Bob Elliott's Baseball: '92-93 Blue Jays are worth remembering
Members of World Series-championship teams were in town to commemorate victories
And a good time was had by all ...
That was often the last line of a story in the newspaper when I'd read about an event my mother had attended. Maybe it was a church bake sale, a charity bazaar or an afternoon tea.
The Toronto Blue Jays hosted some members of the 1992-93 World Series champions on Saturday at the Rogers Centre. Hall of Famers Robbie Alomar and Dave Winfield were on hand. New Hall of Fame inductee Jack Morris and HOFer Paul Molitor were missing but videos of them were played. Morris was having his No. 47 retired at Comerica Park in Detroit, and Molitor was managing his Minnesota Twins.
The fifth HOFer to play for the Blue Jays, Rickey Henderson, was not on hand. Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick couldn't make it as he was on an early morning Sunday flight headed on an Alaskan cruise.
Yep, a good time was had by all ...
The Blue Jays used 40 players in 1992 and added 16 new faces (Scott Brow, Rob Butler, Willie Canate, Tony Castillo, Domingo Cedeno, Darnell Coles, Danny Cox, Ken Dayley, Carlos Delgado, Rickey Henderson, Darrin Jackson, Paul Molitor, Dick Schofield, Luis Sojo, Dave Stewart and Woody Williams) to repeat.
But why was Jimmy Key not invited? Some players wondered were Mark Eichhorn was, who won two rings. Or Dave Stewart, David Wells, Al Leiter, Tony Castillo and Danny Cox, who each won one. Invited or busy?
How come the coaches were not invited until manager Cito Gaston put his foot down and insisted they be included.
We'll leave the questions on the roster makeup to others.
A good time was had by all the players and their families.
Instead, we'll look at the past with an anecdote — our faves, Mike Timlin and Larry Hisle — of the invited guests as they were introduced.
We've often been accused of living too much in the past ... but when you compare it to the present? No contest.
The coaching staff:
Then: Third-base coach, final 72 games of 1993 season
Now: Senior advisor, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rich Hacker flew home to St. Louis for the 1993 all-star break and was involved in an accident on the Martin Luther King Bridge in St. Louis. Leyva was promoted from triple-A Syracuse where he was managing.
Leyva's first game was at the SkyDome and after six innings he had not waved home a runner. Not to worry: Molitor and Olerud hit solo homers off Kansas City Royals right-hander David Cone in the seventh to tie the game at 2-2. Then, Alomar singled facing Enrique Burgos, stole second and Molitor was hit by a pitch. Joe Carter worked a walk against Mark Gubicza to load the bases. Olerud walked against Billy Brewer. Fernandez hit a two-run double off Tom Gordon, Pat Borders bounced out to knock in a run and the final run scored on a wild pitch for a 7-2 Jays win.
Then: Bullpen coach, 1992-93
Sullivan gave one of the greatest speeches ever on the grounds of the Canadian Hall of Fame in St. Marys. He introduced Tom Henke and his words were insightful and heart-warming. He went off script when he told of the drive over to the ceremony when his wife Betsy asked "What type of man is Tom Henke really." An emotional Sullivan told the crowd "He ... is ... the kind of guy ... you would want ... your daughter ... to marry."
Then: Hitting coach, 1992-93
Now: Brewers' manager of youth outreach
Hisle's charges led the American League in OPS (.747), was second in runs scored (780) and hit .263 (fifth) with Alomar leading the way with a .310 average. In 1993 the Jays were third in OPS (.786), second in runs scored (847) and led in average (.279). Hisle's hitters finished 1-2-3 in the batting race. Olerud won the batting title hitting with .363, while Molitor was next at .332 and Alomar third at .326.
Hisle said he has seen the Brewers play once this season but he often takes disadvantaged, impoverished youngsters or children with one parent to batting practice.
"The players know if I show up with a young man he could use some attention, they are very good to them," Hisle said.
He told the story of driving a young cancer patient without a father for another appointment. "The doctor came in and said, 'Son, tell the oncologist who is with you.' The young man said "It's my father." Hisle paused as he told the story and added "The boy was white."
Then: Bench coach, 1992-93
Tenace was Gaston's closest friend on the staff. They sat together on planes and buses and would walk from the Jays clubhouse to the bus together. They were never on the same team as major leaguers. It only took about nine years to find out the answer. They played against each other in winter ball in Venezuela in 1969-70, Tenace with Leones del Caracus and Gaston with Navegantes del Magallanes.
"One night I'm on second," Gaston said. "Our guy gets a hit, I get waved around. I can tell I'm going to be out, so going to lay down in a nice slide. Geno dropped a shin pad on me and flipped me. Next time I score, I'm early and got Geno with an elbow in the throat."
That was the old school way. They never spoke about the night in winter ball the first four years they were together. One night after a game Gaston looked at him and asked "Hey Geno, remember Caracus?' and Geno said "Yeah, I remember Caracus."
Then: Pitching coach, 1992-93
Cisco took over for Al Widmar, after having worked for Hall of Famers Whitey Herzog with the Kansas City Royals and Dick Williams with the Montreal Expos. He helped guide the Jays to three consecutive AL East division titles (1991–93) and two World Series (1992–93).
The Ciscos — Galen and wife Martha, plus soon Jeff Cisco — watched every Justin Smoak at-bat intently. Galen's grandson Mike Cisco played together for the University of South Carolina Gamecocks.
My favourite Cisco story came in 1991 when I saw Harvey Trivett seated near the Jays dugout. Harvey was a kind, wonderful man and president of the Blue Jays fan club. "Harvey I'd like you to meet Galen Cisco," I said, thinking what a nice guy I am. Cisco said "Gee, Harvey you haven't changed much since I pitched triple-A here in 1967."
Then: Pinch hitter, 1992
Mulliniks had only three at-bats but his contribution was a lot more than that to earn a World Series ring. He was activated from the disabled list when the rosters expanded in September. In his third and final at-bat after he pinch-hit for DH Dave Winfield with Toronto leading 11-0 in the eighth, he lined a single to left off Rangers reliever Mike Jeffcoat.
Derek Bell worked a one-out walk off Braves closer Jeff Reardon, who Mulliniks had faced before. He predicted Reardon would throw a fastball letter-high and maybe throw breaking ball early in the count, but stay with the fastball no matter what and think belt or down."
Sprague homered to even the World Series 1-1. Had Sprague rolled over on a double play ball, the Jays would have come home down 2-0.
Then: 129 starts in LF, two in RF, 1992
Maldonado did not hit his first homer until May 23 in Chicago when he took White Sox lefty Greg Hibbard deep. He finished the season with 20 homers, including eight in August. There was pressure to play Derek Bell in left, but Gaston stuck with the veteran who hit 25 doubles, drove in 66 runs and batted .272 with an .819 OPS.
Maldonado added two more homers in the ALCS, the second, a three-run homer off Mike Moore to put the Jays up 6-0 in the third inning. Now the Blue Jays had been there before in 1985, 1989 and 1991 and losing the final seven games of the 1987 season. They were nicknamed the Blow Jays. Needless to say Maldonado's drive caused excitement throughout the organization, including a scout watching from the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. With Juan Guzman on the mound the scout opened the door on the 48th floor and yelled "WE"RE GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES!!"
Maldonado also homered off Jeff Avery in Game 6 to give Toronto a 2-1 lead.
Then: 31 starts at 1B, one in LF, one in RF, 1992
Now: TV broadcaster at Sportsnet.
Tabler knocked in three runs on Aug. 6 to extend the Jays' lead to three games over the Baltimore Orioles. He lined a two-run single to left with two out in the first off Frank Tanana, extending the Jays lead to 3-0. Two innings later he singled to centre and scored on Jeff Kent's homer for an 8-0 lead. Tabler walked with the bases loaded against Buddy Groom in the fourth bumping the Toronto lead to 9-3. Jack Morris allowed six wins on the way to his 14th win and Pat Hengten gave ip five in two innings before Duane Ward and Tom Henke each pitched a scoreless inning for a 15-11 win.
Tabler had five doubles, 16 RBIs, batting .252 with a .595 OPS in 49 games. Tabler pinch hit for Manny Lee in Game 6, Lee came down the steep steps of the dugout at Fulton County Stadium, fired his helmet and this helmet like most helmets or bouncing footballs, had a mind of its own. It clipped a coach below the eye. That was the end of the Jays considering re-signing Lee as a free agent.
Then: 11 starts in LF, one in CF, 1993
Now: Operates Butler Baseball Academy with brother Rich in Ajax
The Jays were in Detroit when they decided to make a move and promote Butler from triple-A Syracuse. I called the clubhouse phone and he told me about walking from the Chiefs clubhouse to right field with tears in his eyes. Butler reached on an infield single to short off Tom Bolton in a 12-1 loss at Tiger Stadium.
How much of a big deal was Butler's arrival to the majors around Toronto? Well, Bob Cohen took to the microphone at Talbot Park on June 16 and said "This afternoon in Minneapolis Rob Butler played left field for the Toronto Blue Jays, three years ago he was playing on this very same diamond."
Butler had hits in each of his four starts and seven of his first eight. He was returned to Syracuse and was recalled to Toronto in September, batting .271 with four doubles, two RBIs, two steals and a .729 OPS in 17 games.
In the World Series Butler pinch-hit for Todd Stottlemyre in the third inning, the first man to face reliever Roger Mason. Butler bounced to first baseman John Kruk, who threw to second to erase Pat Borders. Rickey Henderson walked and then White singled, scoring Fernandez and Butler for a 7-6 lead, in the memorable 15-14 Game 4.
Butler pinch-hit for the Jays down 2-0 in Game 5 and singled to right field off Curt Schilling, moving Borders to second. So with none out, men on first and second, Schilling retired Henderson, White and Alomar to get out of the inning.
Then: 91 starts at SS, 1993.
On June 10, 1993, Fernandez had two hits — one off starter Tommy Greene, the other facing reliever Tim Mauser — playing shortstop for the New York Mets in a 7-6 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies as lefty Mitch Williams got the save. The Mets fell to 19-38 in last place 21 1/2 games. Meanwhile in Detroit, Luis Sojo went hitless in a 5-3 loss to the Tigers expanding Detroit's lead to two games. The next day the Jays dealt OF Darrin Jackson to the Mets for Fernandez.
This was not a popular move in some quarters as the Jays had never won when Fernandez was in Toronto. Fernandez made all the plays back in his old uniform, hitting six doubles, four triples, two homers and 15 RBIs for a .382 average with a 1.188 OPS in his first 14 games.
When the Jays rallied from down 14-9 in Game 4, Fernandez hit a two-run single in the first and a run-scoring single facing Greene in the third; bounced out in the sixth to cut the Phillies lead to 12-9 and in the six-run eighth greeted Mitch Williams with a single cutting the deficit to 14-11. He hit .326 (14-for-43) with 10 RBIs in the post season.
Then: Saved 34 of 37 opportunities, 1992.
Henke saved Game 2, 3 and 4 of the ALCS against Oakland. In the 7-6 Game 4 win — the Robbie Alomar homer game — he retired Willie Wilson on a fly ball, gave up a single to Ruben Sierra, retired Eric Fox on a fly ball to deep centre and Mark McGwire on a fly to centre.
In the World Series he picked up saves in Game 2 and 4, but blew the save in Game 6 as Jeff Blauser led off with a single and after a bunt and a walk to Lonnie Smith he gave up a two-out single to Otis Nixon. He retired Ron Gant and onto extras the game went. Henke pitched eight innings in the post-season allowing one run on five hits and four walks, fanning three.
Henke was ahead of his time saying: "People from all over the country follow this team. Sometimes our fans outdraw fans in Seattle, Detroit, Cleveland and Minneapolis. At least they make more noise. And I know most of Missouri, at least where I live, pull for us too."
Then: Saved 57 of 67 opportunities, 1992-93
Now: Lead instructor for Blue Jays Academy.
Ward converted 12 consecutive chances from July 28 to Sept. 8 in 1993 his first year as the closer after five straight seasons of 100-plus innings. Ward fanned 560 hitters in 562 2/3 innings.
"What's the big deal everyone is making about teams shortening the game and bullpenning the last couple of years?" Asked one veteran scout. "Cito Gaston was shortening the games with guys like David Wells, Pat Hentgen, Mike Timlin, Duane Ward and Tom Henke in 1992," Wells and Hentgen combined for 69 appearances (16 starts).
Ward saved Game 2 and the Game 6 clincher against the White Sox in 1993 as well as Game 1 and Game 4 of the Series. And when Carter went deep he wound up with the win. Those two Octobers saw Ward appear in 15 games allowing eight runs on 14 hits and six walks (4.41) while fanning 23 in 16 2/3 innings.
Then: Two saves, three blown saves, 1992-93.
Now: Back-up broadcaster for NESN last year.
After getting the final two outs of the 10th in Game 6 of the 1992 Series in Atlanta, Jimmy Key took the mound in the 11th with a two-run lead.
Jeff Blauser led off with a single, Damon Berryhill reached on Alfredo Griffin's error, Rafael Belliard bunted the runners over and Brian Hunter bounced to first knocking in a run. So, with pinch-runner John Smoltz on third and Otis Nixon due up, Gaston approached Key on the mound. Key told his manager he'd never had much luck getting Nixon out.
"I saw Cito raise his right arm, I dropped the ball in the bullpen and ran in," Timlin said.
Who else was warming up? David Wells?
"Boomer had been used. Mark Eichhorn and I were both warming up."
How did you know Cito wanted you? Timlin shrugged.
Nixon dropped a bunt — as Braves Hall of Famer broadcaster predicted during the pitching change — on the 0-1 pitch and Timlin fired to first for Jumpin' Joe Carter's first October celebration.
"Nixon joined us in 1997 and we asked, 'Why bunt with two out," said Timlin, who picked up his second save of the season. "And he said, 'Did you see how bad my first swing was?'"
Then: Back-up to Kelly Gruber, then starting 3B, 1992-93.
Now: Scout, Oakland A's
Sprague had a grand total of five at-bats in the 1993 post-season. Two plate appearances a week apart were remembered for shaping both series. With runners on second and third, Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley had a 6-4 lead in Game 4 of the ALCS on Oct. 11 on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Eckersley struck out Sprague pinch-hitting for the third out and then fired an imaginary six-shooter into the dugout. Alomar hit his two-run homer in the ninth and the Jays won in 11.
A week later on Oct. 18, Sprague hit his pinch-hit homer off Reardon for the game-winner to even the series 1-1. "We had a delay leaving Atlanta due to loading the equipment, I was on the charter and not one person complained when we landed at 5 a.m," said veteran scout Gordon Lakey. "Why? Because Ed Sprague made sure we came home 1-1 instead of going down 2-0."
Then: 104 starts at DH, 26 in RF, 1992
Now: Special assistant to executive director of the Players Association
Just three memorable days from Winfield's only season in Toronto: In spring training at Baseball City he was on second when an infielder made an over-the shoulder catch running away from the plate. Winfield, 40, tagged and scored.
The day before the opener in Detroit he didn't even go outside for the workout, sitting at his locker with his league heavily taped. His status was in doubt. He played the next day, hit a two-out single in the first off Bill Gullickson and added two more hits. Winfield had his teammates prior to the game: "Climb on my back, guys."
And in the bottom of the ninth in Game 3 of the World Series, after Alomar singled to centre and stole second and Carter was walked intentionally, Winfield dropped a bunt to move Alomar to third. Maldonado then hit a fly ball to score Alomar with the game winner.
Then: Appeared in 62 combined games (34 starts) 1992-93.
Now: Jays roving pitching instructor
Hentgen served as a bullpen guy in 1992, his rookie season, just as Jimmy Key had done eight seasons earlier. He spent the whole season with the Jays — save for eight days — and he was 5-2 in 28 appearances making two starts as he worked 50 1/3 innings. Todd Stottlemyre moved to long relief and Hentgen was one of three injury reserve guys. So he was there in Oakland when Eckersley fired his six-shooter into the first-base dugout and Hentgen said, "Our bench was like the sidelines at a high school football game."
While he watched in 1992, he was a man of action the next year as the scheduled Game 3 starter, only to read one Philadelphia paper's headline "Pat Who?" after losing Game 3 to the White Sox. Hentgen, who had gone 19-9 with a 3.87 ERA in 32 games, pitched six innings, allowing one run on five hits and three walks, while fanning six. He left with a 5-1 lead and the Jays took a 2-1 Series lead after a 10-3 thumping. Molitor had three hits, including a double, a triple, and driving in three runs.
Then: Made 61 starts 1992-93
The scouting report on Guzman from triple-A going into his first start in Baltimore in 1991: Wild. Doesn't cover first on ground balls to the right side. Doesn't finish up square. Guzman walked three, allowed six hits, two directly back over the rubber. He lost to Baltimore his next start. After that he won 11 straight, losing in a meaningless Game 162. After those first two starts vs. the O's he went 52-20 in 107 starts with a 3.74 ERA.
The difference? Well some said it was because Cito Gaston and Galen Cisco told catcher Pat Borders rather than setting up on the corner, "just set up in the middle of the plate and let the movement take over."
Guzman was 30-8 in the championship years, beating Oakland in Game 3 and the Game 6 clincher; allowing one run in eight innings in Game 3 against the Braves: beating the White Sox in Game 1 and Game 5 of the 1993 ALCS; and getting a no-decision in Game 1 against the Phillies and a loss in Game 5.
Then: 55 starts, 1992-93.
Before each post-season series there are always a series of friendly bets between mayors. Philadephia mayor Ed Rendell took it a step too far, analyzing the Blue Jays roster saying, "I'd love to grab a bat and hit against Stottlemyre."
"How would I pitch the mayor? I'd throw three behind his head, then paint the black with the next three and tell him to sit down," Stottlemyre said jokingly. "When the Series is over, I'll pay my own way to Philadelphia, we'll put a uniform on the mayor and we'll see what happens."
Before Game 4 Peter Pascarelli walked through the lunch room at Veteran's Stadium and said of that night's matchup, "Tommy Greene vs. Toddy Stottlemyre ... I got 15-14." Stottlemyre allowed six runs (three hits, four walks) in two innings and slid head first into third cutting his chin, while Greene gave up seven runs (seven hits, four walks). Stottlemyre had the SkyDome victory crowd laughing when he said, "Ed Rendell can kiss my butt." Stottlemyre pitched 7 1/3 innings in relief in 1992.
Then: 295 starts in CF, one at DH, 1992-93
Now: Coach at triple-A Buffalo
We once asked White why he never dove for balls like most outfielders? "Because, I don't have to," White said. White was born in Kingston, so when Mookie Wilson found out I was born in Kingston he said White and I were "Homies." White was born in Jamaica, moved to Washington Heights and learned to play from a WWII veteran. White repaid by buying uniforms for the team each year.
His nickname was Gold Glove as he won seven and it looked like he was part of the second triple play in World Series history in Game 3. Deion Sanders was on second, Terry Pendleton on first when David Justice lined a Guzmán pitch to centre. White made a spectacular catch. Both his numbers could be seen from behind plate as he resembled someone who jumped against a Velcro wall and stuck. White came down, fired to the infield. Pendleton was out for passing Sanders. Olerud threw across the diamond caught Sanders in a rundown and he touched him on the heel. The umps, however, missed the call and called Sanders safe.
It was also White who best described the comparison between the World Series teams and the 2015 runaway Jays train rolling into October, which some new Jays fans thought was the best in history. "Soon as this team has back-to-back banners hanging in centre, I'll gladly sit down and discuss teams position by position." The Jays lost to the Royals in the ALCS.
Then: 275 starts behind the plate, 1992-93.
Now: Manager, class-A Williamsport (Phillies)
Bob Boone was among the all-time leaders in games caught because he didn't start squatting until Stanford University. Jays guru Bobby Mattick made Borders a catcher at double-A. Borders caught 747 games (second to Ernie Whitt for most behind the plate. He excelled with a pitching staff like Morris, Guzman, Ward, Henke, Wells and Timlin were a lot of the pitches were down, down, down in the dirt and needed to be blocked.
In a rain delay before Game 6 in 1992, we were interviewed by CTV, along with the late Joe Strauss from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. We were promised $200 for the appearance by the CTV producer who now works at Rogers. So, at 2% interest it's $334. Borders threw out Brian Hunter attempting to steal in Game 3 with the score 1-1 and hit .450 (9-for-20) with three doubles, a homer and three RBIs.
Then: 262 starts at 1B, 1992-93.
On Wednesday Aug. 18, 1993 we pulled up to John and Lynda Olerud's home in Bellevue, Wash. The idea was to watch them watch their son, John, play a game in Cleveland with his former Washington State coach Bobo Brayton on the TV. Olerud went 3-for-5 including a two-out single in the 11th and scored the game winner on a Paul Molitor single. He finished the day at .392 and then the Jays came to Seattle.
Olerud's average was over .400 for 57 days: from April 14 until May 9 (14 games) May 14-24 (nine), June 1 (one), June 12-13 (two), June 15-25 (10), June 17-July 4 (seven), July 6-7 (two), July 22 (one) and July 24-Aug. 2 (nine), He finished with 200 hits and a .363 average in what was one of the best seasons a Blue Jay has ever head.
Then: 219 starts in RF, 55 in LF, 24 at DH 1992-93.
Carter hit 396 homers in his career. None more important than in the bottom of the ninth with one out and Rickey Henderson on second and Paul Molitor on first. Mitch Williams started off with a ball, another ball, then a called strike and then a swinging strike.
Williams went to the slide step, worried about Henderson stealing second and Carter swung, almost missed first as he jumped all the way to first, passing coach Bob Bailor. Gaston used to marvel at how Hank Aaron could hook inside pitches and keep them fair. And he marvelled at this moment too.
Carter is now seen more often around the TV screen on the 25th anniversary of his historic drive.
Then: 299 starts at 2B, one at DH, 1992-93.
Now: Hired by Major League Baseball to run PR12 in San Juan as well as commissioner of the Blue Jays T12 each fall
On the night of the trade at Chicago's Hyatt O'Hare, there was a debate as to whom was the best player in the deal: Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff went to San Diego, Alomar and Carter came to the Jays. Buck Rodgers said that night "Alomar was the best, would be the best in five years and would have the best career."
Hall of Fame GM Pat Gillick said Alomar was the most instinctive player he had ever seen. Man on third, infield back, one hopper to second, Alomar would throw out the runner at the plate; runner rounding third, Alomar would take the relay in short right and rather than throwing to the plate would throw to third base.
Then: President, 1992-93
Now: President emeritus
If Beeston and Gillick were a double play combination they would have been Omar Vizquel and Alomar. Beeston headed down to the clubhouse in Atlanta with Wayne Gretzky as the game headed to the bottom of the ninth. Except Tom Henke blew the save and matters were not settled until the 11th. Then, the champagne was popped.
Beeston opened the doors to the SkyDome in June of 1989 and it was not until the strike-shortened 1995 season that the Blue Jays dropped under four million in attendance.
Beeston and Gillick brought in free agents Dave Winfield, Jack Morrris, Dave Stewart and Paul Molitor. They acquired David Cone and Rickey Henderson for the late-season push. Because of the way salaries are tracked all of Cone and Henderson's salaries went on top of the Jays total, making them No. 1 in the majors. In fact, the Jays only paid roughly 1/3 of Cone's $4.25 million US and Henderson's $3.5 million deals.
Then: Manager, 1992-93
Gaston never won a manager of the year award. He should have. Probably his best year was in 1989 when he took over for Jimy Williams after the Jays were swept by the Minnesota Twins to fall to 12-24. Gaston's team, with the addition of Mookie Wilson and Lee Mazzilli, went 76-48, clinching the AL East on Lloyd Moseby's 11th-inning single against Mark Williamson
Gaston didn't pinch-hit, he didn't run a lot and never had 100 per cent backing of the fans. You should remember this: when Alomar arrived from San Diego, he had fought with management when he refused to take over for injured Gary Templeton at shortstop. White spent part of his final year with the Angels at triple-A Edmonton, because he struck out too much.
When White arrived Gaston told him to be himself and not to worry about the strikeouts.
In 1993, when Dick Schofield broke his leg, Larry Millson and I from the Globe and Mail were talking with Gaston after the game. Alomar knocked on the door and said, "Hey Cito, I know you'll go with Alfredo Griffin for a while, but if you want me to move over ..."
There were plenty of laughs, good stories as the old gang got together.
In other words ... a good time was had by all.