Bring up the following name to any baseball fan and I promise you will get the same response.
You: “Lonnie Smith.”
Other person: “That’s the guy who cost the Braves the World Series.”
Unfortunately, a pretty good and lengthy career was ruined by one moment in one game.
Alas, it was a huge game and a very big moment. So, we’re sorry Lonnie, but your 17 years in The Show, your second place in the 1982 MVP voting, your .288 career average, your solid outfield abilities, your first-round pick (No. 3 overall!) and your three other World Series titles are all forgotten by one instance.
You had one of the biggest baserunning gaffes in Major League Baseball history.
In Game 7 of the 1991 World Series – the greatest World Series ever, according to some and easily the greatest of my lifetime where I don’t have a rooting interest – Smith was deked by rookie second baseman Chuck Knoblauch and never scored what might have been the winning run.
Smith led off the eighth inning of a 0-0 game with a single against Jack Morris. Terry Pendleton, the National League MVP that season, followed with a double to left-center field.
As Smith, who was running on the pitch, got to second base, Knoblauch and shortstop Greg Gagne faked like Pendelton’s ball was hit in the infield and they were turning a double play. Smith hesitated at second base, then rounded and waited some more, before finally getting to third. This, despite Pendleton’s hit one-hopped the fence.
Morris got a groundout, intentionally walked the bases full, then got Sid Bream to ground into a 3-2-3 double play with Smith retired at home plate.
See the 4:18 mark of this clip here.
Morris pitched 10 shutout innings, the Twins scored a run and won the Series, leaving Smith to be known as a goat.
Nevermind the fact that you put together a terrific career by many standards, that you overcame a drug addiction and you convinced yourself not to murder Braves general manager John Schuerholz (oh, yeah, we forgot to mention that), but it’s been 20 years since you were badly fooled on the basepaths and you are in distinct World Series company.
If you consider Bill Buckner (1986), Mitch Williams (1993), Dennis Eckersley (1988), Nelson Cruz (2011) and umpire Don Denkinger (1985) as good company.