While millions around the world were watching Game 7 of the World Series, Greg McMichael had a mini-dilemma.
Who to root for?
The former reliever who helped the Braves win the 1995 World Series title, was drafted by the Indians out of college and later spent time with the Cubs.
“It was strange because I had been with the Cubs and we had a couple of former Braves players (David Ross and Jason Heyward) playing for them, while I like the Indians because I had a history with them,” he said. “I felt like I couldn’t lose either way.”
McMichael was born in Knoxville, Tenn., and was a star pitcher at Tennessee before he was a seventh-round pick of the Indians in 1988.
He quickly moved through the organization, going to Class AAA in his second full season. But he had struggled with a congenital knee problem throughout his career, and in 1990, tore the meniscus in his right knee.
The Indians thought McMichael should retire, but he felt otherwise.
Roy Clark, the scout who had brought him to Cleveland, was now with the Braves and signed McMichael.
He spent two years in the minors before making it to the Braves in 1993. McMichael turned into one of the National League’s most top young relievers, with a 2.06 ERA and 19 saves in 74 games. He was second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting to Dodgers catcher and new Hall of Famer Mike Piazza.
McMichael’s ERA jumped to 3.84 in 1994, but he saved 21 games.
Mark Wohlers took over the closer’s roll in 1995 while McMichael spent most of the year as a setup man. He went 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA in 67 games that season.
McMichael pitched in eight postseason games, including earning a victory in the NLCS sweep of the Reds.
The next season, he pitched in 73 games, going 5-3 with a 3.22 ERA, though he struggled in his two postseason appearances.
McMichael was traded to the Mets, where he filled a productive bullpen role for two-plus years before being traded to the Dodgers in June 1998.
He was sent back to the Mets barely a month later, before going to Oakland in July 1999.
McMichael began the 2000 season with the Cubs, but didn’t want to sign a split minor/major league contract.
He was released and finished his career in Atlanta, pitching in 15 games for the Braves that season.
Where he lives: Now 49, McMichael lives in Roswell with Jennifer, his wife of 27 years. He has four children: daughters Erin, Dara and Hope, and son Slade.
What he does now: He began his role as Braves alumni coordinator as a contractor in 2010, and in April, the team made it a fulltime position. He also gives pitching lessons and works with the Emory baseball team.
On the Cubs-Indians World Series: “I go back to Game 6 when the Cubs won and momentum shifted Chicago’s way. But I agree with John Smoltz (doing the broadcast for Fox) and was really surprised when the Cubs took out (starter) Kyle Hendricks and brought in Jon Lester, and the Indians got back in it. Hendricks was the only pitcher for both teams that was rested and it almost cost the Cubs the series. But it is easy to sit here and second guess after the game is over. It was great baseball.’’
On pitching his first World Series: “I don’t remember the first appearances (in Atlanta), but remember the second one in Cleveland. We had just been to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and their park in Cleveland was one of the newer ones in baseball then, and it was loud and jamming and a happening place. I remember being on the mound and I think the biggest impression to me was the atmosphere in the stadium. It was also pretty cool coming back and pitching against the team that drafted you.’’
On the last out of the 1995 World Series: “I just remember being so exhausted. You hang on every pitch for about 30 days and it takes a lot out of you. Everyone was tired, but you just tried to hold everything together. I remember (Marquis Grissom catching) the last out and all the emotions that I had held in just came out of me.’’
On wearing his World Series ring: “I am not a big jewelry guy, but I bring it out and wear it when we have alumni events because the fans want to see it.’’
On his role as alumni director of the Braves: “It has been a blast. We have a lot of events, alumni weekends and a fantasy camp. We have more than 60 Braves alumni that live in the Atlanta area and it is all about reengaging them and everyone that played for the Braves. What has helped is the fact that we have had all these players going into the (Baseball) Hall of Fame and the Braves Hall of Fame. I also go out and work with corporations, setting up VIP experiences with our alumni. I also think we have created a strong community environment with all the alumni. They have really engaged with the fans and I think will do so even more with the new park about to open.’’
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