happy, soft? It (left) the hunger there. You think about it. I don’t believe Minnesota did anything after that. It kept going on for us as long as it did. I know we’d like to have won more World Series, but boy, that certainly started one heck of a run that I don’t think will ever be duplicated.”

- Carroll Rogers

49 comments Add your comment

retired

October 24th, 2012
5:34 pm

thanks Mark and DOB

Tumbledown

October 24th, 2012
5:42 pm

Actually, thanks to Mark and Carroll!! I remember fondly the good ole days of Braves’ playoff baseball. Like Mark, I wonder too what would have resulted if the Braves had won that 91 WS.

Just Pat

October 24th, 2012
5:47 pm

Ahhhhh..the Lemmer…..one of my favorite 2nd basemen……along with Glenn Hubbard!

Gil in Mechanicsville

October 24th, 2012
6:16 pm

Great memories that year, as disappointed as I was with losing, I was still so appreciative of the great season the Braves had provided to their fans. Further proof it is tough to beat a good team and the umpires both in the same game..

AdirondackDave

October 24th, 2012
6:20 pm

Always good to hear the Lemmer’s comments. He’s a good ole Utica-area (NY) boy. We are still proud of him.

Braves' Nation

October 24th, 2012
6:22 pm

No World Series appearance since 1999, when Bill Clinton was in the White House.

Reminisce is about all we can do these days, especially in October.

I wish Lemmer were on secondbase now, instead of Dan “Dead Weight” Uggla.

Choppinmama

October 24th, 2012
6:26 pm

Thanks Carroll and Mark for that walk down the memory basepaths!! That year was so unreal and so much fun to win, win, win. I worked in Marietta across from the gate to Dobbins AFB on Hwy. 41. The AF hung a huge tomahawk from the front nose antenna thingy that was on the big jet parked outside the gate. Saw it every morning and evening and loved it! It was so great watching “Dirt” and the boys play out of their minds that year.

Stuck a coathanger down the middle of a foam tomahawk when I got my hands on one and pushed it down over my radio antenna! Sported one every postseason from that year til we moved. Had a few “borrowed” and lots ripped to shreds on the drive.

It’s still great to see The Lemmer around the field, on radio and on tv during the season.

moss willis

October 24th, 2012
8:08 pm

Ahhhhh..the Lemmer…..one of my favorite 2nd basemen……along with Glenn Hubbard!
————————————————–
and Felix Milan

moss willis

October 24th, 2012
8:09 pm

I wish Lemmer were on secondbase now, instead of Dan “Dead Weight” Uggla.
———————————–
i 2nd that

Nerdville

October 24th, 2012
8:28 pm

Seeing Omar play second base for the Tigers in the WS reminds me of just what an idiot Wren was for trading away Omar, who made the All Star Team as a utility player, for Dan “Pop Up” Uggla. Omar is better defensively and offensively that Danny boy.

extremus

October 24th, 2012
8:28 pm

1991 was the greatest World Series ever played, in my humble opinion. Both teams played excellently and hard-nosed (example: the Lonnie Smith collision at the plate).

Even so, watching replays of that Series still hurts, and for more than the simple reason that the Braves got so close. Two key plays that may or may not have affected the outcome of games and ultimately the World Series itself unfortunately went against them. First there was the infamous incident where Kent Hrbek bodily lifted Ron Gant off of first base as he ran back in ahead of the ball; the umpire called Gant out against all common sense and a potential Braves rally died on the spot. The seventh game’s mistake, though, was the real killer; Lonnie Smith getting deked by the shortstop on a ball hit into the gap that he very well may have scored from first on. If Smith comes in to score in that inning, John Smoltz beats Jack Morris 1-0 in what would still have been a remarkable Game 7.
Alas, it didn’t happen that way.

Only a few years ago (maybe less), the stadium crew of the Metrodome admitted to having turned the big fans beyond the outfield seats on and off depending on who was batting to favor the Twins. Could Kirby Puckett’s Game 6 winner or perhaps another Twins homer have possibly benefited from that little edge; conversely, could any of those Lemke gappers or other Braves drives have turned out to go over the fence if all things were equal? Again, we’ll never know, but such an admission certainly rubbed salt in those old wounds.

Sour grapes, maybe, but if the Braves had won the 1991 World Series I sincerely doubt there would be nearly as much harping about winning 14 straight division titles and having only a single World Series win to show for it. But from 1991 on, no team in baseball got so agonizingly close and endured so many tight contests only to fall just short of the ultimate prize so many times. Would it have been different had they gotten that monkey off their back in 1991?

Again, we’ll never know. But perhaps of all those great 1990s Braves teams, none captured my heart and the hearts of Braves fans like that ‘91 squad. They played with passion against huge odds (they were dead last in their division the previous year with the second-worst record in MLB, and were a game below .500, in 4th place, and not even mentioned in the running for the NL West at the All-Star break before they caught fire), outstripping a very good Dodgers team, beating a Pirates team that had dominated the season series against them (something like 8-4 or 9-3), and then playing their hearts out on baseball’s biggest stage against another “worst to first” team, the Minnesota Twins. Atlanta Fulton County Stadium thundered with the Chop for the first time ever. It was a special year; it genuinely felt like it SHOULD have been the Braves’ year.

I still smile when I remember a sports line that called the ‘91 Braves “the Outdoor World Champions of Major League Baseball” in reference to their sweep of the games in Atlanta. Not to take away from a Twins team that was just as talented and played every bit as hard, but the venue of that seventh and deciding game may very well have made all the difference.

Tumbledown

October 24th, 2012
8:34 pm

Awesome post extremus!!

the truth...

October 24th, 2012
8:58 pm

My blood still boils when I see that Hrbek cheat pull Gant off of the base……….even McCarver says it’s a bad call……….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VKXIdYHkj4

dawg4u

October 24th, 2012
8:59 pm

Fine article Carroll. I agree with Lemmer that is was that Braves fever and tomahawk chop were rampant. September and October of 1991 is still to this day the most energized that I have ever seen the city of Atlanta. Also I think this team and players were the most beloved by the fans that I can remember. We went from lovable losers to “worst to first winners.” I will never forget the parade on Peachtree after we lost the WS. There must have been a half million people on the streets saluting our Braves. It was a scene not recaptured even when we finally won the WS in ‘95. 1991 is the one year that I will never forget as a long time Braves fan.

dawg4u

October 24th, 2012
9:06 pm

Typo I meant to say – I Agree with Lemmer that Braves fever and tomahawk chop were rampant.

the truth...

October 24th, 2012
10:16 pm

How many of you remember the 24 hour “indian” drum group at the stadium?

Or how about the 75 foot long or so giant tomahawk out in the area between old Fulton County stadium and the street? It was place there by one of the radio stations I believe….thousands of us autographed it…..

yes….those were good times….and Lemmer was an integral part of it.

Mitchell

October 24th, 2012
10:41 pm

Oh, right. The ‘91 Braves.

They hardly ever get mentioned in this town.

Can we move on from Worst to First?

It’s over.

Ancient freaking history.

I’m done with the endless comparisons to the ‘91 Braves.

“The ‘91 Braves overcame a 9.5 game deficit to win the division…”

Yeah, they also had Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.

Enough.

Mitchell

October 24th, 2012
10:50 pm

But from 1991 on, no team in baseball got so agonizingly close and endured so many tight contests only to fall just short of the ultimate prize so many times. Would it have been different had they gotten that monkey off their back in 1991?

I think that goes without saying.

Mitchell

October 24th, 2012
10:51 pm

Yes, I believe it would have been very different.

the truth...

October 24th, 2012
11:03 pm

Mitchell

Go away please, just go away…………

Cecil34

October 25th, 2012
8:10 am

The 1991 World Series was the only one I ever attended – never thought a WS would be in Atlanta up till then.

Braves' Nation

October 25th, 2012
9:27 am

Omar Infante for Dan Uggla.

Mark Texeira for Casey Kotchman.

Nate McLouth. Derek Lowe. Kinchen Kawakami.

And Frank Wren gets an extension …

What washed-up hasbeen will he acquire to replace Chipper’s bat, or Bourn’s speed in CF?

No Flag Since Lemke

October 25th, 2012
10:13 am

The Lemmer is the ‘91 Series MVP but for Charlie Leibrandt’s gopher ball and “Skates” Smith’s inept base running.

JoshTown

October 25th, 2012
10:26 am

Thanks Carroll! Way to go Lemmer! I was 10 years old during the 91 season, and it couldn’t have been a better time to be a Braves fan here in Atlanta. Here we are some 21 years later, and it still gives me goosebumps. Go Braves!

[...] Reminiscing with Lemke about 1991 World Series [...]

wheelz007

October 25th, 2012
11:15 am

Lemke makes a good point – maybe winning one of those first two World Series would have made the team/ organization “fat” and “happy”.

Losing those first 2 World Series kept everyone hungry, kept the chase going.

But could you imagine how that team would be remembered now if they had won World Series Championships in ‘91, ‘95 and ‘96?

And realistically, we could have won those 3.

wheelz007

October 25th, 2012
11:59 am

The ‘96 Series was well within our grasp. Up 2 games to 1 going into Game #4.

Braves were up 6-0 going into the 6th inning and the wheels came off. The Braves would lose Game 4 8-6 in 10 innings.

Then we lost Game #5, also at home, 1-0.

Braves lost all 3 games at home, after winning Games 1 and 2 in NY.

ChillyMutt

October 25th, 2012
12:05 pm

“Dirt” is one of my all time favorites.

urban redneck

October 25th, 2012
2:31 pm

got a ball signed by lemmer last summer………his wife is smokin hot.

dean

October 25th, 2012
2:38 pm

“Here we are some 21 years later, and it still gives me goosebumps.”

Yeah. Me too.

ChipperisGod

October 25th, 2012
8:28 pm

Makes me hungry for a return trip. We’ve got to do something, anything to get over this playoff hump that we haven’t been able to break through since 2001. I’m excited for next year’s team because of our more stabilized rotation and the hopeful continued growth of Freddie and Jason. I think next year has the chance to be something special. World Series? Who knows? But whatever happens, I’m really hoping we can break through the playoff drought and capture another championship. Really, really hope so.

Tired of the postseason heartbreak. Worst part about this year was, was that in the past teams beat us because they hit better or pitched better. This year we were so much better than the Cards and because they couldn’t beat us, we beat ourselves.

BravesFanSince80s

October 25th, 2012
10:07 pm

Lemke to manage 2013!

PMC

October 25th, 2012
10:32 pm

1991 was the best world series of my lifetime. I’m not sure we will ever see anything like that season ever again.

Ultra

October 26th, 2012
9:14 am

This article brings back some good memories, but opens up more painful wounds for me. I was proud of the team for what they did in 1991, despite the heartbreaking loss to Minnesota, but after getting my heart stomped on again in ‘92, ‘93, ‘96, and so on, it became more and more difficult to invest my emotions into Braves baseball.

The numerous post-season flame outs of the past 13 seasons, capped by the Braves’ stinker of a game vs. the Cardinals in the wild card game this year, has broken my baseball spirit. I just can’t invest my emotions like I used to do. It’s just too difficult for me.

I realize that many Braves fans are able to continue as huge fans despite the numerous post-season heartbreaks, but I don’t have the mental fortitude to do so. I just can’t be a big baseball fan anymore.

Still, I am very proud of Mark Lemke and the Braves from that 1991 team. What a wonderful season, one that will give me happy memories despite the heartbreak of the 1-0 loss in game 7 to the Twins.

DeepDiver

October 26th, 2012
10:06 am

Ultra, just go in expecting disappointment. After the 14 year run I have so much scar tissue built up that seeing another team celebrate on our field is no longer such a bitter pill.

At least the fans stepped in this year and made sure the Cards took that crap to the clubhouse!

And we served up a cold dish to the city of Minnesota when Chris Chandler, Jam and the Dirty Birds shocked the world in ‘99.

DeepDiver

October 26th, 2012
10:08 am

To the point of the article, however, I don’t think I will ever see such a scene again in my lifetime. What a time it was in ‘91.

bill

October 26th, 2012
12:39 pm

I hate the twins because they are an arrogant lot who admitted the fan gate. Hrbek pulled off first and Kirby I only used steroids a little Puckett making his chemically aided catch and homer. Recently the Twins had a bobblehead celebrating the cheating Hrbek and the bad call by a bad umpire. That is the lowest possible example of sportsmanship from a family organization. Child to dad .Did we really cheat the Braves? Well only a little. Now go get your bobblehead and remember to be good sport and tell the truth.

bill

October 26th, 2012
12:42 pm

One of my best sports memories is game 2 of the 1992 series. We lost but what a great atmosphere. Thanks for those memories. I felt sorry for Andy Van Slyke on MLBTV when he was discussing the post season loss to the Braves. He was gentleman in pain.

bill

October 26th, 2012
12:48 pm

At least we are not the biggest underacievrs of all time…the Cincinnatti big red machine. HOPers at every position and they could not beat the A’s or the Mats.

Tumbledown

October 26th, 2012
1:42 pm

But, the Reds won back-to-back World Series in 1975 and 1976. That is no small feat!

Robert

October 26th, 2012
1:47 pm

“Two key plays that may or may not have affected the outcome of games and ultimately the World Series itself unfortunately went against them”

Oh here we frickin go – twenty years later and oh the poor Braves ever the victims – - the umpires, the grounds crew, the pebble in the infield, that dasterdly Kent Hrbek – it was all their fault – that and lots and lots of bad luck

Tumbledown

October 26th, 2012
2:03 pm

Oh here we go again – people complaining about others who post their opinion and recollections on past Braves’ moments (postings which are particularly on point given the article). Will the madness stop?

DW

October 26th, 2012
3:45 pm

The Lemmer was a great post season player (one of the best for the Braves).

dnalkcirts

October 26th, 2012
4:24 pm

I was there at game 4. I was 7 years old. It changed my Life forever! Lemmer slid in I didn’t even see it, but I knew what happened. Everyone jumped up and someone from the deck above us spilled beer all over my head. IT WAS MY FIRST BEER YA’LL

Ken Stallings

October 26th, 2012
7:00 pm

Bobby Cox reserved perhaps his most lavish praise for Lemke when he called him “the original dirt player!”

Lemke was Bobby’s kind of player, a hard working over-achiever with an excellent glove, reliable arm, and a spunk to hit in the clutch. This also made him a fan favorite. It was impossible not to admire the man and appreciate what he brought to the team and the game.

Nice column! A real joy to read!

gy6

October 27th, 2012
12:24 am

the first of many Booby Ball failures. We just didn’t know it at the time.

JA770

October 27th, 2012
7:48 pm

Mark Lemke is a class act all the way. Always has been. Gracious when posing for pictures, friendly when being asked for an autograph, this guy is a real gem. You can have your Glavines all day long. The Lemmer is a role model for kids and adults alike. Would love to see him as a Braves Coach.

Remley

October 27th, 2012
10:36 pm

Thanks for the great article Carol, typical Lemer modest and unassuming. Bottom line he produced when given the chance. Hope he gets to do some more color commenting on the radio next year.

nike norge

October 7th, 2013
3:30 am

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