31 years ago today
The Blue Jays won their first World Series.
It seems our first World Series win isn’t as celebrated as our second one, likely because it didn’t end in a walk-off homer.
But it did end with Joe Carter jumping up and down.
Game 6 was a 4-3 win, an 11-inning win.
We were up 2-1 going into the bottom of the 9th, and Cito Gaston brought Tom Henke into the game. We had high hopes. Henke had pitched in 8 playoff games that year and hadn’t given up a run. Unfortunately, he gave up a leadoff single to Jeff Blauser this time. Damon Berryhill bunted him to second, and Lonnie Smith walked. Next, Francisco Cabrera lined one to left (which Candy Maldonado misjudged). Candy made a last-second leaping catch. Unfortunately, Otis Nixon lined a single to left again. Maldonado airmailed the throw into the plate over everyone, allowing the tying run to score and putting the winning run on third. Finally, Ron Gant made the last out of the inning.
Henke got the first out of the 10th inning, and Jimmy Key came in (on short rest after starting game 4) to get the last two outs.
In the top of the 11th, Key led off and popped out. But Devon White was hit by pitch, and Roberto Alomar singled. With Carter up, the whole baseball world figured Braves manager Bobby Cox would bring Jeff Reardon, the closer they picked up in an August 30th deal with the Red Sox, into the game. But Jeff had had a tough time in his two series appearances, giving up a game-winning home run to Ed Sprague in game two and a game-winning single to Maldonado in game three. So, Cox stuck with the tiring Charlie Leibrandt. Carter hit a fly ball to deep center (we were excited for a moment). But next up, Dave Winfield doubled home both White and Alomar, giving us a 2-run lead.
The bottom of the 11th was intense.
Key gave up a leadoff single, and then Alfredo Griffin made an error at short, putting the tying run on first. A bunt moved the tying run to second, and a ground out scored a run and put the tying run on 3rd.
Mike Timlin came in to face Otis Nixon. Nixon tried for a bunt single, but Timlin jumped on the ball and threw over to Carter at first to win the series. Carter set a new world record for the vertical jump (which he beat a year later).
It was the 4th one-run game of the series. There was only one blowout. We lost game five by a score of 7-2.
Sportsnet has it up on their website if you want to watch the game.
A few years ago, Sportsnet replayed the entire series. I had the following observations:
- One of the things I noticed was that people didn’t wear team colours as much as they do now. Even during the regular season, many (most?) people in the stands wear team colours or, at the very least, a cap. Today, you see more fans with Blue Jay jerseys in one section at Rogers than in a packed stadium in 1992. My memory says that jerseys were expensive back then. Of course, they are costly now, and we all own them. My parents would have never spent the money on a team jersey for me, but I’ve bought several jerseys for my kids. When I was a kid, I bought myself an Expos jersey when I got my first part-time job. It had Gary Carter’s number on the back. People looked at it as an extravagance. Baseball caps were more common in the ‘West’ than in Ontario back then.
- The graphics sure were different back then. I guess we paid more attention to the game then and didn’t need to have the score facing us every moment, and we had to follow the count for ourselves. It would have made it much harder to follow the game and a game thread simultaneously.
- Pat Borders was an interesting choice as MVP. He had a good series with the bat, hitting .450/.500/.750, with a home run and 3 RBI. But then, on defense, he had a more challenging time. The Braves stole 15 bases in the 6 games. He managed to throw out three guys trying to steal, but it was a track meet. I don’t know who would have been a better choice.
- Carter had a good series, hitting .273/.346/.636, with 2 home runs, 3 RBI and a stolen base.
- Key had 2 wins and a 1.00 ERA in 9 innings. He won his game 4 start, going 7.2 innings, allowing just 1 run, 5 hits, 0 walks, and 6 strikeouts. Key also was the winner in relief in game 6.
- I don’t know who I would have picked. It seems Borders’ defense was so bad that it should have disqualified him.
- Cito was the perfect manager for the time. Cito, especially back then, was a minimalist as manager. He wasn’t going to wow you with strategy. No one would watch the series and call him a genius, in the way folks watch a Tony LaRussa team and call him a genius, but Cito was the right guy for the time. It was a team of veterans in their prime that didn’t need a lot of help. They knew how to play.
- The big mistake of the series was starting Jack Morris in games 1 and 5. Morris had a good season, winning 21 games with a 4.04 ERA, and ended the season well, going 9-2 with a 3.26 ERA over the last two months. And the reason the Jays signed him was for his ‘clutch’ ability. Before 1992, Morris was 7-1 in playoff starts. He was 0-3 with a 6.19 ERA for us in the 1992 playoffs and didn’t pitch in the 1993 playoffs.
- Tim McCarver was the worst commentator in baseball history.
- Having Kelly Gruber guard the line in the 9th cost us the lead. Blauser’s leadoff single would have been an easy out if he was playing straightaway. But then, if Pendleton had been guarding the line when Winfield was up in the 11th, he wouldn’t have had that 2-run double.
- Maldonado was a terrible outfielder.
- My game six story? I had to work that night. I taped the game (VHS for those old enough to remember). I told my wife about my plan. I made sure to avoid hearing the score. I drove home with the radio off, careful not to give it away. I got home, and my wife told me the Jays won. Oh well.