Still Touchin’ ‘Em All

Lost amidst the furor of yesterday’s shocking, improbable Vikings comeback win over the Green Bay Packers was one of the most important anniversaries in Canadian sports: twelve years ago yesterday, Joe Carter hit his World Series winning home run off of Mitch Williams to give the Toronto Blue Jays their second consecutive championship. Twelve years–go figure. Not surprisingly, I’ve written about this event before; not surprisingly, it was for a Geoff Smith class. Here, sparsely edited, is my recollection of that historic night:

*****

My generation is starting to feel its collective age. We can no longer ignore the fact we’re growing up–and even if we’re trying, certain key anniversaries serve as immutable reminders of the passing time. For a generation of young Canadians, few dates bear testament to the inevitability of time than October 23. On that day in 1993, Joe Carter hit the home run. You all know which one I’m talking about.

Today–October 23, 2003–marks the ten year anniversary of Joe Carter’s World Series-winning home run, which remains one of the definitive sporting moment in Canadian history. Ten years since Carter whacked a 2-2 pitch from Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams into the Blue Jays’ bullpen to give Toronto its second consecutive championship. Ten years since Carter, bouncing up and down in a dance of soul-bursting euphoria, changed the face of Canadian baseball. To this day, I cannot watch a replay of that home run without tearing up. Seriously. On October 23, 2003, I was sitting at home, wishing I could watch that home run time and time again…when it hit me: “ESPN Classics Canada!” They’d been replaying each and every game of the 1993 World Series. I turned on the t.v. just as the bottom of the ninth was starting, with Ricky Henderson in the batter’s box and Williams on the mound, and there’s Henderson calling time out and Williams starting his delivery–and juuuuuuuust as he’s about to release he sees Henderson stepping aside. It was a great, great moment, and four pitches later Henderson walked. White flew out, Molitor slapped a single into right-centre; you know what happened next.

Me, I’ll never forget the exact details of that moment. You want proof? How about this: when Joe Carter hit his home run, at 11:41 p.m. EST, I was sitting on our brown footrest no further than three feet from the television, with our yellow-and-black afghan draped over it. The remote control was on the right armrest of our old rocking chair. One light, the lamp next to the recliner, was on. Mom and dad had gone to bed, resigned to defeat and awaiting Game 7. I was still holding out. Carter worked the count to 2-1, then swung at a bad pitch that would have gone for ball three. At 2-2 Williams threw the exact same pitch…and missed. Carter didn’t: he connected. Well hit down the left field line, as the call went. Way back and……goooone!

When the ball left the park, I just started at the television screen. I’m sure I had a notion somewhere in the back of my mind that the Blue Jays had just won the World Series, but it seemed too unreal. Then, as Carter rounded third, I realized what had happened, and started screaming. Not screaming anything in particular: just making noise and jumping up and down and staring at the television in utter disbelief and the dawning realization that my team had just won the World Series in one of the most improbable, dramatic moments in the entire history of baseball. Mom and dad came rushing downstairs, probably fearing for my life; all I could do was point at the t.v. and make noise. The previous year, when Nixon bunted, Timlin got on it and threw to first, the three of us were in a Minneapolis [or Bloomington…same thing–ed.] hotel room, exhausted and euphoric, as our team won the first ever international World Series title; this year, we were jubilant as our team repeated, erased all the bad memories of 1985 and 1989 and 1991 (when Toronto was projected to win it all, made the playoffs and utterly folded against the Minnesota Twins) and established itself as one of the great teams in recent baseball history. Since that day, I’ve seen Carter’s home run countless times, and each and every time it brings me back to that living room at 743 Confederation Drive in Thunder Bay where, as a boy, I witnessed history; today, as a young man, that home run reminds me that I’m not as young as I used to be, but also makes me realize just how timeless a moment it truly was. Not even the passing time will erase the memories of that night.

******

So. It also warrants mentioning that today is the thirteen year anniversary of Toronto’s first World Series win, which I witnessed (along with my parents) in a hotel room across from the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN (we were in town to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and, as it turns out, our last-ever Minnesota North Stars game). Just incredible how quickly time flies.

Guess that entry about yesterday’s football game will have to wait.

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