At the bottom of the 11th inning of the 1992 World Series' Game 6, an entire nation's hopes hung on the Toronto Blue Jays.
“We had the pressure of a country, not just the city of Toronto, but we had the pressure of a country to produce and win a World Series,” the Jays' Duane Ward recently told the Guardian.
From such enormous pressure came glory. When the Jays triumphed over the Braves in Atlanta 4-2 in the early hours of Oct. 25, they changed history, winning the first World Series not just for Toronto, but for all of Canada. Twenty years later, fans still recall the team's long and bumpy journey to the top and what it meant for Canadians.
In their early years the Jays were a modest expansion team, one of only two MLB franchises in Canada, skipping along the bottom of its division. Many Canadians chose to support U.S. teams and still do. But as the franchise hit its stride in the mid-'80s to early '90s, eventually setting the stage for a World Series upset in 1992, they began to excite and unite Canadians.
Pressure mounted during the Jays' harrowing series against the Atlanta Braves, where single runs divided winners from losers in four of the World Series games. While Atlanta edged out the Jays 5-4 in Game 1, three consecutive wins ignited Canadian pride - they were beating what was often called “America's Team” at its own game.
After the Braves gained lost ground in Game 5, Game 6 proved to be a thriller.
Toronto led Atlanta 2-1 early on until the Braves tied up the game at the bottom of the 9th. Dave Winfield scored a two-run double in the top of the 11th, giving the Jays a lead the Braves couldn't trump with a run in the bottom of the inning.
Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, it all came down to one play. With the tying run on third with two outs, the Braves' Otis Nixon bunted off pitcher Mike Timlin, who tossed the ball to first for an easy out.
The series was at its heart a team effort, players insisted, although big-name players like Roberto Alomar and Pat Borders earned special celebrity. And of course it was all for the fans celebrating back in the SkyDome, a Champagne-soaked Joe Carter noted in a post-game interview.
While bubbly flowed in the locker room post-game, roughly half a million people flooded the streets of Toronto, howling and waving pennants and Canadian flags.
And when the crowds spontaneously erupted into verses of 'O Canada,' they indicated the Jays didn't just win a World Series -- they won over Canadians as well.
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While the 1992 World Series marked the first time a Canadian team won, the Blue Jays roster didn't list a single Canadian. Many of the players came from the Caribbean. Toronto Blue Jays Roberto Alomar (12) is called out at the plate by umpire Mike Reilly as Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz (29) makes the tag in the fourth inning of game two of the World Series in Atlanta on Sunday, Oct. 19, 1992. The Blue Jays beat the Braves 5-4 to even the series at a game apiece.
Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders earned MVP in the 1992 World Series, and remains one of three Americans who have won both that title and an Olympic gold medal. Toronto Blue Jays MVP Pat Borders, wearing catchers equipment, piles on top teammates at the Toronto Blue Jays down the Atlanta Braves to win the 1992 World Series in Atlanta Saturday, Oct. 24, 1992.
Before Game 2 began, the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard flew the Canadian flag upside down by accident. To smooth over the situation before Game 3, the corps asked permission to carry the Canadian flag again, and the crowd applauded in response. Mounties also carried the U.S. flag in return.
In the fall of 1992, Blue Jay Dave Winfield (of “Winfield wants noise” fame) became the oldest player to register 100 or more RBI in a season. He was 41. Aug. 30, 1992. Dave Winfield was inspiring in the clubhouse and grimacing on the field after being called out at second on a double play.
Before snagging the World Series championship in 1995, the Atlanta braves won 38 years prior as he Milwaukee Braves in 1957, 10 years before that in 1948, and 43 years before that in 1914 as the Boston Braves. Talk about your droughts! John Smoltz #29 (C) of the Atlanta Braves talks to teammates Terry Pendleton (L) and Damon Berryhill during game 5 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves on October 22, 1992 at the Skydome in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Braves won 7-2.
Jays fans numbering 50,421 packed the Skydome on Oct. 4, 1992, pushing home attendance past 4 million for the second year in a row, and setting a new Major League attendance record at 4,028,318 fans. The Toronto SkyDome is decked out and ready as the Toronto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves prepare to face off in Game 3 of the 1992 World Series between the Tononto Blue Jays and the Atlanta Braves Oct 20, 1992. When it opened in 1989, Toronto's SkyDome it was the envy of the baseball world - a state-of-the-art facility that continually packed in more than 50,000 fans a game. But as it turns out, SkyDome was among the last of its kind. The ballpark, now known as Rogers Centre, turns 20 this week.
In 1992, then Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston became the first - and only - African American manager to win a World Series to date. Toronto Blue Jays World Series manager Cito Gaston waves to the crowd. The Blue Jays are celebrating the World Series wins in 1992 and 1993 at Rogers Centre on August 7, 2009.
During the 1992 and 1993 seasons, the Toronto Blue Jays payroll exceeded every other team in their division, and became the league's top spenders in 1993. Toronto Blue Jays Joe Carter, arm raised, is mobbed by teammates after making the final out in the World Series in Atlanta, Oct. 24, 1992. the Blue Jays beat the Braves 4-3 to win the series.
In 1992, Blue Jay Jack Morris set a Major League record with 14 consecutive Opening Day starts. Over a seven-year period, he was the league's highest paid pitcher four times. Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jack Morris, left, who was acquired as a free agent from Minnesota, stretches out during the first week of Spring Training at the Blue Jays camp in Tamp, Florida, Feb. 26, 1992. At right is pitcher David Wells.
'O Canada' singers during the 1992 World Series included The Nylons, Prairie Oyster, Michelle Wright, Anne Murray, Tom Cochrane and Michael Burgess. VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 22: Musician Tom Cochrane performs at the NHL TV Awards Show at The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on June 22, 2006 in Vancouver, Canada.