Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Memorable Moments: Otis Nixon

I guess the third time really is the charm.

After failing to win two previous auctions on a 2013 Archives Otis Nixon auto, I finally succeeded in adding the card to my collection. For less than $6/delivered.

As I mentioned in a post last year, Otis was featured on not one, but five different cards in the '13 Archives set. It was an inclusion that still puzzles me. Besides the Fan Favorites auto, he was included in the Tall Boys, Fan Favorites SP, 4-in-1 Stickers and the Dual Fan Favorites (w/ B.J. Upton).

So in honor of picking up the fifth and final Otis Nixon card from last year's set, I'm going to post my five most memorable moments from Nixon's career with the Braves.

5-The 'Divorce' 

Otis was romantically involved with a woman who claimed that she was pregnant with his child and that the two had entered into a "common-law" marriage. The woman, Melissa Alfred, decided she was going to 'divorce' Nixon and seek his house, car, alimony and future child support. Apparently, the young woman was married at the time that the supposed 'common-law' marriage took place. The law suit was dropped.

4-Bunt to end the World Series

This one might have ranked higher (#3), had it not hurt so damned much. 

The final play of the 1992 season- the final play of the World Series- ended on a bunt. With the tying run on third. A bunt which the Toronto pitcher, Mike Timlin, easily fielded to get the speedy Nixon out at first.

 I remember sitting there- staring at the television- unable to speak. I was shocked. Only ten days earlier, I- and countless other Atlanta fans- had tasted victory in a way that was almost as shocking as this night. Only this time, there would be no joy in Mudville. Or Atlanta. Or Caldwell, Idaho.

It's easy to be the whipping boy when things go wrong like that. Heck, Atlanta would not have been in a position to tie the game had Nixon not drove in Jeff Blauser with the tying run in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, two-strike single off of Toronto reliever Tom Henke. 

For a man who missed out on an opportunity of a lifetime only twelve months earlier, Otis was able to keep things in perspective: he might have been disappointed with the outcome, but he was just thankful for the opportunity to be in the position to have an impact on the game.

3-Major-League Record Six Steals in a Game

The Atlanta center fielder tied a Major League Baseball record for stolen bases in a game with six (tying Hall of Famer Eddie Collin's record), which came against his former team (Montreal) on June 16th, 1991.

Nixon would also go on to obliterate the Atlanta season record for stolen bases that year- swiping 72 bases- as well as the franchise record of 57 (set by Boston's Ralph Myers 1913 total).

2- Flying Drop Kick Against the Phillies' Wally Ritchie on Dale Murphy Night

 The story of the night was supposed to be former Brave and Philly great, Dale Murphy. Instead, it was remembered for a brawl.

 The Braves honored Murph earlier in the evening as the former star returned (for the first time since being traded) to the place where he won back-to-back MVP awards and was viewed as an icon. But all the love was forgotten in the eighth inning, when Philadelphia reliever Wally Ritchie brushed Nixon back on his first pitch of the night. Having to be calmed down by home plate umpire Gary Darling, Otis stepped back into the box- only to be hit in the knee on the very next pitch. This time, there was no stopping him. Quicker than you can say, "cocaine," Nixon landed a flying drop kick that tore into Ritchie's shirt with his cleats (leaving several welts in his side), as well as three punches to the back of the pitcher's head.

"All I know is, Otis Nixon beat the living shit out of him and that made me happy, " Braves manager Bobby Cox would say later.

A couple of weeks later, while facing the Phillies on the road, Nixon was once again hit by a pitch- this time by current Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell. In the bottom-half of the inning, Tom Glavine threw four halfhearted brushback pitches at Murphy (who led off the bottom of the ninth). The incident led to Glavine's ejection. No brawls broke out.

1- The Catch

With Atlanta holding a 1-0 lead against the Pirates in the top of the ninth on July 25, 1992- and needing only two more outs to secure a franchise-best 13 game winning streak- Pittsburgh center fielder Andy Van Slyke appeared to have given the Pirates the lead with a two-run homer to center. But at the crack of the bat, Nixon had turned and sprinted towards the fence, planted his spikes into the outfield wall, pushing himself high enough to grab the ball as it carried over the fence and pulling it back in with his glove. The media called it 'The Catch'- and so it has been know as ever since.

Here is the link to the video. I love Skip's call and David Justice's reaction to 'The Catch.'

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