Twenty years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series. It was the first time in Major League Baseball history that the World Series was awarded to a franchise based outside of the United States. I’ve written about this before, but October 24, 1992, will always be the date on which my fondest World Series memory occurred.
It was the first autumnal Saturday night in the history of our household that wasn’t dedicated to the Toronto Maple Leafs. My dad had invited what seemed like the entire neighborhood over to watch Game 6. We had two rooms with big screen televisions showing the game, a stereo system pumping the commentary from the broadcast, and half of all the beer available for purchase in the Peterborough, Ontario area (which is to say a third of the beer available in all of Canada) in refrigerators and coolers located throughout the house.
The list of invitees wasn’t without some controversy, as my dad, never one to exclude, offered hospitality to our next door neighbors who were single-handedly driving the property value of the neighborhood’s homes into the ground.
Their house had it all
- A legendary stack of unreturned beer bottles? Check.
- An unmowed, never-raked lawn with an unmoveable Toyota Tercel ever-present? You bet.
- A recently paroled head of the household? He’d brag about it.
- Kids who could buy cigarettes from the corner store without a note from their mom and seemed to know more about sex than I do even now? Uh-huh.
I wasn’t quite old enough to completely comprehend the tension when everyone arrived.
Learning that not only was “Bob” out of prison that week, but that they had unknowingly volunteered to spend the next three hours of their lives with him — and his wife and alcohol — must have caused some concern among our guests.
However, I knew my dad, and I understood that he had faith in very little outside of the unifying power found in cheering on the same sports team.
And his faith wasn’t misplaced. Before too long, the petty neighborhood squabbles had been transported to the back of everyone’s mind and high-fives were being offered almost as frequently as Labbatt’s Blue.
When Otis Nixon hit a single off of Tom Henke in the bottom of the ninth to bring Jeff Blauser home, Bob’s repeated, angry cries of “Fuckin’ Henke,” (which was hollered in the exact same tone as he had used every day previous — when not incarcerated — to yell “Fuckin’ Rocky,” at the pitbull chained in his backyard) didn’t seem too out of place.
Then when Dave Winfield doubled to left in the top of the eleventh we were all one big happy family, unified in purpose and collectively willing those final outs of the season.
I’ll never forget that turnaround, not so much in the game, but in people’s attitudes toward one another. For those four plus hours of baseball, the characters that life had forced individuals to become were thrown by the wayside, and age, circumstance and bank balances didn’t matter. We were all Blue Jays fans, and nothing more, and most importantly, we didn’t want to be anything more.
Our team had won, and in addition to maximizing baseball’s vicarious experience, we had embraced each other in communion as well. This is the good that sports can do, and it’s never been better exemplified for me than in that baseball game that occurred twenty years ago today.