You all remember Sid Bream, don’t you? Well, probably not: he was a mediocre first baseman about 20 years ago who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Atlanta Braves. He hasn’t been heard from in a long time, being quietly retired, but the Braves may be hosting the Pirates in an upcoming National League Division Playoff Series as the baseball post season gets underway, and they invited Bream to throw out the first pitch in Game #1 if that is the case—-Pittsburgh has to win a wildcard play-off game with Cincinnati first. You see, the one thing in his career that Bream is remembered for, at least in Atlanta, is scoring the run that won the National League Championship Series over the Pirates in 1992, in a close play that also lives in Pirates’ fans nightmares.
Throwing out the first pitch is fun: the team flies you in and pays for your hotel, gives you a prime ticket, and then announces your name as you trot on the field to cheers. If you have kept your arm in shape, you might even get off a throw to the catcher from the pitcher’s mound that doesn’t embarrass you, and that will acquire more cheers. from the packed stadium. Wait…this is Atlanta, not Boston. OK, from the two-thirds filled stadium. Even then, what’s not to like?
But Sid Bream turned the Braves down. Remember that I began by saying that he played for both the Braves and the Pirates. He said,
“Whatever their motive (for the invite) was, I don’t want to be involved. I wasn’t surprised (by the offer). Whether their motive was to rub it in the Pirates’ faces, I don’t know. I think it was just more of a gesture to commemorate those two teams getting back together in the postseason. But I’ll stay neutral. I’m not going to do anything to tell the fans in Atlanta or Pittsburgh that I’m (rooting) one way or the other.”
Oh, I think it’s fair to say that rubbing the Pirates’ faces in their last loss to the Braves in a postseason game was exactly what the Braves had in mind. This kind of voodoo has been a standard part of baseball gamesmanship for a long time: nobody believes that the Yankees had Bucky Dent throw out the first pitch when the Yankees had a crucial playoff game against Boston (which they lost) in 2004 “to commemorate those two teams getting back together in the postseason.” It’s psychological warfare, and more or less good-natured; there’s nothing wrong with it, and there would have been nothing wrong with Bream agreeing to play along.
But Sid Bream is, it seems, loyal. He was a Pittsburgh Pirate for a long time, a Brave only for a couple of years, and he doesn’t feel like being part of one of his former teams’ effort to unsettle the other one, even though its’ no big deal, and even though his old team won’t hold it against him. It just would feel right to him.
This is called integrity.
Good for Sid Bream.
Pointer, Graphic and Facts: NBC Sports