Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Jeff Brantley remembers dreaming of pitching in the World Series as early as when he was a child of six or seven.
“I dreamed of it, worked toward it, busted my tail for a lot of years …” Brantley says.
And then, in 1989, at age 26, he helped the San Francisco Giants make it to the World Series in his rookie season. And his lasting memory, all these 27 years later?
“The earthquake, of course,” Brantley says. “That’s it, really. I tell people all the time, you work your whole life to make something happen and then a 7.1 earthquake hits. It took away all the enthusiasm, all the atmosphere, all the experience. That’s the memory: an earthquake.”
Brantley, along with several other Mississippi Major Leaguers, will share World Series memories at a Game One watch party Tuesday night at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
The lineup of players includes 2017 Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductee Jay Powell, winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 1997 Series, Cardinals third base coach Chris Maloney, former Yankee and Ole Miss player and coach Jake Gibbs, 1959 World Series participant Joe Gibbon, Jackson native and Major League catcher Stan Cliburn, former USM pitcher and MLB player Chad Bradford and MLB catcher and Delta State alum Barry Lyons.
Says Brantley, “I’m guessing some of the other guys will have more to tell about the World Series than I do.”
The 1989 World Series was the Battle of the Bay: Brantley’s Giants vs. the Oakland A’s. Oakland won the first two games in Oakland, setting the stage for Game 3 on Oct. 17 at Candlestick Park.
A few minutes before the scheduled start, Brantley and Giants teammate Mike LaCoss were in the tunnel between the Giants clubhouse and the first base dugout.
“It’s about 15 or 20 feet underground and it’s about 25 to 30 yards long,” Brantley says. “All of the sudden, everything started shaking and there was this enormously loud noise like a train was coming right at us. The lights went out.
“I knew immediately what it was. We started running to get out of there, but it was totally dark and we ran into each other and into things. It got pretty hairy.”
By the time they reached the dugout, the shaking had stopped.
“Didn’t last long, but, boy, it did a lot of damage,” Brantley says.
It delayed the World Series, which Oakland eventually swept in four games, by 10 days.
There was talk of moving the World Series to another site, possibly Los Angeles, but the final two games were played at Candlestick Oct. 27-28. At the time, it was the latest finish ever for a World Series, even though it lasted only four games.
Brantley, a relief pitcher, had pitched in Game One at Oakland, and that’s a story worth telling as well.
“I got the signal to get ready in the fifth inning,” Brantley says. “So, of course, they had (Mark) McGwire, (Jose) Canseco and (Dave) Parker coming up. They had runners on first and second, so I figured Roger (Giants manager Roger Craig) would bring me in to pitch to one of the right-handers (McGwire or Canseco).
“Well, we got McGwire for the second out but then Canseco walked to load the bases and I figured Roger would go to one of the left-handers to pitch to Parker. Nope, I was the guy.”
Parker had hit a long home run earlier in the game. Brantley had watched him play for years on TV and had seen Parker hit some of the longest balls imaginable.
“Bases loaded and I get Dave Parker, that’s all, Dave Parker,” Brantley says. “So catcher Terry Kennedy comes out and tells me he wants to bust a fastball inside on his hands on his first pitch. I go, ‘Yeah, right.’ Dave Parker, first pitch fast ball.”
Kennedy called for the fast ball. Brantley, a rookie, shook him off. Kennedy called for it again, forcefully.
Brantley nodded and thought to himself: “If I miss my spot, he’s going to hit this into next year.”
Brantley fired his best fast ball, right in on Parker’s hands. Parker swung mightily but hit an easy, broken bat ground ball to the second baseman to end the inning.
Did Kennedy tell Brantley he told him so?
“Many times,” Brantley answers laughing. “He still tells me to this day.”
The Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum’s World Series Watch Party will open at 5:30 Tuesday with a reception and a barbecue dinner. At 6:30 the players will come on stage and answer questions about their experiences. At game time everyone is invited to stay and watch Game One on the big screens throughout the museum. All proceeds go to support the museum. Tickets, which start at $50, must be purchased in advance and are available at the museum office or at the link here.