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BRAVES' LONNIE SMITH TELLS HIS VERSION OF SERIES SLIP

For many, Lonnie Smith will forever be known as the guy who cost the Atlanta Braves the 1991 World Series.

Smith spent the winter thinking about it. He knows people are still talking about his misadventures on the base paths in Game 7.He's also willing to shoulder the blame.

Maybe Smith could have saved himself some heartache by explaining the controversial eighth-inning play with the media after the deciding game in Minnesota, won by the Twins 1-0 in 10 innings. Instead, he chose the solitude of the trainer's room.

"I was upset. I knew the media had a job to do, but I had rights, too," Smith said after a spring training practice. "I had a right not to talk.

"It was hard to talk after coming so close to winning. At that time I just couldn't talk," he said.

Smith led off the eighth inning with an infield single. Terry Pendleton then followed with a double to the left-center field wall. Smith, running on a delayed steal, hesitated as he neared second and managed only to make it to third.

Right-hander Jack Morris then got Ron Gant on a soft grounder to the mound, walked David Justice intentionally to load the bases and induced Sid Bream to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The media wrote that Smith was faked out by Twins second baseman Chuck Knoblauch, who pretended to field a grounder, forcing Smith to slow to a near stop at second base.

Smith said that's not how it happened.

"I had the steal sign, but thought I had a better chance with a delayed steal," he said. "I took off running and didn't look toward the plate. I heard the crack of the bat, saw Knoblauch's fake and (Twins left fielder) Dan Gladden running into the alley.

"I slowed down at second, but didn't see the ball. I then saw Gladden and (center fielder Kirby) Puckett converging seconds before the ball hit the wall," said Smith.

"I just didn't pick up the ball and didn't pick up (third base coach Williams) Jimy. People want to blame me, that's OK," he said.

"The media's version that Knoblauch fooled me is not true. I just didn't see the ball," said Smith, who became the first player in major league history to play for four teams in the World Series.

Ironically, the other three teams, the Philadelphia Phillies in 1980, the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982 and the 1985 Kansas City Royals, each won the World Series.

"The only part the media got right was that I didn't score on the play," he said.