They came for the nostalgia. They left probably pining even more for the old days.
With more than 30,000 fans on hand at Rogers Centre to honour Toronto's 1992 and '93 World Series teams, the current Blue Jays bore little resemblance to those championship squads in a 7-5 loss to the last-place Baltimore Orioles on Friday night.
Three dozen coaches, trainers and players from the Jays' title years were feted in a pre-game ceremony — the centrepiece of this weekend's reunion festivities. Current manager Cito Gaston, who also handled both championship teams, threw out the first pitch to 1992 World Series MVP Pat Borders before being mobbed by his former charges.
"When all the guys gathered around me that was quite emotional," Gaston said. "All those guys, I love them all."
Joe Carter, whose walkoff homer on the same field beat Philadelphia in the '93 Series, received a nice ovation along with former teammates Roberto Alomar, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor, Tony Fernandez, John Olerud, Tom Henke, Dave Stewart and David Cone, among others.
Since those men helped the Jays to back-to-back titles, the team has yet to return to the post-season. Not coincidentally, Friday's audience was about 20,000 shy of what typically packed the SkyDome in the Jays' heyday.
The turning point
Baltimore's big sixth inning started when rookie Matt Wieters drew a leadoff walk against Jays starter Ricky Romero, and Cesar Izturis and Adam Jones singled to load the bases. A hard grounder up the first-base line by Nick Markakis went off Lyle Overbay's globe, allowing two runs to score on the error.
Aubrey Huff then lashed a single to centre to score Jones with the tying run, and the Orioles went ahead when Nolan Reimold grounded to third and the Jays' infield couldn't complete the around-the-horn double play.
"It seemed liked the momentum was on our side for the whole game from the first pitch until that inning," Romero said. "It kind of started with me and that leadoff walk, a couple of bad breaks and we're down 4-3."
The drought is about to reach 16 years as Toronto (51-57) finds itself well out of contention in both the American League East and AL wild card chases.
Still, it looked like some of the old magic had rubbed off on the 2009 Jays early on Friday night.
Beleaguered sluggers Vernon Wells and Alex Rios — the latter reportedly placed on waivers Friday — channeled Carter with back-to-back solo blasts into the left-field seats in the second inning, and Ricky Romero pitched like a Cone clone as he carried a no-hitter into the fifth.
Second baseman Aaron Hill, among the AL leaders in runs driven in, showed why he's a worthy heir to Alomar when he smoked an RBI double to put the retro-jerseyed Jays up 3-0 through five.
But the magic wore off in a brutal sixth inning that saw the Orioles parlay an error by first baseman Lyle Overbay (no Olerud, it turns out) into four runs and a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Bespectacled reliever Brandon League (eyewear aside, no Henke) coughed up another three in the eighth.
A run-scoring single by Wells and an RBI sac fly by Rios in the eighth made it more interesting, but didn't stop Baltimore (46-63) from winning for just the second time in eight games.
"It was a special day," Romero said. "It's really disappointing to come out with the loss.
"I was warming up out in left field [before the game] and could feel the energy."