ATLANTA -- Twenty-five years later, Otis Nixon still chuckles at the fact that his entry into Major League Baseball's record book was set up by an April Fools' Day trade that initially made him feel like he was on the wrong end of a prank.When Nixon arrived at Montreal's Olympic
ATLANTA -- Twenty-five years later, Otis Nixon still chuckles at the fact that his entry into Major League Baseball's record book was set up by an April Fools' Day trade that initially made him feel like he was on the wrong end of a prank.
When Nixon arrived at Montreal's Olympic Stadium on June 16, 1991, he wasn't expecting to do something never previously done in MLB history. But as he recorded six stolen bases during the Braves' 7-6 loss that day, he was benefiting from what had occurred a little more than two months earlier, when his April 1 surprise came via the revelation the Expos had just traded him to an Atlanta club that had finished last in the National League West four of the previous five seasons.
"[The Braves] were the worst team in baseball," Nixon said. "I wasn't comfortable with that trade, so I had some animosity toward the Expos when they did that on April Fools' Day. So, I was like, 'I'm going to show you guys a few things here.' That's what I was thinking, but not necessarily that I was going to steal that many bases in a game."
As Nixon has spent his retirement years in Atlanta aiding troubled children through his non-profit Otis Nixon Foundation, he has taken pride in the fact that Carl Crawford (2009) and Eric Young Sr. (1996) are the only other men who can lay claim to having swiped six bags in one game. But at the same time, he certainly appreciates having been the first to gain this distinction.
"I don't think [Expos manager Buck Rodgers] slept well that night because I knew those pitchers inside and out," Nixon said. "They just couldn't hold me close."
While playing for the Expos the previous three seasons, Nixon was often asked by Rodgers to evaluate the pickoff moves utilized by the club's young pitchers. One of those pitchers was Chris Nabholz, who was on the mound for the first four stolen bases the fleet-footed outfielder recorded on that historic day.
On his way to notching a career-best 72 stolen bases in 1991 for a Braves team that famously went worst-to-first and came one victory shy of winning the World Series, Nixon had swiped just three bags during the previous six games that had been played against the Expos. But on the final day of his first trip back to Montreal, he took advantage of a chance to send a message to his former team.
"It was just one of those days where he was feeling it and hitting behind him, I was trying to make sure he got every bit he could out of it," said Braves bench coach Terry Pendleton, who was the 1991 National League MVP. "It was beautiful to watch."
With Pendleton showing unselfish patience while taking a number of pitches, Nixon stole second and third base during both the first and third innings against Nabholz and Montreal's veteran catcher Mike Fitzgerald.
"It was like there he goes again and then there he goes again," said Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez, who watched Nixon's thievery while serving as Montreal's right fielder. "If he had gotten on two more times, he probably would have had at least eight stolen bases."
After being retired during his third and fourth plate appearances, Nixon delivered a ninth-inning leadoff single off Barry Jones and then promptly stole both second and third base again. Unfortunately, his historic effort went unrewarded as he was left stranded at third base when Jones ended the game with consecutive strikeouts of Pendleton, Lonnie Smith and Ron Gant.
"I sit back and say, man I was part of something special and that's what I cherish," Nixon said.
When Baseball's Hall of Fame requested the shoes Nixon wore during this historic game, former Braves reliever Marvin Freeman jumped at the chance to place his name within Cooperstown's hallowed halls.
"If you take the insoles out of Otis' shoes that are in the Hall of Fame, you'll have Marvin Freeman's signature in there," Pendleton said with a laugh. "He said, 'I'm going to the Hall somehow.' So if you go back and take a look at that Freeman is in the Hall of Fame."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.