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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