Mike Mordecai is an interested TV viewer this week as the 1995 World Series involving the Atlanta Braves and Cleveland Indians is being replayed on FOX Sports Southeast.
“I saw it from the bench, and out on the field a little bit, but I’ve never gone back and watched the World Series,” Mordecai said on Wednesday afternoon.
He’s having fun reliving it now.
The current Northside Methodist Academy baseball coach was in his first full Major League Baseball season when the Braves won their first, and only, World Series title 25 years ago.
A utility infielder for the Braves who grew up rooting for the team as a native of Trussville, Mordecai appeared in three of the six World Series games, going 1-for-3 at the plate.
“I remember like it happened yesterday, pretty much,” said Mordecai, who was also a member of the 2003 World Series champion Florida Marlins.
Making his first World Series appearance in Game 3, a 7-6 11-inning victory for the Indians in Cleveland, Mordecai remembers how the nerves kicked in once he reached the shortstop position to replace Rafael Belliard in the bottom of the seventh inning.
“I’ve only be nervous twice in my entire career ever playing baseball,” said Mordecai, who was a star during his college days at the University of South Alabama.
That first time was in his first season of minor league baseball in 1989 while playing for the Greenville Braves on the road against the Birmingham Barons in the Southern League championship series.
“This was my first time playing as a professional in my home state and I had family and friends there,” Mordecai said. “I pinch-hit in one game and I hit a ball back to the mound. My legs were like shaking.”
Flash forward to a cold, windy night in Cleveland with the Indians holding a 4-3 lead and down 2-0 in the series as Mordecai entered the game.
“When I went into the game, I couldn’t feel anything,” Mordecai said of the cold, and the nerves. “Even throwing the ball in between innings when I was getting loose, I was guiding the ball over to first base and not throwing it.”
It didn’t take long for Mordecai to be tested.
“The old saying of that ball is going to find you when you go into the game,” Mordecai said. “The first hitter was Sandy Alomar Jr., and on the second pitch, he hit what we call a worm-burner — just a hard topspin ground ball.
“I got over and corralled it and I couldn’t feel the ball. I kind of tried to slow myself down because the ball got to me so fast and I knew he didn’t run all that well. I was telling myself, ‘Just try to get yourself under control and get the ball over to first.’
“I think I one-hopped that ball to Fred (McGriff, first base). He makes the play, and I’m like, ‘Thanks Fred. That a boy.’ We threw the ball around the infield, and when I threw it over to Chipper (Jones, third base), all of the sudden everything got real cold, and I’m like, ‘OK, now I can feel my hands.’”
Mordecai said it was a surreal feeling being on the field in the World Series.
“I’m saying to myself, ‘I used to watch this stuff on TV and now I’m standing here. I can’t believe I’m doing this.’” said Mordecai, who was 26 at the time. “I didn’t really put any extra pressure on myself. I just didn’t want to screw this up for my teammates. They had already lost two World Series. I’m a role player, so it’s my job to be another piece of the puzzle and that’s what I was trying to do.”
Mordecai would get two at-bats during the game. In the top of the ninth, Mark Lemke singled to open the inning and Mordecai laid down a bunt to sacrifice him over. In the top of the 11th, Lemke again singled to open the inning, but Mordecai missed a bunt attempt and struck out.
Mordecai appeared as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of Game 4, a 5-2 Braves’ win, and lined out to left field.
In Game 5, a 5-4 loss to Cleveland, Mordecai entered in the top of the eighth and got a hit to left field off Orel Hershiser to open the frame.
“Really and truly I probably owe that to Frank Pulli, who was the home plate umpire,” Mordecai said. “I think he gave him (Hershiser) the 3-0 pitch, and the reason I would even suggest that is because after he called the pitch, he says it out loud, ‘OK kid, now you have a chance to hit.’
“I didn’t turn around and say anything to him, but I thought that was a ball. But then, when he said that, I’m like, ‘Yeah, you’re right, I do get a chance to hit.’ I was just trying to get on base. I got a base hit and I’m on first.”
He wasn’t there long.
“(Marquis) Grissom hit a line drive back at Hershiser and I don’t know how he caught the ball,” Mordecai said. “I had already crossed over and was tracking that ball, like where is it going up the middle?
“Lo and behold Hershiser snagged it and by the time I really realized what happened, I kind of put the brakes on to get back to first and he doubled me off. Bang-bang play.”
The Braves would return home and win the series in Game 6, 1-0 behind the one-hit pitching of Tom Glavine.
Mordecai recalls John Smoltz, who was scheduled to start Game 7 if needed, rallying the team before the game.
“Smoltzie got up and said, ‘This is probably our last chance’ with this group of guys who had formed the nucleus of this team,” Mordecai said. ‘If we can’t get this done now, they’re probably going to bust this thing up.’ We kind of understood that.’”
Tony Pena broke up Glavine’s no-hitter with a single to open the sixth. David Justice hit a home run in the bottom of the inning for the lone run of the game.
Ace reliever Mark Wohlers entered in relief of Glavine in the ninth inning and put the Indians down in order to complete the victory.
“No one wanted to say anything out loud on what they planned on doing or anything like that as far as celebration and running out on the field,” Mordecai said of the final inning. “Our guys had jackets on to stay warm in case we needed to go in the game.
“Someone said, ‘Hey, you might take that jacket off to go out there to celebrate so everybody sees your name, because years from now you’re going to be in those photos and people are going to say, which one is you? If they see your number and name, it’s easier for your kids, grandkids, whoever.’
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I’m not moving until the last out is made. I’m not going to do anything until the last out is made.’”
When Wohlers got Carlos Baerga on a fly ball that was caught in deep left-center field, the celebration was on.
“Then I just took my jacket off and took off running out there,” Mordecai said.
All of which is worth re-visiting this week for Mordecai and all of the Braves’ fans.