A couple years ago I was digging through the Toronto Star archives in search of what was surely some obscure, esoteric piece of Blue Jays information when I came across across a passage that stuck with me. Recent events have made it quite a propos, so let’s take a quick trip in Blue Jays History.
The 1998 Toronto Blue Jays spent most of the season spinning their heels. A slow start left them 10-16 after April, though a strong May got them three game above .500 at 27-24 late in the month only to stay around .500 for the next several months. The Yankees were having a historic season and the Red Sox were strong, so at the trade deadline the Jays were 24 games behind the division lead and 9 games out of the wild card. With red ink flowing, for the first time ever the Jays were major sellers: Juan Guzman to Baltimore, Ed Sprague to Oakland, Mike Stanley to Boston (and Randy Myers on waivers to San Diego a week later).
But instead of going quietly for the last two months, something funny happened. The Jays caught fire at the end of August just over 24 years ago, with an 11 game winning streak culminating in a four game sweep of those Red Sox over Labour Day weekend followed by a win over Cleveland on Labour Day itself September 7th.
There was suddenly something of a race as the Jays pulled within 5 games of Boston, and meaningful September baseball loomed for the first time since 1993. It was my first full season as a fan, and I can distinctly remember running through the numbers and possibilities daily in those halcyon late summer days as the impossible seemingly became more and more realistic. Oh, for the naivete of youth!
It prompted Toronto Star columnist Rosie DiManno to write this column that weekend:
“By all means, we should be realistic. The Jays have no more chance of overtaking the Beaners in the American League East than does Camilla Parker Bowles of becoming the next Queen of England.”
Of course, DiManno was right about daunting nature of the math/probability that made a wild card chase in 1998 quixotic. In fact, the highwater mark came shortly after, almost exactly 24 years ago to the day. After dropping the first of a four game set, the Jays took three straight from the Yankees to reach 81-68 and pull within three games on September 13th with two weeks left.
But then they simply ran out of steam. They dropped five of their next six, and while Boston’s continued struggles meant they were not mathematically eliminated until the 23rd, it effectively ran them out of games left and ended their season. It was just too much ground to make up in too little time.
So it was certainly right to be circumspect about their chances, but the curse of Rosie DiManno is to end up wrong even when you are fundamentally right. For though it may have seemed enough of an impossibility scarcely a year after Diana’s death to analogize the futility of the Jays’ hopes, 24 years and a handful of days later, Camilla R did become the next Queen (consort).