Joe Carter is talking about a different subject than usual these days, but it's not hard to get him started.
The former Toronto Blue Jays great rejects Boston Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster's claim that he was not trying to bean troubled New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez on the weekend.
"The message was loud and clear," said Carter. "I don't agree with what transpired because if you're going to throw at someone like that just as a statement, you do it the first pitch and then you go on about the rest of the game."
Dempster, from Gibsons, B.C., received a five-game suspension for plunking Rodriguez, who has drawn the wrath of his peers for appealing a 211-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug and labour agreement. Dempster drilled Rodriguez on a 3-0 pitch Sunday after sailing his first pitch behind the troubled Yankee and throwing two subsequent fastballs near him.
Carter chalked Dempster's actions up to the unwritten "codes" that players police themselves by. But the ex-Jay tacitly endorsed the beaning.
"It's just a message that you don't like the cheaters and I don't blame him for that because … [doping] has taken away from the game of baseball," said Carter.
Drug cheats, he contended, have created an uneven playing field and denied clean players their place in history.
"[In] a game that's based on stats, it has helped those stats tremendously and it's taken away from the guys who played it the right way," said Carter.
The comments came after he called last week for tougher penalties for players who used performance-enhancing drugs. But Carter usually talks more frequently about his home run that gave the Toronto Blue Jays their second of back-to-back World Series titles.
It was a popular topic again this week as he made an appearance at a Vancouver Canadians game.
"No matter where I'm at, they'll talk about the home run," said Carter. "They'll talk about where they were and what they were doing because it's a moment where everyone realizes where they were and what they were doing at that time."
Rich Poehlmann, 48, travelled from his home in Whistler, B.C., to give Carter a framed photo of the former slugger's father, Joe Carter Sr. The elder Carter was sitting behind Poehlmann in the stadium then known as SkyDome when his namesake hit his historic homer against Philadelphia's Mitch (Wild Thing) Williams.
"Instead of Joe giving something to me, I gave him something," said Pohlmann, a bar manager who was living in Toronto at the time. "So I feel pretty good."
Other fans of the Canadians — a Jays' short-season-A farm club — were feeling good, too, as they received a chance to meet Carter, get pictures snapped and have memorabilia, including vintage Toronto jerseys and jackets, bats, balls and gloves signed by him.
'A big part of my life'
Recently, Carter was in London, England, when a hotel employee, originally from Vancouver, recognized him and brought up the subject. Others from across Canada and various other locales have also shared their memories with him.
"People recognize you for what happened and the monumental thing that happened," said Carter, 53. "If you look at it, only twice in the history of the World Series has it ever ended on a home run, so that's going to be around for a very long time — until somebody comes up and hits another home run [to win a championship].
"It's great that I've been recognized. It's a part of my life and it will always be a big part of my life."
As Carter signed autographs and posed for pictures, one fan shouted, "Touch 'em all, Joe!" in reference to the late Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek's immortal words as Carter rounded the bases while giving Toronto the 1993 title.
It was evident those fans old enough were touched by the chance to recall where they were when he hit his famous homer.
Carol Joy, 62, of Maple Ridge, B.C., was coming out of an all-night Gospel sing in Buffalo. Her son Anthony, 33, was "being babysat" at the family's former home in Oshawa, Ont., and watching on TV.
"I'm a huge Blue Jays fan and Joe Carter hit the home run on my birthday, so I had to come and see him," he said.
Dan McCaig, a 62-year-old retired teacher who now lives in Mission, B.C., recalled being at a friend's place in Northern Manitoba.
"We hit the roof [cheering], just like 1972 [with Paul] Henderson's goal [that gave Team Canada the win over Russia in hockey's Summit Series]," he said. "Same effect."