Spun from a collection of breathtaking and heartbreaking moments, baseball mythology stretches nearly a century and a half. In the bottom of the ninth, down one in game six of the World Series, one Blue Jay would be given a chance at immortality. And man, would he make good.
Jerry Howarth, Radio
Going to the bottom of the ninth inning, the Phillies open their bullpen door out there in right field and when Mitch Williams came out, Rickey, from what they tell me, went right down the dugout bench, his palms [up], he said, “Give me five, give me five. He’s going to walk me on four pitches. We’re going to win this thing.”
Jim Fregosi, Phi. Manager
Schilling wanted to close game six, but I don’t believe in breaking pitchers’ arms.
Pat Gillick, GM
I was sitting with one of our scouts, Moose Johnson. I said to him that if Henderson gets on we’ll tie this thing.
Bob Elliott, Journalist
[The Blue Jays] liked their chances with [Rickey]. He would take a pitch with such disdain, like, “Is that all you got?” [Williams] walked him on four straight pitches.
Joe Carter, RF
Rickey is a pest, he’s a nuisance, especially when he’s leading off an inning. He’s going to walk. He’s going to make you throw him a strike and with Mitch, who’s very wild, we knew that he was gonna walk him. We just knew Rickey was gonna be on first base. We figured he could steal second, maybe steal third. And that’s one run. Once he gets on base he’s almost guaranteed to score every time. That’s how great a leadoff hitter he is. I know that Mitch is nervous. We got the upper hand, we feel like. Now Mitch has to worry about Rickey stealing second base; his mind is not really on the hitter, it’s on Rickey.
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Duane Ward RP
The worst thing [Williams] could have done is walk the leadoff guy. That gets him in the mode of saying, “I’ve walked one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball; he’s also one of the best base-stealers.” Being up by one run, I’m sure that played on him a lot. He may try to change something here or there in his delivery and sacrifice a little bit of stuff for location.
With Henderson creeping off the bag at first, Devon White worked the count full before flying out to left-centre.
White had a big long at-bat and Molitor said that really helped him. He said, “If White had hit the first pitch, I’d have gone up there trying to hit a home run and it would’ve been a 6-4-3.” He said, “White’s the only guy who didn’t get a hit in the inning, but he dialed me down a notch, so I just took a simple approach.”
Paul Molitor, DH
I remember watching Devon’s at-bat and thinking, “Man, you’re going to get a chance to live that boyhood dream to hit a home run to win the World Series.” And then I remember thinking, “Don’t let your mind go there. Just try to have a good at-bat and hit the ball.” The odds of me going up there and hitting another home run weren’t good. But I knew that I was hitting pretty good, so the odds of me going up there and keeping the inning alive and giving the other guys a chance were there.
Molitor’s simple approach resulted in a single to centre that put the winning run on first and brought Joe Carter to the plate.
Having Joe up there, you like it because he’s an RBI guy. But you also don’t like the fact he’s a free-swinger with guys on base, ’cause anything can happen.
When I come to the plate, I’m like, “Boy, it always comes down to this.” I could hear people screaming, “Let’s go Joe! Come on Joe!” Everybody’s watching. My idea was to go up there with a game plan: I’m not gonna swing until I get a strike. I was gonna take. Some people become anxious and swing at a bad pitch, the first pitch. I hadn’t faced Mitch in five or six years. He was really new to me, but that was my game plan. I didn’t mind hitting deep in the count; it didn’t bother me.
I remember being surprisingly relaxed talking to John Kruk at first base and saying, “Man, this is so unbelievably fun to be in this game.” And I remember him just saying, “I’m not having any fun at all.” So I’m taking a good lead because I’m not sure if Rickey is going to try to steal third, and if he does I’ve got to be ready to steal second. I’m out there far enough that I could get a pretty good look at the signs and I was trying to see what they were going to throw to Joe.
First pitch I take, ball. Next pitch, ball two. So now I’m really relaxed. OK, he’s going to throw me a fastball down the middle; he has to throw me a strike. Next pitch is a fastball right down the middle of the plate. Now I’ve seen three pitches, it’s two-and-one. Now I’m ready to swing the bat. Base hit will score Rickey and get Molitor to third. Next pitch he throws a breaking ball and I lose it.
The swing that Carter took on the 2-1 pitch might have been the ugliest second-strike swing I have ever seen.
The second baseman, Mickey Morandini, had moved right behind second base because I was a dead-pull hitter. When Mitch let go of the ball, the background was Morandini’s jersey, so the ball was moving in and out of shadows. I lost it and it dropped on me.
He was certainly trying to hit a home run on the 2-1 pitch. Somebody near me said, “What do you think?” And I said, “I don’t know. What do you think?” And the guy said “6-4-3. See you tomorrow night. Drive home safely.”
Pat Hentgen, SP
I was by that water cooler just going, “Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m gonna be pitching tomorrow.” And the numbers I was putting on the chart, I’ll be honest, they were starting to get a little squiggly. I was getting a little nervous for sure.
I said, “OK, I really gotta concentrate.” Luckily for me, Morandini moved back over to the first-base side. Now at two-and-two I’m telling myself, “OK, he’s gonna throw the breaking ball because he made me look bad on it.” I gotta look breaking ball, even though that goes against the rules of baseball—you’re never supposed to look for the breaking ball. I get in there and he shakes off the first sign the catcher gives him. Had to put down curveball and he shook him off. Is he trying to bait me? I said, “Joe, stick to your plan, he’s going to throw the breaking ball. Stay back, wait and put the ball in play.”
[Williams] shook off the sign and I remember thinking, “Oh man, I think he just shook off the slider and is coming with a fastball. I’ve got to get a bit more of a lead.”
Mitch Williams, Phi. RP
I’d faced him before. He was 0-for-4 off me lifetime. I knew how to pitch him. I knew he was a down-and-in hitter. The pitch I threw was a mistake. It was supposed to be up and away.
Mitch kind of slide-stepped and sped his delivery up and threw a bad slider down and in. What else is there to say?
I hit a fastball that he kind of cut. I didn’t know it was a fastball, because it went down and in like a slider. Because I was thinking breaking ball, I was able to keep the ball fair.
I remember thinking, “Stay fair! Stay fair!” because he hooked so many balls foul—he was a dead-pull guy. Pitchers used to pitch him in and they’d hook him foul, hook him foul and he’d get two strikes on himself. But he was actually a guy who could keep it fair, too.
Cito always said Carter was the only guy, next to Hank Aaron, he could see pull the ball and be able to keep it fair.
When I made contact, I looked up and I couldn’t see the ball. All I saw was the bank of lights in left field. I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t know if I hit it high enough to get out. That’s what all the jumping was as I was going to first base: I was trying to see what the elevation of the baseball was and help it out of the park. To see Pete Incaviglia stop at the wall and give up on it, and to see it go out was like an out-of-body experience.
Photo credit: GETTY IMAGES
Darren Daulton, Phi. C
Every now and then, the hitter’s back goes through the plane and you lose sight of where the ball is going—that was one of those pitches. I just remember everybody’s focus was to left. I obviously knew that he’d pulled the ball, but I couldn’t see it. I stood up and put my glove up against the left-field lights and I see Inky’s back, you know, and I was like, “That’s not good, this is not good.”
I was going hard around second thinking that if the ball hit the wall that maybe I’ll have a chance to score, and then I remember seeing [Williams’s] shoulders drop. I could tell by the reaction that the game was over. Those last 180 feet were something that I had imagined for a long, long time.
I knew it was gone. I gave it the courtesy double-look back and I just kept walking. Remember it like it was yesterday.
I threw the clipboard.
The first thing that came to my mind was, “Oh my God, I have no idea what I’m going to do tomorrow.” Literally, this is what went through my mind, because I’d already planned on coming to game seven. I just knew we were gonna win that ball game.
I was jumping up and down going to first base and the one thing I told myself was, “Touch all the bases.” In between my jumps, I got myself back on step so I could touch first base. My helmet comes off, first-base coach Bob Bailor calmly picks it up like it’s no big deal. I’m going along the bases, listening to fireworks, looking at all the fans, people running onto the field, knowing what had just happened. Man, if I had learned how to do cartwheels, I would have done cartwheels around the bases. I told that to Mitch Williams once, he said, “If you did, I would have come back out there and kicked your behind.”
People want to make more of it than it really was. It was a pitcher against a hitter. One of us had to win, one had to lose. I happened to lose. If I had got him out people would never have heard my name again.
Nick Leyva, 3B Coach
When he went around first base, I think he got by Bob Bailor so fast I don’t know if he had the chance to give him a high five, but I sure did when he came around third base, believe me.
Jack Morris, SP
As soon as he rounded third, I was the first guy to greet him. I figured why mob him at home? I’ve been there before; it’s a mess down there. I just got him right on the line.
As soon as I touched home plate, I let my whole body go limp because I just got swarmed. I just laid on the turf with everybody on me.
I’m kinda embarrassed to admit it, but I’m real claustrophobic, so I don’t like those pileups. So if you ever look at any of those, I’m always on the outside edge. I don’t like being on the bottom, so I don’t ever get involved in the deep, deep circle of the celebration.
After about a minute or so I could hear either Tony Fernandez or Juan Guzman saying, “Let him up, let him up, let him up! Get off of him!” By that time I was just lying on the ground, could barely breathe, just lying there going, “I don’t believe this just happened. This is unreal.”
They hadn’t announced it, but I figured it was going to be Molitor [for MVP]. So I just sat there and I watched him. Molitor crossed the plate and everybody mobbed Carter. But then, one by one, they all sought out Molitor. He had been in the ’82 World Series and hadn’t been back since, and the only reason he came to Toronto was to win a World Series, and he was a good guy. And now he’s crying. I’m sitting there watching it and now I’m crying.
I was somewhere between home and first and Cito hugs me and he sees the tears in my eyes and it’s just one guy after another embracing me. I had been through so much that year emotionally, from the decision to come there, trying to fit into a new team, realizing there was pressure on trying to repeat and filling Dave [Winfield’s] shoes. I had tried not to let those things become overwhelming and just play, but it all sort of weighs on you. It was just the rush of emotion that got to me.
They picked me up and it was a sight to behold. Twenty years later I can watch the video and still get goosebumps. In fact, a couple weeks ago Charlie Sheen came by my house and before he leaves he says, “I gotta see the home run.” He’s a big baseball fan. So I put the tape on, and sure enough it still brings back chills, it really does. Hitting the home run in the bottom of the ninth. I dreamt that all the time as a kid.
Darren Kritzer, Bat Boy
The first memory always comes back to trying to retrieve Joe Carter’s bat. I just thought, “My job all day has been to go out and retrieve the bats and bring them back, so what do I do?” So I go to find it, the bat was just kind of kicked aside and I brought it back. There’s a photo where I’m just basically at the tail end trying to get into the pile. Because I went work-first, let’s get the job done, and then I celebrated. I think the bat’s in the Hall of Fame now.
One of the best pieces of trivia that came out of that: Only two World Series have ended with a walk-off home run. Bill Mazeroski for Pittsburgh in 1960 at Forbes Field to win game seven against the Yankees 10–9, and Joe Carter 33 years later against the Philadelphia Phillies. In the celebration at Forbes Field, Dick Schofield, the Pirates shortstop, was there in the mob scene to congratulate Bill Mazeroski. Thirty-three years later, his son Dick Jr. was in the celebration in Toronto. Dick Schofield Jr., who broke his arm and didn’t play after May, was there; he was a significant part of that team over the first six weeks of the season. He and his dad were present for the only two walk-off home runs in World Series history. That’s why I love baseball.
I remember Mitch Williams was so impressive. He just did wave after wave after wave of interviews. He didn’t duck. He just handled it. Meanwhile, he’s getting death threats at home.
There are people who work a hell of a lot harder than I do in this world. I’m not going to sit and whine and complain over the fact that I was in the World Series and I lost.
Finally we go inside [the clubhouse] and CBS is there, they want to talk, so I go in. Somebody handed me a bottle of champagne, even though I don’t drink. I do an interview with CBS, then they usher me out to the interview room to talk to everybody else. I go and do all my interviews, everybody’s asking questions, it lasts 25 minutes. I’m walking back to the clubhouse and I go in there. It’s packed, our wives and families, everybody’s in there, and they’re done celebrating. I didn’t get a chance to spray any champagne on anybody. I’m like, “Wait a minute, I missed it! I missed the whole thing!”
I was frustrated because everybody was celebrating and CBS was going late with the MVP presentation. All I wanted to do was go be with my team.
When I came back from doing all my interviews, I came down into the clubhouse and [bullpen coach] John Sullivan says, “Hey, I got something you may want.” It was the baseball. My wife was there and I said, “You’ve been by my side all these years,” and I gave the ball to her.
John Sullivan, Coach
It went over our heads into the Toronto bullpen. It went off the wall and bounced right back into my glove, and we took off running for home plate. There was a gentleman around there from the Hall of Fame and he asked me, “Did you get the ball? Did you get the ball?” ’Cause I guess they wanted it for the Hall of Fame or whatever. I said, “I don’t know—I don’t have any baseball.” I kept it, ’cause I knew I was going to give it to Joe. That’s who deserved it.
I go downstairs and I find Carter on the field, and they’re showing the replay again and again. I talked to Molitor and nobody’s leaving. The one before, they won in Atlanta. This was something special. After I talked to Molitor I saw him sitting with his daughter, watching the replays. Instead of acting like a lunatic and running around squirting beers and champagne, he’s taking time out to speak to his daughter.
We stayed in the stadium for a long time and at the end of the day I wanted to know what her reaction was to all of this as a little girl. I wanted to help her to realize that it was special, but I wanted to share with her my perspective on the thing and talk about things that are real and things that are good, but to talk to her about things that are more special, like family.
You could go outside, but you couldn’t move. People would just drive up Yonge Street honking their horn, turn around and drive back by the ballpark and start honking their horn all over again. When people say it’s a hockey town, don’t tell me it was a hockey town that night.
Buck Martinez, TV
A lot of the players just stayed inside the stadium at the restaurant called the Founders Club. Everyone kind of gathered in there. It was a low-key celebration—just relaxed, a tremendous sense of accomplishment for everyone in the organization. It wasn’t anything like a locker-room celebration.
We hung around the clubhouse after the games just about every night of the year—that’s how close this team was. And late, probably 2 a.m. or so, a lot of the Blue Jays came over into our clubhouse and we drank beer together, which I thought was really cool. That’s how much respect we had for one another.
We didn’t get back to my apartment until two or three in the morning. Then I was up at six to do Good Morning America back at the SkyDome.
I phoned home and my wife’s sister and her boyfriend at the time were at our house. They said, “Don’t come home.” There were 10 carloads of people just unloading on the house—rocks, eggs, everything. The cops were there. If it was just me, I’d fly back and deal with it. But my wife didn’t ask for this. So we flew directly to Texas. I’ve dealt with that kind of crap. But I didn’t need her being called names.
[A few days later,] I get to my house and pull into my driveway. In my front yard, someone has cut my grass real low and put the No. 29 in my grass. They had it painted blue and white. Then they had this big ol’ sign across my garage door that said, “The fat lady doesn’t sing until Joe Carter swings.” I open my garage and all these blue and white balloons come out. My neighbours had done that. Streamers everywhere. That was quite a treat. And then about an hour later, I gotta pick up all the stuff.
Todd Stottlemyre, SP
Everybody says when they win, “I’d like to thank the fans for being the best in the game.” Hey, there were no other fans. There was no other place in baseball where 50,000 people showed up every single night. And it wasn’t like they showed up in the third and left in the seventh. They were there early, they stayed late. They were truly part of our club.
I hear about it every day. Everyone tells me exactly where they were and what they were doing. Doesn’t matter if they’re American or Canadian. A lot of them tell me they were at the game. I thought the SkyDome only held about 51,000—I’ve had about 350,000 people tell me they were at the game.
Photo credit: Chuck Solomon / Sports Illustrated