Sid Bream spent six seasons with a Pittsburgh Pirates franchise that evolved from one of Major League Baseball’s worst teams in the mid-1980s to one of the National League’s best at the outset of the 1990s.
Bream still resides in Pittsburgh with his wife, Michele.
The couple raised four children.
He is a motivational speaker who will be featured at the AAABA Hall of Fame banquet on Aug. 8 at the Frank J. Pasquerilla Conference Center.
Despite his strong ties to the Steel City and western Pennsylvania, Bream knows he’ll always be remembered for his role in a play that broke the hearts of Pittsburgh fans and was ground zero for a stretch of 20 consecutive Pirates’ losing seasons.
“That’s still considered the fourth-most exciting play in Major League Baseball history,” Bream said during a recent telephone interview.
“That is why I’m having an opportunity to do what I’m doing.
“It still stays in people’s minds.”
Stays in people’s minds?
The image of Bream sliding safely into home plate, inches away from the outstretched glove of a lunging Pirates catcher Mike Lavalliere, is painfully seared into the memories of devoted Pirates fans of that era.
Pittsburghers collectively groaned, cursed or cried after Bream scored the winning run in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series following unheralded Braves pinch-hitter Francisco Cabrera’s single to left field.
Atlanta fans rejoiced.
The play had Bream scoring from second base after all-star left fielder Barry Bonds’ throw was in time but offline and toward the first base line, and sent the Braves - instead of the Pirates - to the 1992 World Series, where they fell to the Toronto Blue Jays in six games.
The Pirates juggernaut with three consecutive division titles gradually was disassembled as star players bolted for big free agency money.
A team that came tantalizingly close to advancing to the World Series was headed to an era of losing baseball that frustrated and sometimes embarrassed Pittsburgh fans.
The losing seasons piled up from 1993 through 2012.
Manager Clint Hurdle’s Pirates ended the streak two summers ago and Pittsburgh advanced to the NL playoffs as a wild-card the past two seasons.
Since Pittsburgh won three of four against first-place St. Louis at PNC Park just prior to the All-Star break, there even is World Series talk in the ‘Burgh.
The more the Pirates win, the less likely Pittsburgh fans are to remind Bream of what he and Cabrera did back in ‘92.
“Around here, I have fun with people,” Bream said. “If the Pirates had not started to win. ... Now that they’ve gotten to the playoffs a couple years, it has lessened as far as the heat is concerned. I still try to have a lot of fun with the individuals who try to tell me I was out.
“It’s been a blessing to be a part of, but obviously living in Pittsburgh, I hear it on a daily basis that I was out.”
Bream, 54, played 11 seasons in the major leagues and had a .264 career batting average.
The Carlisle native was a Pirates left-handed hitting first baseman from 1985 through 1990. He joined the Braves as a free agent in 1991 and played three years before finishing his career in Houston in 1994.
Late in the 1985 season, the Pirates had acquired Bream as well as R.J. Reynolds and Cecil Espy from the Dodgers for Bill Madlock.
Pittsburgh lost 104 games in 1985 and another 98 the following season.
A once relatively unknown manager named Jim Leyland helped reverse Pittsburgh’s onfield fortunes.
Bream sees similarities in the current Pirates organization, which gradually climbed to respectability and finally a winning record after Hurdle was hired in 2011.
“When I came to Pittsburgh in 1985, nothing against (former Pirates World Series-winning manager) Chuck Tanner, but at the same time they brought in Jim Leyland,” Bream said. “In my opinion, the four teams I played with, he was by far the best manager I played for.
“His outlook, his savvy, his knowledge of the game along with the management that continued to fill spots in order to create the atmosphere and team we needed brought us to that place where we were starting to win.”
Perhaps the Pirates are directing a sequel.
“Even though we didn’t like a lot of the things Frank and Neal were doing early on, they have put together the team and they have a formula for winning,” Bream said of Pirates GM Neal Huntington and President Frank Coonelly. “I see a lot of similarities.”
Bream plans to deliver a positive message to the crowd at the AAABA Hall of Fame banquet.
Of course, he’ll talk about the slide.
The Braves erased a 2-0, ninth-inning deficit in a 3-2.
“The great moment is Francisco Cabrera,” said Bream, who wasn’t exactly known for possessing speed on the base paths. “An unknown comes up and gets a huge hit in a huge situation against a closer.”
Cabrera faced Pirates reliever Stan Belinda.
“What pressure,” Bream said. “At the same time, it showed the resolve and the attitude we had back then. You don’t go into a game thinking you’re going to lose. Until the last out, we felt we could win the ball game.
Fortunately, I was just slow enough to make it exciting.”
Unfortunately for Pirates fans, Sid also was just fast enough.