Sports And The City

It was 4-1.

NotGraphs: Where were you when …

with 16 comments

To give you an idea of what you might find from me every Tuesday and Friday over at NotGraphs, I’ve cross-posted today’s entry. It’s about hall of famer Roberto Alomar’s 1992 ALCS game four home run. The home run that changed everything …

For a generation of Toronto Blue Jays and Canadian baseball fans, it is the home run. The home run that forever changed Toronto’s baseball destiny. The home run that represents, perhaps defines, one’s fandom. And I’m not talking about Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series-winning walk-off.

What made Roberto Alomar’s call to Cooperstown this week so enjoyable for me was the reliving of past glories. Up here, they’re all we’ve got.

I was 10-years-old when Alomar sent a 9th inning 2-2 Dennis Eckersley pitch into right field for a two-run home run, to tie game four of the 1992 ALCS between Oakland and Toronto at six apiece, completing a rather miraculous 6-1 Blue Jays comeback. I don’t remember watching Toronto take an early 1-0 lead on a John Olerud home run, or watching Jack Morris get tagged for five runs in the Oakland half of the third, but for some reason, I remember Alomar’s home run. Vividly.

It was a 4:00 pm Sunday afternoon local start in Toronto, the game being played out on the west coast, on October 11, 1992. When Alomar went yard, it had to have been after 7:00 pm Toronto time. I was in the backseat of my parents’ car, being whisked away somewhere. I remember hearing Alomar’s heroics on the radio, listening to the call as the ball sailed over the right field wall, Alomar apparently raising his hands in the air in triumph, and going absolutely insane with my older brother, who was sitting in the backseat with me. Without looking at the box score, I couldn’t tell you how Toronto won game four, or whether I saw it happen live on television or heard it on the radio. I only remember Alomar’s home run.

Time is funny. I can see myself in the car, bouncing around the backseat with my brother. But in my memory, it’s daylight out, bright and sunny, which it couldn’t have been at the time. I asked my older, and much wiser, brother if he remembered, and he said: “I think we were at home.” Which one of us is right, we’ll never know. But I like to think it’s me.

The next day, I probably didn’t even read the newspaper. I was too young at the time to understand the magnitude of the home run, or the comeback victory. I was too young to realize that the Toronto Blue Jays were exorcising their past playoff demons; putting 1985, 1989, and 1991 to bed, and shedding the label of playoff chokers.

In the aftermath of the home run, it all came back to Eckersley’s antics: His dramatic fist-pump to end Toronto’s 8th inning, when Oakland was on top 6-4.

Jack Morris, quoted in The Toronto Star, pulled no punches:

The best part was that we knocked Eck’s butt off.

But Morris saved his best quotes for The New York Times:

I think Eckersley’s Little League gesture to us really inspired us. He wheeled and looked at us and did all that stuff you do when you’re in Little League. He got it today. It finally came back to haunt him.

Years later, these quotes amaze me, and take me right back to the backseat of my folks’ car, when Alomar made history. Roberto, quoted in The Los Angeles Times, seemed to understand the importance of what he and his teammates had done.

Everybody is always talking about Toronto choking in the playoffs. We’ll see.

Candy Maldonado chimed in as well with this gem:

Sometimes you can’t wake up a sleeping dog because he might bite you.

Preach on, Candy. Preach on.

When Alomar stepped into the box, Toronto shortstop Alfredo Griffin, quoted in Sports Illustrated, and a Dodger in 1989, knew what was going to happen:

I saw Kirk Gibson all over again.

While I didn’t see it live, I’ve watched that ball sail over the right field fence in Oakland a thousand times. Probably more. Alomar’s iconic arms-raised pose is one that every Blue Jays fan remembers, just as much, if not more, than Joe Carter leaping at first base at the SkyDome in October 1993.

Alomar, of course, wasn’t trying to show anybody up. Like me, like the rest of us, he was simply caught in the moment.

I’m a little guy. But I guess the little guy became a big guy.

Time can play tricks on the mind. But it certainly can’t change the facts. And Alomar’s home run remains one of the reasons I’m more in love with baseball today than ever. Because I want to feel how I felt in the backseat of that car, all the way back in 1992, again. Just one more time.

Image courtesy of RobertoAlomar.com. Alomar himself loves that photo!

Written by Navin Vaswani

January 7th, 2011 at 8:58 am

16 Responses to 'NotGraphs: Where were you when …'

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  1. Wonderful memory and post. We all have moments like that (for me it’s the Chambliss homer against KC). Thanks for sharing this memory.

    William

    7 Jan 11 at 9:40 am

  2. I was on the East Coast, an hour later than you, and the Sun was definitely still shining (even if it wasn’t) when Alomar went yard off Eckersley.

    Chris

    7 Jan 11 at 9:41 am

  3. I LOVE the following: from the NYT article)

    It took some gutsy strategy by Manager Cito Gaston in the bottom of the ninth to insure extra innings….Gaston was in a quandary. He could walk the bases loaded and set up a double play with Mike Bordick slated to bat or he could let Ward face Terry Steinbach with the infield in. Even though Steinbach had a .368 lifetime average against Ward, Gaston let Ward oppose him. The strategy worked as Steinbach grounded to second and Alomar threw home to get Fox by 10 feet.

    “Ward said he wanted to go right after him,” Gaston said. “He had a lot of confidence.”

    THAT’S OUR CITO!!!!

    Manu

    7 Jan 11 at 10:02 am

  4. @ William: I Googled the Chambliss home run. Sounds amazing. And a walk-off, to boot. Hard to believe the Yankees hadn’t made the World Series in 12 years back in those days.

    @ Chris: Loved your comment. The sun shined brightly for two years, eh? It will shine again.

    @ Manu: Reading those old articles was the best part of writing this post. Classic Gaston move. And there’s no doubt I loved that about Cito, his trust in his pitchers. What an insane two years 92 and 93 were. I can never get enough of reading about them.

    Navin Vaswani

    7 Jan 11 at 12:35 pm

  5. Surprised nobody has mentioned this (or maybe I’m making it up), but that HR happened on Canadian thanksgiving.

    I remember my dad and I being pulled away from the TV when it was 6-1. I had already chalked it up as a loss. When we came back, it was 6-4. Then the rest was history.

    Can also remember the A’s getting a guy thrown out at the plate in the bottom of the ninth on some sort of broken play.

  6. You’re right, DGB, it was Canadian thanksgiving. And, Jesus, did you came back to the TV in time. As for that play you mention, read that NYT article linked to, or the summary provided by Manu in his comment. Cito could have been severely burned, but he trusted Ward, resulting in that out at home plate in the bottom of the 9th. Crazy.

    Navin Vaswani

    7 Jan 11 at 12:45 pm

  7. That out at home plate is one of the great nearly-but-not-quite-disasters in Blue Jays history… right up there with “Maldano’s throw is over everyone!”

  8. Back of my parents car coming down from Orangeville, Ontario. Nearly concussed my sister with a flailing elbow.

    SA

    7 Jan 11 at 1:16 pm

  9. At home in Thunder Bay…and I don’t remember it. Those were still the days when I just expected the Blue Jays to win every time they played, in spite of 1989 and 1991. Oh how I long for those days to come back.

    Loved this HR, of course, but Carter’s still tops it for me. Can’t imagine life ever being better than that.

    Steve

    7 Jan 11 at 2:52 pm

  10. I was too young to actually remember, but I watched this game over and over on a VHS, so much so that I get chills when I see that home run replayed.

    Matt

    7 Jan 11 at 5:54 pm

  11. Nice post. I just watched this game on DVD (the other day (to write something of my own on it, actually), I forgot how tense the late innings were. There was a couple of close plays that could have changed the game – one where Carter just-barely-by-the-slimmest-margin beat a tag at third stands out in particular.

    But for me, the best part is right before Alomar’s run, at the end of the eighth, when Eck gets Gruber out and gives him the staredown. Stare at Alomar rounding the bases, Eck. Stare at him the whole damn way around.

    Mark Milner

    7 Jan 11 at 9:46 pm

  12. Great post. Great memories. I watched every playoff game the Jays have played and have very little memory of anything that actually happened. It was too tense and I was too focused on the outcome to enjoy the moments as they happened. Fortunately we in Toronto have relived these games a thousand times.

    Mattt

    8 Jan 11 at 4:01 pm

  13. Best Blue Jay ever? Congrats on the Hall induction.

    FYI… you’re up on the blogroll.

    http://sportschump.net/linksblogroll/

    Stay in touch!

    Chris Humpherys

    12 Jan 11 at 9:26 am

  14. Too young to remember it, was around 4 years old. But my sister had every 1992 playoff game recorded on tape. Listening to the call always gives me chills. Eck was 600 times more annoying than Papelfuck.

    DesaiDevang

    13 Jan 11 at 12:30 am

  15. Bluejays will b the next Toronto team to win a championship. They will make the playoffs this year. Navin y did u ban me from the score blog. It’s my opinion. I didn’t use bad words. Y cuz I know more

    JayThekid

    13 Jan 11 at 1:50 pm

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