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Bradley back in Dodgers lineup10/05/2004 6:37 PM ET
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- Milton Bradley didn't know what to expect from the fans when he took the field on Tuesday for Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium. His five-game suspension at an end, Bradley was back in the Dodgers starting lineup, back in right field where it all began. There were a few jeers from the sellout crowd of 52,127 when he was introduced before the game -- an 8-3 thrashing of the Dodgers by the Cardinals. "That was all love right there," Bradley said. "If they're booing me, that's all right." But the reaction from the bleacher creatures high above the field in the right-field stands was somewhat subdued, said Bradley, who had a single and a walk in four trips to the plate. "It was just basic stuff," he said. "Nothing out of the ordinary. The fans were very respectful. My compliments to the people of St. Louis. They were pretty tame out there." Bradley, who was traded to the Dodgers from Cleveland before the start of season, said he was glad to return to the lineup in the Midwest instead of some hot spot like San Francisco where the fans delight in taunting anyone dressed in Dodger blue. With this caveat: "I played in the Midwest and it's not all gravy," he said. Bradley dropped a knee-high line drive a week ago at Dodger Stadium, nearly costing the Dodgers a key playoff-race game against the Rockies. The fans showered him with epithets and tossed a plastic beer bottle onto the field. Bradley responded during all the commotion by jawing at the fans, walking toward the stands in the right-field corner, and tossing the beer bottle at the low wall. When teammates and manager Jim Tracy couldn't calm him down, Bradley was ejected from the game. In the aftermath, Bradley, who hit .267 for the Dodgers with 19 homers and 67 RBIs in 141 games, was lost to the team for the crucial three-game weekend series against the Giants in Los Angeles. "It was hard for me to sit, especially against the Giants," Bradley said. "You dream about those days -- to go out there and beat the Giants, to clinch against the Giants. But our guys fought hard and enabled me to celebrate with them. They got the job done. But I'm glad to be back out there, having fun again."
During the celebration on Saturday after Steve Finley's grand slam capped a seven-run ninth inning rally that eliminated the Giants and clinched the NL West title, Frank McCourt, the team's owner, embraced Bradley, who broke down in tears.McCourt told Bradley that everyone makes mistakes. "It's what you do after the mistake that's the most important thing," said McCourt, whose team is in the playoffs at the end of his first season as owner. "Milton and I got here at just around the same time. We're going to be here for a while. He's part of the Dodger family." Bradley said McCourt's reaction didn't surprise him. "That's to be expected. That's what he said the first day I got here," said Bradley, who forced his trade from Cleveland after a falling-out with the Indians. "I didn't have to prove or do anything. When you're a Dodger you're always a Dodger." Asked what he learned from the experience, Bradley added: "Just keep playing. It's baseball. Things happen. You've got to keep moving on. It's behind me."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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