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.
With Devon White and Roberto Alomar on base in the top of the 11th, Dave Winfield drives a two-run double down the left-field line to make the score 4–2. In the bottom of the 11th inning, with the score 4–3, manager Cito Gaston brings in reliever Mike Timlin to face Nixon. The next play is one of the most iconic moments in Toronto sports history: Nixon bunts, Timlin fields it and throws the ball to Carter, and CBS announcer Sean McDonough delivers the famous call: “For the first time in history, the world championship banner will fly north of the border! The Toronto Blue Jays are baseball’s best in 1992!”
Duane Ward: We knew Otis Nixon was going to bunt, because the Braves had a guy on base. Everyone on the bench was screaming, “He’s going to bunt!” We knew it was going to happen and it turned out to be a routine play. Even before Timlin threw the ball to Carter, we’d left the dugout and started running toward the mound and celebrating. Timlin turned around after making the play to first and we were already in a pile. Everyone was hollering.
Pat Borders: We did discuss Nixon bunting the ball, and he did. For me it was just like, “Phew, we’re finally done. I can quit thinking.” I was tired.
Kelly Gruber: I fell straight to my knees and raised my arms in the air. It was ecstasy—it was tremendous. I remember the bullpen guys started swarming me from behind. I remember grabbing those guys, starting to jump around and make our way towards the main pile. They could’ve trampled on me and I wouldn’t have felt it.
Daniel Berkal: They used to have fireworks in the Dome whenever the Jays hit a home run. After everything happened and they won, they set the fireworks off and the place was absolute pandemonium. Once we left the stadium, the entire city of Toronto was out and about. This was long before Dundas Square, but Yonge and Dundas was the centre. From the SkyDome out onto Front Street and over to Yonge, it was horns honking—just a sea of people. I had to meet my parents by Gate 15, where the hotel is. This was before cell phones—it was impossible to find them.
Steve Zikos: After the bunt was laid down and thrown to Carter at first for that final out, I remember everyone stopping, awestruck. I think, as with anything that’s shocking, there was that split-second of silence where everyone just looks with awe at each other [followed by] an eruption of cheers. After no more than three or four minutes of high-fives, hugs, screaming, and hollering, we all said, “You know what? There’s no way we can stay up here. We need to go downtown.”
The players’ post-game celebration is decidedly low-key compared to the party unfolding on Yonge Street, which stretches on deep into the night. Crowd numbers are estimated between 300,000 and 400,000.
Kelly Gruber: We went back to the hotel. I wasn’t about to go anywhere. They had a ballroom for us, and we just hobbled around that hotel. Some of [the team] went out, some of them didn’t. We celebrated—the world was ours for that moment. I don’t think I went to bed. The [next day], we got on the flight, got home, had a victory dinner with some friends and family, and I got to bed late, late that night. It was two or three days before my nerves settled down so I could actually relax. I was so excited.
Daniel Berkal: Everyone on the street was dressed up in some sort of makeshift costume. It was difficult, because the Jays’ logo is really hard to draw. On the walk through the crowd, guys were selling “World Series Champions” t-shirts out of the back of a truck. I remember buying one for $10, and I wore it to school the next day. I think it disintegrated in the washing machine shortly afterward.
Steve Zikos: We packed into our cars and headed downtown. The closer you got, you had to make a decision on where to park your car and head into the fray. We ended up on Yonge Street, just north of Dundas. There was a Pizza Pizza on the corner near Gould, and beside it, in the middle of this suffocating crowd, was a TV van with its big satellite dish up, and people standing on top of it, filming the crowd. I remember looking up and seeing people on top of the stores, on the roofs of buildings. I remember thinking to myself, “Do those people live there? Or work there? How did they get up there?” There were people up on light poles, postboxes, people up on each other’s shoulders. It was a surreal moment.
Daniel Berkal: In those days, the best way to say you were happy wasn’t to tweet it. It was more like, “Let’s scream as loud as we can and jump up and down.”
Steve Zikos: The party went on for hours. There wasn’t a lot of movement. Usually cars go up and down Yonge Street honking their horns, but there was no way that was happening that night. It was all foot traffic, people as far as the eye could see, just standing there cheering. I think we were down there two to three hours. And for about an hour and a half of that, we were just in that one place, on Yonge Street, a block north of Dundas. I don’t remember any kind of police presence or any troublemakers. It was just so much joy and jubilation. I’ve never witnessed anything like those huge crowds. We were strangers celebrating our beloved team, but high-fiving and hugging as if we’d known each other for years. Everyone was filled with the same pride: cheering the same team, invested in the same thing.
Paul Beeston: We were a good team, we were not a fluke. After the years of frustration from ’85 on—seven years of being good but not great—by the time we won, it was surreal. To this day, anybody who was on that team, the front office and the team itself, there was something that’s difficult to explain, but there was a bond. People liked each other, they genuinely cheered for each other. There were no jealousies, there were no problems. It was a talented group of guys that achieved a goal. It was a completion of a circle.
Pat Borders: Out of all the teams I’ve ever been on, that was the closest. [It was] the most fun you’d ever have. Most of us played with each other for years. Man, that’s a bonding situation, when you’re in level-A ball, renting a trailer for a couple hundred bucks a month.
Kelly Gruber: Atlanta Braves, L.A. Dodgers, New York Yankees, all of them think they’re America’s team. We played for the entire nation of Canada. From coast to coast, and everywhere we go, it doesn’t matter if we’re in Toronto, Vancouver, or St. John’s, Newfoundland, everywhere we go, the red carpet is out. We truly played for a nation. None of those other teams will ever understand what that’s like. I’ve been blessed to have played in Canada. I couldn’t imagine it being any better.
Where were you the night the Jays won the World Series in 1992? Share your stories in the comments section below.