No, you didn't feel it was coming.
The fourth game of the 1992 American League Championship Series, seen from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum press box, appeared to be scripted – a very well-known script for visiting Toronto Blue Jays.
The fact that they led the Oakland Athletics two games to one in a row – not to mention the fact that they had already won a game within those hostile boundaries after splitting the first two into what was then Skydome – it wasn't enough to shake the memory of the franchise's limited and depressing post-season history.
When the Jays entered the eighth inning, they followed the A’s 6–1. Toronto starter Jack Morris, who was brought in as a free agent to win games like this, had given up five runs in just over three innings of work.
If necessary, Oakland could ask Dennis Eckersley, the best seamstress in the game, to pin it down in the end. Then it would be series-bound, the dynamics shifted, a familiar story that leads to its seemingly inevitable conclusion.
Programming alarm: Blue Jays Classics
Watch game 4 of the ALCS 1992 on Monday, March 23, at 8:00 p.m. ET / 5:00 p.m. PT on Sportsnet.
Before eighth place, your team was really tasked with reserving dinner for visiting baseball writers from Toronto in an elegant San Francisco eatery. This was over. Not that we were inherently defeatist, but we had seen this show a few times before.
In 1985, the first year the Jays contested the playoffs, the Kansas City Royals led them three games to one of the first Best-of-Seven ALCS. Had it been the old best-of-five format (the wild card and division series weren't going to be available in the future), the great Jays team, just eight years away from expansion, would have faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
And if that had happened, they might have won it. And if they had won, their ace, Dave Stieb, might have gone all the way to Cooperstown.
* who ran out of gas after two brilliant starts.
The banner heading in Globe and Mail the next morning: "You screwed it up."
In the following years, this team should have broken through George Bell's MVP season, particularly in 1987, which brought the Tigers to an epic breakdown in the last week of the season. It hurt, and it tightened the feeling that the Jays just couldn't win if it counted.
A berth in the 1989 ALCS was a happy surprise. They were so far away when Jimy Williams was fired as manager and reluctantly took coach Cito Gaston as a replacement (Pat Gillick wanted Lou Piniella, who was working on the Yankees programs at the time, but did not release George Steinbrenner from his contract) that it was already a triumph to make only the playoffs.
When they got there, they were rolled by the A in five games in the ALCS, with Eckersley and future Jays Dave Stewart and Rickey Henderson firmly establishing themselves as Toronto's Nemes. Oakland went on to sweep the San Francisco Giants in the earthquake-interrupted World Series.
About the 1991 ALCS: The less said, the better. The franchise deal that sent Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter to San Diego had changed the team's chemistry, but not the final results. The Jays launched an ankle ball player, Tom Candiotti, in Game 1, who inexplicably decided that he didn't want to throw his ankle with predictable results. In the meantime, the Minnesota Twins Morris started, which started the Myth Run, which was to end with its great start to Game 7 in the World Series.
So on to & # 39; 92, against those overly familiar A & # 39; s who seemed to have adopted the attitude of their manager Tony LaRussa for a man who is better than you / smarter than you.
But why shouldn't the A be confident?
Eckersley came up with two in the eighth, one run over and no one out. He gave up two more runs on consecutive singles to make it 6-4, but eventually knocked out Ed Sprague to end the inning.
To celebrate this, Eckersley performed a full-body fist pump on the hill, then pointed an imaginary pistol at the Jays shelter, firing and blowing smoke from the barrel.
The Jays players were angry, but the only way to silence him was to hit him, which was no small feat. This was the winner of the 1992 American League Cy Young and MVP. And this was a team that won 81 of the previous 82 games that led them to the ninth inning.
You have to absorb all of this to really know the meaning of the moment. You need to understand how Jay's fans learned to see all hopes as false hopes.
After Oakland went scoreless in half of the eight, the Jays hit. Then Roberto Alomar stepped on the plate with Devon White on board. When he hit left-handed, his swing was sweet and determined and everyone knew he was gone when he contacted them – knew he was out of the stadium before he raised his fists to celebrate.
It did not win – only bound. The Jays only pushed the decisive run across the record on the 11th. And they lost the next game in Oakland. The clincher had to wait for the game 6 series to return to Toronto.
But Alomar's homerun changed everything. It erased history and changed the fate of a franchise. You can look it up.
And we didn't have dinner that evening.