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Hrbek gives Twins (and Gant?) a big lift

Here's Jim's account of Kent Hrbek's play on Ron Gant in the 1991 World Series, published Oct. 21, 1991.

MINNEAPOLIS - Atlantans will remember it as the big, bad guy manhandling the good, little guy, while the man policing the whole thing was looking the other way. Sort of like every pro wrestling bout witnessed on Ted Turner's cable network.

Except this time it happened in the World Series, and possibly contributed to Minnesota's 3-2 win over Turner's Atlanta Braves. It also put the Twins up 2-0 in the 88th World Series.

kent hrbek ron gant bobblehead

Kent Hrbek and Ron Gant look to be about the same size in this Minnesota Twins' picture of the 2011 bobblehead.

No matter how one judges the third-inning play Sunday night in the Metrodome, it will certainly prompt plenty of boos when Kent Hrbek strides to the plate in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium Tuesday night.

It will also make Hrbek immortal in the realm of bizarre World Series plays.

Minnesota led 2-1 in the third with the Braves' Lonnie Smith on first and two out. Ron Gant singled to left field, and Dan Gladden's poor throw to get Smith at third skidded past Twins' third baseman Scott Leius toward home. Backing up the play was pitcher Kevin Tapani.

Tapani scooped the ball and threw to first as Gant rounded toward second.

The 172-pound Gant scurried back toward first, his momentum carrying him into the 253-pound Hrbek. Hrbek caught Tapani's throw and brought his glove down on Gant's leg, the leg that was on the bag.

Hrbek tottered back, his glove hand pinning Gant's leg to Hrbek's massive thigh. Gant's foot came off the bag, and umpire Drew Coble called Gant out.

Gant erupted, bouncing his helmet off the Metrodome turf as Coble walked away.

"I think in a normal game he would have been tossed," said Atlanta first base coach Pat Corrales, who intervened. "I just had to grab him."

Coble kept walking, and later said he had no desire to eject anyone in a World Series game.

Replays showed that Hrbek, a man who aspires to be a pro wrestler when he retires from baseball, seemed to all but give Gant a toe-hold. Hrbek pleaded innocent.

"I was falling back and I just kept my glove on his foot," Hrbek said. "His momentum carried him over me. I didn't pull him off at all."

Coble said that Gant lunged into the bag.

"He tried to pick one foot up and bring the other one down. Hrbek took the throw low and tried to tag him as his feet were coming up, too."

Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said "you don't like to cry about an umpire's decision, but you can't lift a player off the bat. If the base is occupied, you just can't do it. You can't even nudge a guy off the bag.

"But he probably thought he made a good call. Umpires don't want to be embarrassed."

Finally restrained on the field, Gant cut loose in the dugout, scattering equipment before heading up the runway.

In a more reflective mood after the game, he said. "I've been angry before. It's going to happen, and you just gotta blow things off.

"I don't blame Hrbek. You know, the players are going to do whatever they can to try and get a call. That's why we have umpires out there. I can't blame him. I'm sure he didn't expect to get the call.

"But I was clearly on the base, and if he wouldn't have pulled me up, I would have stayed on the base, no matter what he said. I felt the whole force of him trying to pick me up, and he's twice my size, so he was pretty successful."

Twins' manager Tom Kelly pleaded ignorance.

"I was throwing my cap down and uttering profanities because I get nervous when we start throwing the ball around," Kelly said. "All of a sudden, the ump has his arm up and I had to ask what the hell happened."

Gant, Corrales and Cox said the play didn't cost Atlanta the game.

"I told Hrbek later, 'you got away with one,' " Corrales said.

And the Twins got a big leg up on Atlanta.


Ron Gant played 11 more seasons after 1991; 16 total. Kent Hrbek played 14 total, three after 1991.


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