The Blue Jays’ Five Most Memorable Games
October 23, 1993: Touch ‘em All, Joe
The Blue Jays entered the 1993 World Series as defending champions, so many thought that a repeat performance wouldn’t carry the same thrill as winning it all the first time—but thanks to Joe Carter, the second time around would prove more exciting, leaving Toronto rabid with excitement and affirming the Blue Jays’ status as a baseball dynasty.
In Game Six at Skydome, the Jays struck for three first-inning runs off Philadelphia’s Terry Mulholland and gave veteran pitcher Dave Stewart—enjoying his first year in Toronto after numerous postseason performances for Oakland—the early lead. Toronto upped the margin to 5-1 when Stewart entered the seventh inning and collapsed, giving up a three-run homer to Lenny Dykstra. The bullpen was no better, allowing two more runs to give the Phillies a 6-5 lead going into the stretch. In a lively series with runs aplenty being piled up, no one was about to believe the score would remain the same through to the finish, and Toronto nearly proved the theory right in the eighth when they loaded the bases on a two walks and a hit batsmen—but couldn’t score.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies brought in closer Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams, whose exaggerated delivery and fiery fastball had, so far in the postseason, raised heart rates among Phillie fans everywhere as he sometimes succeeded—and sometimes, not; this game would not be his finest moment. The Jays’ Rickey Henderson, on virtual loan from Oakland, walked to lead off the frame. After Devon White flied out, Paul Molitor—another first-year Blue Jay on his way to the Series MVP with a triple and home run earlier in the game—singled. That brought up Joe Carter, the veteran slugger who worked the count against Williams to 2-2—then went after a fastball just below the knees and golfed it over the left-field fence for the second-ever walk-off home run in a World Series, following Bill Mazeroski’s famed 1960 shot. Carter deliriously jumped for joy around the bases as fireworks accented the deafening roar from 52,000 Skydome fans, and the Blue Jays were champions again.
October 24, 1992: Canada First
The Blue Jays’ first trip to the championship podium was no less suspenseful and every bit as magical.
Game Six in Atlanta was a tight, well-fought battle in which the Jays kept a thin lead they couldn’t expand upon throughout, leaving 13 men on base. Also keeping Toronto in front was starter David Cone, who lasted six strong innings before the bullpen took over and continued the silencing—until the bottom of the ninth, when the Braves rallied off Blue Jays closer Tom Henke and tied it at 2-2 on a two-out single by Otis Nixon.
In the 11th, the Blue Jays unlocked the tie and added cushion that would prove critical. Hitting against the Braves’ Charlie Liebrandt—a starter turned reliever for the postseason—Devon White was hit by a pitch, followed by a Roberto Alomar single. After Carter flied out, 41-year-old Dave Winfield—playing in his one and only year with the Jays, and a .116 hitter through 12 career World Series games—pegged a two-out double that scored both runs and gave Toronto a 4-2 lead.
But the Braves were not done, and they threatened in the bottom of the 11th against a Blue Jay bullpen that already expended Henke. The first two batters reached (one via an Alfredo Griffin error) but with two outs, one run in and the tying run (John Smoltz) at third, Nixon returned to the plate with his second chance in three innings to tie the game—and bunted, hoping to reach base and allow Smoltz to score. Neither happened. Toronto reliever Mike Timlin picked up the ball, threw Nixon out in time and the Blue Jays gave themselves and Canada their first world title.
October 14, 2015: The Bat Flip
Since winning their back-to-back titles in 1992-93, the Blue Jays continuously failed just to make it back to the postseason until they finally reached as AL East champions in 2015. But a raucous winner-take-all ALDS affair against the Texas Rangers—highlighted by an incredibly raucous seventh inning—made it worth the wait.
First, a little prescript: The Blue Jays lost the first two games of the series at home, with the unenviable task of having to win the next two at Texas just to ensure a shot at winning the rubber match back in Canada. The Blue Jays achieved the former by tying the series, but now the latter was proving difficult as they trailed 2-1 in the sixth of Game Five. That’s when Edwin Encarnacion belted a mammoth homer into Rogers Centre’s third deck to tie the game for Toronto. But things were just warming up.
In the Texas seventh, Rougned Odor led off with a single and advanced to third with two outs. It became Shin-Soo Choo’s job to bring him home and get Texas its lead back—and he succeeded when even he least expected it. After taking a pitch high, Choo took a step back and stretched his left arm, with bat in hand, outward toward home plate to adjust his uniform. That’s when the return throw from Toronto catcher Russell Martin deflected off Choo’s bat and into foul territory. Odor raced home, but home plate umpire waived it off because he assumed the ball was dead. He assumed wrong; his fellow umpires gathered, ordered a replay review and ruled it a live ball, allowing Odor’s go-ahead run to count. A rowdy Toronto sellout crowd rebelled; beer cans littered the field, while others thrown from the upper deck fell short—hitting fans including some babies.
The Blue Jays began their own rebellion—with generous help from the Rangers and, most especially, shortstop Elvis Andrus. Martin, redemption clearly on his mind, led off by bouncing a routine grounder to Andrus—who booted it. Kevin Pillar then grounded to first; Mitch Moreland fielded but threw a one-hopper that Andrus couldn’t control at second, nullifying an attempted force on Martin. Next, Ryan Goins bunted to the left side; third baseman Adrian Beltre charged, turned and threw to third, where Andrus was covering; Andrus dropped the ball. Three batters, three errors, bases loaded, nobody out.
After Ben Revere hit into a force at home—congrats were finally in order to the Rangers for not mucking it up—Josh Donaldson hit a short pop just beyond the reach of Odor at second (Some Rangers fumed that the infield fly rule had not been called), scoring one to tie the game but also losing a runner at second via a force. That brought up Jose Bautista, the veteran slugger and emotional heartbeat of the Blue Jays. On a 1-1 pitch from Texas reliever Sam Dyson, Bautista smoked it toward the second deck in left-center; he stood momentarily, admiring like a golfer who’d just pounded a 350-yard drive dead solid perfect—and then in a defiant move thrust his bat skyward with one hand toward the Rangers dugout to begin a home run trot that gave the Blue Jays a 6-3 lead. Bautista might have been taking his aggression out on the events at the top of the inning, but the Rangers felt they had been mightily shown up with a bat flip “for the ages”; before the inning was finally over, not one but two confrontations led to brief benches-clearing debates.
Toronto quelled one Texas rally in the eighth, then retired the Rangers in order in the ninth to finish the game, win the series and move on to the ALCS against Kansas City where they fell short to the eventual champion Royals. But Bautista’s in-your-face heroics were enough to leave Blue Jays fans smiling through the whole winter to follow.
September 30, 1988: Oh No-No, Not Again!
Fifty years after Johnny Vander Meer threw no-hitters in successive starts, Toronto ace Dave Stieb did something almost as amazing: He lost no-hitters in consecutive outings by giving up his only hit with two outs in the ninth inning.
Stieb’s first brush with history took place in Cleveland when the Indians’ Julio Franco denied him with two outs in the ninth. Six days later, Stieb retook the hill for what would be his final start of the year at Exhibition Stadium against Baltimore, a team looking forward to the end of the season after losing their first 21 games of the year and trying to avoid a 108th defeat of the year against the Blue Jays.
The Oriole lineup was retired the first time through by Stieb, who didn’t allow his first baserunner until Joe Orsulak was hit by a pitch to start the fourth before being erased on a double play. Baltimore didn’t reach again until the seventh when Pete Stanicek walked—but he, too, was taken off the bases when Cal Ripken Jr. lined into another double play. After retiring the side in the eighth, Stieb took the mound in the ninth with a 4-0 lead and a second chance at glory. Brady Anderson grounded to first for the first out, Jeff Stone hit a comebacker to Stieb for the second out, leaving it up to pinch-hitter Jim Traber, with one hit in his last 26 at-bats. Naturally, he singled—poking a short liner down the right-field line. Stieb and 32,000 other witnesses were left incredulous, as the right-hander had to settle for a second straight one-hit shutout.
The would-be final batter reared his ugly head again a year later when the Yankees’ Roberto Kelly doubled off Stieb to not just break up a no-hitter, but a perfect game. Finally, in 1990 back at Cleveland, Stieb got his no-hitter, the first in Toronto history.
September 27, 1998: An Instant Impression
Nearly 10 years to the day that Stieb lost his second shot in as many starts at a no-hitter, a 21-year-old kid making only his second major league start came tantalizingly close himself to becoming the second Blue Jay, after Stieb, to record a no-no.
Roy Halladay only got the start because the Jays were resting Roger Clemens, whose turn in the rotation was up. But as the game wore on before 38,000 Toronto fans, it appeared the young right-hander was on his way to doing something not even the Rocket had (or would) ever accomplish. Halladay retired the first 12 Detroit Tiger batters, and it would have been 13 straight had Felipe Crespo—who had just entered the game an inning earlier as the Jays used the regular season finale to give everyone a shot at playing—committed a two-base error; it was the only baserunner allowed by Halladay heading into the ninth-inning of a 2-0 Toronto game. Per the usual superstitious baseball custom, Halladay was avoided by teammates while in the dugout, though that was nothing new to any September call-up regardless of what he was doing—or likely not doing—on the field.
The first two Tigers in the ninth were retired by Halladay, who now had only pinch-hitter Bobby Higginson standing between himself and one of baseball’s more memorable no-hitters. Instead, Higginson turned it into one of its more memorable one-hitters; he guessed correctly and tagged an outside fastball deep over the outfield wall, breaking up both the no-no and the shutout. Ironically, the ball was gathered behind the fence in the Toronto bullpen by none other than Stieb, who was wrapping up a one-year comeback after a five-season absence from the game.
Halladay’s career would get much worse before it got far, far better, but he’d have to wait 12 years before finally putting a no-hitter in his pocket when he pitched two—including a perfect game and baseball’s first postseason no-no since Don Larsen’s 1956 perfecto—in 2010 for Philadelphia.
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