Gant made the transition and came back to Atlanta in 1990 and hit .303 with 32 homers, 84 RBIs and 33 stolen bases and was named the National League Comeback Player of the Year. Along with Lemke, Jeff Blauser and David Justice, Gant was in the middle of the core of the team’s young bats that helped lead the resurgence in 1991.
Gant also will be remembered for his encounter with Minnesota first baseman Kent Hrbek in Game 2 of the 1991 World Series when the big first baseman lifted him off the base. Gant was called out in what was the most controversial play of the seven-game series.
From 1991-93, Gant’s batting average dropped somewhat, but he produced 32 homers and 105 RBIs in ’91 and 36 homers and 117 RBIs in ’93. In 1993, when the Braves finished with 104 wins and one game ahead of San Francisco, Gant may have had the biggest hit of the season. During a game against Cincinnati on Sept. 1, the Braves trailed going into the bottom of the ninth, but Gant blasted a walk-off home run off “Nasty Boys’’ reliever Rob Dibble, who will remembered for that moment when he ripped his jersey off in disgust while walking off the field.
The Braves rewarded Gant with what was then the biggest one-year deal in baseball history but then came the dirt bike accident in the offseason. Gant’s injury brought a large group of media to Piedmont Hospital as fans around Atlanta wanted to know what the prognosis was for one of their favorite players. It wasn’t good as the right leg was severely damaged and a rod had to be put in to repair the compound fracture.
The Braves had a business decision to make, and citing the stipulations of the contract which Gant broke by riding a dirt bike, the club released him and paid him about $900,000 in termination pay. Though Gant had some productive years after the injury, he was never quite the same.
Where he lives: In a few weeks, Gant, now 50, will marry for the second time (Leslie Donatelli). He lives in Suwanee and has four children from a previous marriage: Son Ryan (20) and daughters Alexus (16), Symara (14) and Halyn (10).
What he does now: Gant is out of baseball and sports, but is still in television. He is the co-anchor of "GoodDay Atlanta" with Gurvir Dhindsa and Buck Lanford on WAGA/Channel 5 and still plays a lot of golf and can be seen at Braves alumni events.
On his morning television gig: "It's interesting how it happened. They called my agent a few years ago and wanted me on to talk about the Braves in the morning. I was doing a game the night before and it was a long rain delay and I wasn't even going to go in and do the segment, but I sucked it up and did and a few days later they contacted my agent and wanted to bring me onboard. It was a tough decision to stop doing baseball, but I took a leap of faith and I am now up at 4 in the morning and at the station by 5 and on the air at 6. I never thought I would end up on this side of the media, but I think it helped that when I played I tried to be inviting to the media. I was cordial and it paid off. I am growing as a news anchor and I enjoy doing community stories, but I still have a long ways to go.''
On his early years in the minors with the Braves: "Chuck Tanner was the manager and we still had Dale Murphy and Hank Aaron was around a lot. I was in awe of those guys. Bobby Cox was the general manager, and I noticed he was bringing in one young player after another. Then came John Schuerholz, and it all just came together. We knew then we were going to be good.''
On his move from second base to outfield: "It was the best thing that ever happened to me. I thank Bobby for that because we had Lemke and some really good infield prospects and knew I could use my speed in the outfield.''
On his relationship with Hank Aaron: "I think Hank looked at me and saw a lot of himself. I was a right-handed hitter, not real big and had power. I learned so much from him and every time I was around him my jaw hit the ground. He was my idol and just to see what he had to endure throughout his career is incredible and his numbers never declined despite having the weight of the country on his shoulders. It was a special relationship.''
On the dirt-bike accident: "I was on dirt bike doing jumps and lost control and went off the course and my leg just wrapped around a tree. Right when it happened, I knew I had messed my leg up and possibly would never play again. A million things ran through my mind as I lay in that hospital. The Braves made the right decision letting me go. They were able to get a lot of the money back because of the clause in the contract. It all worked out, but the thing I regretted was I wanted to be a Brave my entire career.''
On the home run against Dibble: "I am thinking for sure that he was going to come at me hard. His slider was hard enough, but I used a huge bat that weighed 36 ounces and all I had to do was get the bat out in front of it and it was going to go. I remember the ball bouncing off the fence in left. A lot of people come up to me and tell me they were at that game.''
On being part of the Braves' legacy: "It means everything to me. I was a part of seeing a city change and was a huge part of that.''
On his reputation of staying out of trouble and now being a role model: "I have to credit my parents for that. My dad was army, and my mom worked all day and then came home and cooked and cleaned for all of us. Also, my friends were always really good guys, and they were not going to let me get around drugs, weapons or women that were going to get me in trouble. I always try to surround myself with good people.''