Time was working out. Deion Sanders’ hopes of enjoying two skilled sports activities in a single day had been dwindling. The group was already delayed leaving the Falcons sport as a result of Sanders wanted an IV to replenish his fluids. And now, the helicopter pilot who would ferry them from Joe Robbie Stadium to Opa Locka Airport in Miami to catch the aircraft again to Pittsburgh for NLCS Recreation 5 wouldn’t take off. Sanders and his entourage — which had swelled throughout the journey to incorporate himself, his girlfriend Carolyn Chambers, his daughter, his brokers Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes, Pat O’Brien’s CBS digicam crew and his Nike consultant, Anne Scearce, had been too massive to trip within the helicopter.
“I am unable to take all this weight,” the pilot mentioned. It was unsafe to fly and somebody must be left behind. The group appeared to Scearce.
“No, she has to get on,” Sanders mentioned, “or we’re not leaving.”
There was a tense standoff. Valuable seconds they could not afford ticked by. Lastly, the pilot agreed to take two journeys — bringing Sanders first after which coming again for a second group. However they had been chopping it shut.
“That is the kind of factor children dream about,” Sanders said about his try at historical past. “Within the morning, they’re Michael Jordan on the basketball courtroom, and within the afternoon, they’re Deion Sanders on the soccer discipline. I am a child, nonetheless.”
Sanders’ plan to play two sports activities in a single day did not happen till late in 1992. His authentic contract with the Braves ended on July 31, and after that, his contract with the NFL’s Falcons started. His authentic plan was to go away baseball for the remainder of the season and head to the gridiron for the autumn.
It is what he had accomplished the yr earlier than. He left Atlanta after hitting a three-run residence run to assist the Pirates defeat the Braves on July 31 and suited up in pads the following day. He returned to the Braves for every week on the finish of September, however his soccer contract did not enable him to play within the postseason and so he missed out on the Braves’ World Collection run in ’91. He did not need that to occur once more.
So, when it got here time to begin enjoying soccer once more, Sanders and Braves GM John Schuerholz agreed to a handshake deal: Sanders would apply with the Falcons within the morning and play for them on Sundays, suiting up for the Braves’ residence video games alongside the best way. This led to some confusion: If the Braves had been within the postseason and their schedule conflicted with the Falcons, what crew did Sanders play for?
That set all of the controversy in movement for Oct. 11, 1992, when Sanders tried to play for each groups in a single day. That afternoon, the Falcons performed the Dolphins in Miami at 1 p.m. The Braves can be in Pittsburgh to play the Pirates in Recreation 5 of the NLCS that night time. Might he actually do all of it? Might somebody as athletically gifted as Sanders play a full professional soccer sport and a postseason baseball sport? And was there even sufficient time to do it?
Deion needed to strive — and he had some assist alongside the best way. Nike agreed to foot the invoice for all of the journey.
“Truthfully, the entire double play, triple means weekend — no matter you wish to name it — had nothing to do with Nike, apart from he referred to as me as a result of he wanted soccer cleats,” Scearce mentioned in a current telephone name. Now a professional photographer, Scearce was then a Nike athlete advertising and marketing supervisor, working with their icon-level athletes. This was a small assortment of six or seven world-class athletes on the extent of a Michael Jordan sort like Sanders, who required a degree individual to assist handle their schedules and numerous wants from the corporate.
It made a number of sense in Sanders’ case.
“It was actually useful to have him in that group as a result of he had a number of wants,” Scearce mentioned. “It could possibly be we’re designing a shoe for him or he wants batting gloves or we’re doing a little advertising and marketing with him. There’s simply so many various individuals at Nike — the soccer supervisor versus baseball-cleated footwear man. So many various individuals at Nike labored with him that it was good to have a degree individual for Deion. So, I ended up working with all of the completely different departments at Nike to coordinate the whole lot for Deion.”
That meant it was on Scearce’s shoulders to coordinate all of the journey — the flights, the helicopters, the limos — that might take him in all places. If all of it got here aside, it might be on her shoulders.
Sanders needed to take care of loads of animosity alongside the best way, too. There have been public contract negotiations all through the summer time as each the Braves and Falcons made overtures for his companies. At one level, there was an opportunity that Sanders would stick with the Braves by way of the postseason — solely switching to soccer within the second half of the season. Ultimately, a compromise was made that, as his agent Parker said, “permits him to perform one other of his desires, and that’s to take part in each baseball and soccer as a lot as he can on the similar time.”
However the media had painted Sanders as grasping — they usually appreciated his two sports activities in sooner or later plan even much less. Headlines calling him out for his “Frequent Liar Miles,” had been the norm.
He had additionally angered his employers with the Braves. They believed that their settlement meant that Sanders would forego enjoying with the Falcons ought to the Braves attain the postseason. Sanders thought he agreed to be at each Braves postseason sport, however that he would nonetheless fulfill his NFL obligations.
Schuerholz, the then-Braves GM, did not disguise his displeasure. “I believed we had an understanding that this could not occur,” said Schuerholz.
His supervisor, Bobby Cox, was a little bit extra political, however did not appear thrilled, both.
“You must put your self in his sneakers,” Cox mentioned. “You possibly can’t blame him for doing this, I suppose.”
After arriving in Fort Lauderdale early within the morning following the Braves’ 6-4 victory over the Pirates in Recreation 4 of the NLCS the place he had appeared as a pinch-hitter and performed the ultimate innings within the outfield, Sanders caught just a few hours of sleep. He was up in time to catch the Falcons’ crew bus to Joe Robbie Stadium for the sport towards the Dolphins. It was his first time with the crew, having missed each apply within the run-up to the sport.
“After the pregame warmup, he was there dressing,” Falcons coach Jerry Glanville advised me not too long ago. “That was the primary time we noticed him all week.”
However the place his Braves coaches had been upset, his Falcons teammates and Glanville had been extra understanding. They noticed it because the once-in-a-lifetime alternative from a once-in-a-lifetime participant.
“The underside line, I believe all people on the soccer crew needed him to go there and achieve success,” Glanville mentioned. “So, I do not suppose anyone was upset or mad. I do know the homeowners weren’t. He needed to do it, and so we supported him all the best way.”
However Glanville nonetheless had a degree he needed to make. Whereas within the locker room earlier than they ran onto the sector, Glanville made an announcement. Sanders can be on the sector for the opening kickoff, however he wouldn’t crack the beginning 11 on protection.
“I mentioned, ‘Deion, you are not beginning. You are available in right here with out training all week and fly in on a helicopter, I am not beginning you,'” Glanville remembered. “All people was shocked. Within the locker room, you could possibly hear a pin drop.”
Glanville then whispered to Sanders, telling him to face near him on the sideline. So, after the Falcons lined up on protection for a single play with out Deion at cornerback, Glanville made his transfer.
“I mentioned, ‘Your punishment is over, go,'” Glanville mentioned. “I held him out for one play.”
From there, Sanders performed each defensive snap, returned two kicks and a punt, and caught his first move of the season — a nine-yard completion. Apart from a defensive move interference name, you could possibly barely inform that he had arrived in the midst of the night time after enjoying a baseball sport the night earlier than.
“We performed full-press, bump and run all day towards a man named Dan Marino. Did not trouble him in any respect,” Glanville mentioned.
The sport ended at 4:02 p.m., the Falcons dropping, 21-17, however Sanders could not merely throw on some recent garments and depart. He was spent from the sport and required an IV remedy within the coach’s room. He was the final to go away the locker room and did not get into his limo to drive the thousand yards to the helicopter landing pad until 4:55 p.m.
This was when the clock began urgent up towards Sanders’ plan. The group argued with the helicopter pilot earlier than he agreed to make two journeys to take them to Opa-Locka Airport, a six-mile journey from the stadium. From there, they boarded a flight to Allegheny County Airport simply outdoors of Pittsburgh. They landed there at 7:45 p.m. — chopping it awfully near first pitch, which was just below an hour away. From there, Sanders and the crew boarded one other helicopter earlier than hopping right into a closing limousine to get to Three Rivers Stadium.
All this was coordinated by Scearce, and it needed to be communicated to the bottom within the period earlier than smartphones. That included “getting some type of license in order that we might fly over Pittsburgh to land close to the stadium,” Scearce mentioned. That was hardly within the purview of her obligations earlier than or since.
It was 8:28, simply 16 minutes earlier than first pitch, when Sanders walked into the stadium. In a postseason sequence the place each roster spot is valuable and each choice might imply the distinction between a World Collection look and a visit again residence for the winter, you may perceive the Braves’ hesitancy to offer Sanders their blessing on the day.
“If I knew he was going to do that earlier than the playoffs began, I’d not have put him on the 25-man roster,” Schuerholz said at the time. “I am involved concerning the Atlanta Braves as a crew, with a capital T.”
Earlier within the week, Cox was prophetic. “There’s by no means been an issue like this,” Cox mentioned. “There’s by no means been a Deion Sanders, both.”
By 8:44, when Bob Stroll threw a first-pitch strike to Otis Nixon, Deion was in uniform and on the bench along with his Braves teammates. However he wouldn’t get into the sport.
“These 24 hours ought to have been joyous, phenomenal, exhilarating, thrilling, super, charming,” Sanders mentioned within the 30 for 30 documentary on the day, “Deion’s Double Play.” “Nevertheless it wasn’t. And the one factor that bothers me: Folks say, ‘Prime performed two sports activities in sooner or later.’ I didn’t. I suited up for 2 sports activities in sooner or later.”
It was a disappointing finish of the saga for Sanders. The Braves misplaced, 7-1, and, regardless of coming tantalizingly shut, there has but to be a participant who has competed in two professional sports activities in a single day.
“It wasn’t a sideshow,” Braves pitcher John Smoltz mentioned in the identical documentary. “He was a weapon. It will have been in any crew’s greatest curiosity to attempt to make this occur that did not sacrifice one or the opposite.”
Sanders was on the Braves’ roster for the World Collection towards the Blue Jays — lacking the Falcons Oct. 18 sport towards the 49ers — and he confirmed why Cox needed him on the roster so badly. He went 8-for-15 with 5 stolen bases and he threw a runner out at residence. Had the Braves gained the World Collection, he almost definitely would have been named MVP.
For all of the criticism that ran within the media on the time, accusing Sanders of pulling this stunt off for egocentric or promotional causes, those that knew him insist that is not the case.
“He was a crew man,” Glanville mentioned. “The one time he grew to become flamboyant is when any person turned a TV digicam on. Apart from that, he was only a pleasure to educate.”
Scearce agrees. More often than not, if he was calling her up for one thing apart from gear, it was to assist his teammates and associates: whether or not it was looping them right into a industrial he was capturing or selecting up Broadway tickets for them — one thing he wasn’t interested by — when the crew was in New York.
“He actually was a crew chief, along with simply being a pivotal participant,” Scearce mentioned. “He offered a number of power and a morale increase to his teammates for each the Falcons and the Braves. As his Nike sports activities administration individual, I can let you know that he would ask a number of me and it was normally for his associates or his teammates — he was at all times doing issues with individuals round him. It wasn’t about Deion at all times.”