In Game two of the 1991 World Series between the Minnesota Twins and the Altanta Braves, Brave outfielder Ron Gant singled and rounded the bag, drawing a throw to first base. He appeared to beat the throw to the bag, but the Twins’ jumbo first baseman, Kent Hrbek, wrapped his arm around Gant’s leg and lifted him off the base as he applied the tag. First base umpire Drew Coble managed to completely miss Hrbek’s illegal tactic, and called Gant out to end the inning. The Twins went on to win that game by one run, and in one of the closest Series of all time, also won the World Championship, 4 games to 3.
Hrbek’s muscling of Gant off of first base has been widely regarded as one of the most egregious examples of cheating by a player in baseball’s 130 year history. So, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Minnesota World Series triumph, the Twins will hold a special “1991 World Series Champs Reunion Weekend” promotion featuring members of the 1991 team at the August 5 game, and the first 10,000 fans through the gates will receive a free Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant bobblehead, depicting the infamous play.
A new low, I’d say. Braves director of public relations Beth Marshall (no relation) told the Minnesota Star Tribune that “we begrudgingly gave our approval [to the design] because, although it wasn’t a great moment in Braves history, it was for the Twins!”
Really, Beth? The organization’s official positions is that a Twins player cheating in the World Series is “a great moment,” presumably because the Twins benefited and he got away with it thanks to poor umpiring. What a rotten message to convey to young Twin fans, and baseball fans generally. The 1991 Series had many memorable moments of excellent play, and just one that sullied the integrity of the team, the game, and the outcome. That play, the dishonest one, the unethical one, is the play the Twins chose to feature in its promotion.
Of course, it is also guaranteed to make Atlanta Braves fans feel sick to their stomach all over again. The bobblehead glorifies cheating, and represents bad taste, bad sportsmanship, and bad ethics.
[Cheers to Craig Calcaterra for the heads up.]