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 of the World Series. 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 homes belonging to all the others assembled 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, his wife and alcohol must have caused some concern. However, I did possess a limited understanding of my dad, who had faith in very little except that 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 we didn’t want to be anything more.

Our team had won, and in addition to maximizing baseball’s visceral 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.

Comments (24)

  1. What the fuck? Parkes was once a Blue Jays fan?

    Never would have guessed. Thought he was a life-time Giant fan who occasionally jumped on the Rangers bandwagon.

  2. I’ll never forget being in the back of my parents station wagon, cruising down yonge St, exchanging hundreds of high fives with the drunkest men alive. I need to be one of those drunk guys and everything will have come full circle.

  3. Nice story. My memory of the ’92 World Series was a much quieter time at home with my parents!

  4. I can’t wait for the Jays to return to the post season so I can stop clinging to this memory.

  5. The Toronto Blue Jays playoff runs in the late 80s and early 90s will always be special to me. I was 10 when the Jays finally won it all in 1992, but I remember every game like I just watched them this year (maybe because I wore out the VHS tape of the ’92 Championship. I filled the walls of my room (painted blue) with Jays memorabilia (banners, posters, calendars) and played a cassette of the Jays’ 1992 Championship team soundtrack (We fought ‘em all and the, Jays won!).

    I think for a lot of us in this age group, the Jays’ championships were the zenith of baseball awesomeness for us. I’ve seen only 3 of my favorite teams win championships in the last twenty years – the Jays, the Packers and the Ti-Cats – but there was something uniquely special about those teams in Toronto. It was that baseball was striving in a hockey-mad city (and remember, the Leafs were good that year in 92-93) and you couldn’t get a seat – I remember being lucky enough to go to a Jays game against the Brewers in 1992 for my 10th birthday – it was the first time I had seen 50,000 people in one place. I was in absolute awe of the place, and I don’t think I was an easily awe-able 10 year old. I remember that Juan Guzman pitched and the Jays lost 7-5, but the place was a-rockin’. I brought my glove with me, despite sitting in the 500s, and wore my Jays hat and t-shirt (both birthday gifts) with pride. I was part of something huge, I could feel it, and it was awesome.

    I remember watching every game of the playoffs that year. I was there in front of the old Sony 27″ tube when Alomar crushed Eckersely. I was there when Devon White started the triple play that wasn’t. I was watching when for the first time in my life, my parents didn’t make me go to bed at my bedtime because the Jays were in extras on October 24 1992, about to do something historic.

    It’s fair to say that I felt great and proud when my other two teams won championships recently, and also when Canada won gold in Vancouver. But, I don’t think I ever felt the same emotional connection as I did when the Jays were the best in the world in 1992 and 1993. I recently watched Bob McCown’s production on the twenty year anniversary of the 1992 championship, and was surprised to feel a ripple of goosebumps and actual welling in my eyes; I had no idea that that attachment to a team of players now long retired, who had achieved so much for not just a city but a nation, still resonated so strongly.

    I think sports analysis is different today. The Internet, with easily accessible stats and numbers and interviews and rumours, have changed the dialog to a considerable degree. But, what Parkes mentioned – that we can put aside everything else because of sheer giddiness we can feel about a game – that’s the magic of baseball. I love the advanced stats and geeky side of the game, but I’ll always remember that my greatest baseball memory was as a 10-year old with no idea of how anything other than batting average worked. And, all these years later, I can still relate to that 10-year old and how he felt, watching his favourite team win one for 30 million people.

    And, when the Jays win one again (hopefully soon!), I’ll feel the same way. Everyone has their own ways of expressing their fandom (some reasonably, others berating the team on the Fan), but it’s for one purpose – somewhere, to some degree, they love this team and want that magic back in Toronto. There are feelings of optimism that this team is closer than it has been in years, and we want to revel in that again. It’s human nature, and it’s human nature to feel robbed when it goes awry (and when it goes well for teams we don’t think deserve to be there before us, like Baltimore).

    To anyone who got through this whole thing, thanks for indulging my wistfulness.

    GO JAYS!

  6. today in classist and puritanical blog posts

  7. My parents were living overseas at the time. I taped all the games and brought them to them when I visited at Christmas. Even though we are knew the outcome, it was just as tense watching it the second time around. I wish I still had those tapes.

  8. I remember as a 7 year old being so nervous of the outcome that I went to bed early only to have my dad 30 minutes later wake me up to tell me that they had won. I woke up to see the celebration in awe. I was a tired 2nd grader the next day but I was a happy one. 1993, now that was special experience.

  9. My god.. I live in Peterborough, in what appears to be the same neighbourhood! Bob was recently paroled again! Good times. Seriously tho, where abouts in town did you grow up, Parkes? Sounded liked Dublin St….

  10. I’m to young to remember this one. I can remember watching the 93 one with my parents and seeing the Carter homerun.

    After watching the highlights of this game again and again, I really wish I could’ve lived through it in terms of being invested and being around other Jays fans. It has to be one of the greatest world series games of all time, especially with the championship on the line. Seemed as if every play and every out in that game was huge. Jays if I can remember hit the ball really well too and left a ton of runners stranded. I’ll never get tired of hearing the stories from people who watched that game

  11. Ah, Peterborough.

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