Two decades after a baseball game turned Toronto into party central, the players, press, and fans walk us through the night the Blue Jays won the 1992 World Series.
Twenty years ago this week, June Rowlands—who had a serious problem with the Barenaked Ladies’ saucy band moniker—was mayor of this fair city, Olivia Chow had recently become a city councillor, and Monika Deol was hosting MuchMusic’s weekly dance party, Electric Circus. But people were only talking about one thing—the Toronto Blue Jays, who were on the verge of bringing home Canada’s first World Series championship.
Game six took place on the evening of Saturday, Oct. 24, 1992, at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. The Jays were up 3–2 in the series, trying to clinch the title on the road. Even ball fan Wayne Gretzky was there. But while the game was being contested south of the border, another narrative was playing out in Toronto. A near-sellout crowd filled the SkyDome (there was no such thing as the Rogers Centre yet) to watch the game on the stadium’s famed Jumbotron. Sports bars around the city were packed with victory-starved fans who hadn’t tasted a world championship for 25 years, since the Maple Leafs’ 1967 Stanley Cup win.
In the 11th inning, when Joe Carter caught the ball at first base to make the final out, it kicked off a delirious celebration. For a couple of days, the city went crazy.
Here’s the story of that final game, from seven perspectives: three players, a team executive, a broadcaster, and two fans.
THE PRE-GAME BUILD-UP
While the players and the CTV crew get ready in Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium, Toronto fans are filing into the SkyDome to watch the game on the stadium’s giant screen.
Duane Ward: Before the game, I think the biggest thing was that we didn’t want to go to a game seven. The mood in the locker room was pretty much like it always was. Guys were loose, and everybody was getting ready for a game, just like we’d done all season long. I don’t think anybody was pacing or nervous.
Rod Black: I remember in the pre-game broadcast, we had the World Series trophy with us on our set, which was just over the right-field fence at Fulton County Stadium. We were about 10 seconds to air, and a ball hits the trophy. And I’m thinking, “What the heck?” It’s batting practice, right? Who is doing that? And I look down and there, with a little Cheshire grin, below the wall, is [pitcher] David Wells. He was a bit player for the Blue Jays at the time, and there he was, smiling. And I’m thinking, goodness gracious, it’s a nice trophy, but it’s not like the Stanley Cup, where it can be dented [but still survive]. It’s fragile. He knew I was going on air, and he hits the freakin’ trophy!
Paul Beeston: The fans were loud, they were boisterous. We were in a road city, and it was definitely a road game. What wasn’t lost on us was what happened in 1985, when we were up 3–1 [in the American League Championship Series] and lost. So that was still in the back of our minds.
Daniel Berkal: Toronto was Baseballtown, USA, in those days, even though it’s not in the USA. The SkyDome was this beautiful, brand-new jewel in the middle of the city. Once it was built, every game was sold out. So it wasn’t even an option to get tickets to the World Series. But then they announced they were going to broadcast away games on the Jumbotron. Game six came along, and I went with a friend from school. My parents and sister actually went as well, but they didn’t sit with us. The tickets were free. It was first-come, first-served. We were sitting in section 505, way up in right field. I remember everyone was looking off to the right, every head was pointed at the Jumbotron. They were showing the CBS feed—I remember the logo in the corner. And every once in a while they would cut away from Fulton County Stadium to Toronto during the broadcast, because we had 45,000 people screaming.
Steve Zikos: I was 24 years old at the time. Scarborough kids like us didn’t venture further north very often, but a group of about eight or 10 of us had gone up to East Beaver Creek in Markham to watch the game. There was a complex with bars and a movie theatre. They were projecting the game on a big screen. The whole club was packed. It was that atmosphere where you want to be with a bunch of people for something that could be historically significant. Most, if not all, of the people at the bar that night were decked out in their Carter shirt or a Jays cap or something. It was unreal.
THE TOMAHAWK CHANT
One of the defining elements of the series was the ceaseless (and extremely controversial, for obvious reasons) “tomahawk war chant” sung by Braves fans during games at their stadium.
Rod Black: One of the things I’ll always remember is how haunting that tomahawk chant was. It was really creepy. The game time was probably 8 p.m., and it started around five o’clock. It never, ever stopped. That chant would go on the entire game. You’d hear it at night in your sleep. And I always thought, “Boy, that would really affect a player.” But it didn’t affect the Blue Jays, quite obviously.
Kelly Gruber: The chant fuelled my fire. I think it fuelled everybody’s fire. With 50,000 fans doing the same chant, it was an atmosphere where we felt overwhelmed. It was distracting. It was annoying. [We were] surrounded. But I think it worked to our advantage. It woke us up; it made us feel the importance of the game. We had to be on guard the whole time.
Game six is a low-scoring affair. With the two teams deadlocked at 1–1 in the fourth inning, left fielder Candy Maldonado hits a solo home run to put the Jays ahead, 2–1.
Daniel Berkal: The SkyDome wasn’t quiet at all, period. You have 45,000 people essentially paying nothing to get in. It’s one giant party. Non-stop cheering. I mean, it’s game six of the World Series, which isn’t a situation where you were going to sit back and see how the game turns out. Plus, I was 14, so I wasn’t really aware of how drunk the people [around me] were. You have a stadium full of people with nothing to do but watch TV, so naturally they’d get drunk and run onto the field. It started with one, then there was one more, and later on in the game, a lot of people started doing it. The security guys would chase them down.
THE 9TH INNING
With the Blue Jays just one strike away from the championship, closer Tom Henke gives up a hit to Braves outfielder Otis Nixon, allowing Jeff Blauser to score. The game is now tied 2–2, and headed to extra innings.
Duane Ward: I had come out and pitched the eighth inning, and I held the lead. Then Tom Henke came in. Over the course of that season, it usually went that I’d set Tom up, and he’d get the save, and we’d win the ballgame. It just so happened that this time they tied it up in the ninth inning.
Paul Beeston: Tom always seemed to get everybody out. He might put a guy or two on, but he was Mr. Automatic. You felt confident, you thought, “He’s gonna close the deal.” This was the curse: I went down to the clubhouse in the ninth because they wanted to present the World Series trophy immediately thereafter. So I went down there and sat with [starting pitcher] David Cone in the manager’s office watching on television, and the Braves tied it up. Bad karma, boy. I tell you what, I should’ve said, “Forget the trophy! If we don’t get down there, too bad!” It kind of took the air out of the sails in the ninth, but we were tied.
Rod Black: I go down to the locker room, and I’m watching with Beeston, Cone, and the trainer. Cone had a cigarette going. He was nervous. They’re putting up the plastic wrap so the lockers don’t get sprayed. Beeston had a cigar, he was chomping on it, and all of a sudden the Braves tie the game. And Beeston goes, “Alright, everybody out!”
Kelly Gruber: You try not to let it bother you too much, sidetrack you, disappoint you, affect the next play. As we went [to extra innings], I was ready to get that sucker over with.
Next Page: Game six goes into extra innings… and Yonge Street gets a lot more crowded