The author of the most memorable moment in Toronto Blue Jays history reflects on that walk-off home run, how educated fans became about baseball during his time in Toronto, and his superior baking skills.
Sportsnet: Why are you so clutch?
Carter: [Laughs.] I think it’s because I like being in that situation. I’m not afraid of the failure part. I’ve always been a very positive person, and I’d rather it be me in that situation than anybody else in there. I learned from an early age, when the game is on the line, I want to be up there. When you look forward to those things, it’s not going to be a situation where you can’t handle it because of the pressure. It’s, “Man, this is fun, this is what the game’s about.”
How often do you hear about your walk-off home run?
Probably every day. Oh, yeah. I didn’t realize the SkyDome at the time held 365,000, because that’s how many people have told me they were at the game. I’ve heard every story as to where everyone was at, including people from the United States and other countries. They’ll say, “This is exactly where I was when you hit that home run.” It’s unbelievable.
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How often do you hear “Touch ’em all, Joe!”?
All the time. It’s better than hearing: “You struck out” or “You hit into a double-play” or something like that. [Laughs.]
When was the last time you swung a bat?
I swung a little bit in spring training this year. I swing a golf club a lot more. I love baseball but now I love golf even more.
Oh, yeah, because I’m not playing baseball now.
I guess it would be hard to find a beer league for your skill level.
[Laughs.] I don’t drink beer, so I wouldn’t be good in that league. I’ll leave the softball to my brother.
Blue Jays fans weren’t exactly knowledgeable about baseball when you were traded to Toronto, were they?
They weren’t, because it wasn’t hockey. The Blue Jays started here in ’77 and they had a little success in ’85 and ’89 but that was kind of the old regime. I remember they had a clip from Animal House, so whenever the team was behind, they had John Belushi on the screen saying: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Who’s with me?” It was supposed to rile the fans up and instead they were like, “Shhh, there’s a movie going on. Everybody be quiet!” In ’92 Dave Winfield said “We want noise” and [the fans] started getting into the baseball.
So much is known about those championship teams. Is there a memory you have that fans don’t know about?
I’ve always loved to cook and I love to bake. I make a world-famous pecan pie that is just everywhere now. I work for Arizona now [as a special assistant], so during spring training the guys are like, “Hey, when are you gonna make pies?” I made, like, 36 pecan pies for the guys for spring training. Whenever I see the team, they don’t even say hello anymore. They just say: “Hey, did you bring pies? Where’s the pecan pie at?” That’s something not too many people know about, but something I’m proud of.
You were behind those “3 for 3” T-shirts the team wore during the ’92 season. What gave you that idea?
We got beat by the Twins in the ALCS in ’91. It was a defining moment in our careers because it was the first time a lot of us had played in the playoffs in the big leagues. I didn’t like that feeling. We’re sitting in the clubhouse, they were on our field celebrating. Me and Pat Tabler, we talked about it, we said next year we’re coming back, we’re going to be focused, and it’s going to be from Day 1. We have three goals in mind: to win our division, to win the ALCS, and to win the World Series. That’s how the 3 for 3 in ’92 came about. We had T-shirts made up and the very first day that we got to spring training we passed them out. We said, “Guys, this is our goal, anything short of this will not be accepted.” We played with that mentality and that was our idea from the end of the ’91 season. We wore those T-shirts religiously. It gave us that daily reminder that the team comes first. We clinched our division, I believe against Detroit, and there wasn’t that much celebrating. We’re like, “No, we’ve got two more.” When we beat Oakland to go to the World Series, there was a little bit of celebration. But it was more composed: “Hey, we got one more thing to do before this season is complete. After the World Series, then we can celebrate.”
You knew this was the team that could do it.
Yes. It happened early in the off-season when we acquired Dave Winfield. He was a big presence in the clubhouse. He brought a lot of stability to our DH role. We got him and we knew we had a great chance to get to that next level. That was one big step to help us get there.
Who were your closest friends on those championship teams?
When I played, I was buddies with everybody. We’d go out and do things as a team. I had different guys I went to dinner with, like Robbie [Alomar] and Devo [White]. Guys like Ed Sprague and Paul Molitor and John Olerud, we played golf on the road.
Were you a loud presence in that clubhouse?
I was very loud. [Laughs.] I was never quiet, Robbie will tell you: I talk all the time. [Editor’s note: Alomar is sitting nearby on the bus where this interview is taking place, along with a hot-dog mascot and a bunch of screaming children who are about to play baseball.] To me, it’s all about having fun. The thing about baseball, when you’re going good, you never want to get too high, and when you’re going bad, you never want to get too low. So you try to keep it even keel. But I try to make everything fun.
Was your clubhouse really nice back in those days? Now they’re full of plush leather couches and TVs.
Oh yes, it was on that level. But we didn’t have the chefs that they have now. Now they have the chefs, they come in the morning, they cook them breakfast, they go out and take BP, they come back, the chefs cook them lunch, and before the game they cook them dinner. I’m like: “Are you kidding me?” They spoil these kids!
Did you bring your lunch to the ballpark when you played? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?
Oh no. At the time, we always had the clubhouse guy, Darren, he’d run and get us McDonald’s for lunch. [Laughs.] That was the big thing!
No kidding. What was your go-to pregame meal?
The Filet-O-Fish and the hot fries. Gotta have hot fries.
Did you eat McDonald’s the day you hit that walk-off?
No, no. You know what? We had pretty good food by then. [Laughs.]
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