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25 Years Ago, Alomar’s Home Run Changed Everything for the Blue Jays

Sportsnet

On October 11th 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays finally shed their moniker as “chokers”. With one swing of the bat, they were no longer the “Blow Jays”; they finally slayed a demon which had haunted them for years.

Depending on who you ask, it might be the most important home run in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays. At the very least, it’s the second biggest home run in franchise history; Roberto Alomar‘s game-tying home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of that monumental hit by Alomar. At the time of the hit, he may not have known it, but it was a watershed moment for the Toronto Blue Jays. After that home run off Eckersley, the Blue Jays went on to win consecutive World Series.



It was the home run that changed everything.

The odds were stacked against the Blue Jays that day. They were down 6-1 after 7 innings of play in Oakland. The Blue Jays led off the 8th with three straight hits. Tony La Russa called upon his closer – Eckersley – to shut the door with five outs left and a four-run cushion.

Eckersley promptly gave up consecutive hits to John Olerud and Candy Maldonado which narrowed the Athletics lead to 6-4. Ed Sprague struck out to end the threat, but not before Eckersley celebrated with a fist pump and a motion towards the Blue Jays dugout.

A hat tip to @can0k for coming up with the video which spurred this whole feud between the A’s and the Blue Jays: Eckersley’s reaction after striking out Ed Sprague.

Bob Elliott made mention of it in the video (although there wasn’t footage captured), but Eckersley allegedly followed up his fist-pump by pointing an imaginary pistol towards the Blue Jays dugout and blowing it out.

Eckersley’s emphatic reaction was the fuel the Blue Jays needed to light the fire.

The Oakland Athletics were 81-1 in their previous 82 games when holding a lead entering the ninth inning. Eckersley was the MVP and Cy Young Award winner that year. Everything indicated he would close things out, as he did 51 times during the regular season.

Down 6-4, Roberto Alomar came up in the ninth inning and connected for the biggest hit of his Hall of Fame career; a game-tying shot off another Hall of Famer in Eckersley to send the game to extra innings.



Dave Winfield described it as “the greatest comeback I’ve ever seen, and against incredible odds.” Toronto would eventually go on to win Game 4 by a score of 7-6 and they jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. With baseball’s reliever on the mound, the Blue Jays did the unthinkable.

 
As you can imagine, the Blue Jays took great joy in Alomar’s home run. Part of it was the elation spurred by Alomar’s home run, but some of it wa the satisfaction of sticking it to Eckersley; the man who had taunted the Blue Jays the prior inning and haunted their playoff aspirations.

Even Eckersley was shocked at how the Blue Jays clawed back. “You look back and you think a 6-1 lead is pretty healthy. Who blows 6-1 leads? It’s against reason.”

Following the game, Jack Morris said “Eck stuck it in our faces and we kicked his butt off. You let sleeping giants sleep. You don’t wake them up.”

Most of Alomar’s teammates had a very primal reaction to his game-tying shot, but the Blue Jays’ second baseman was simply happy to help his team. “Everybody says that we choke in the end, and we didn’t. So now the monkey, we can take it off our back.”

'Eck stuck it in our faces and we kicked his butt off. You let sleeping giants sleep. You don't wake them up.' - Jack MorrisClick To Tweet

Alomar’s home run from Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS is up there on the Mount Rushmore of Blue Jays home runs. It presides next to Joe Carter’s World Series-winning shot in 1993, along with Ed Sprague’s go-ahead home run from the 1992 World Series and Jose Bautista’s go-ahead shot from the 2015 ALDS.

It wasn’t the home run that won the Blue Jays a World Series, but without Alomar’s home run off Eckersley, you have to wonder if at least another one of those timeless moments wouldn’t have been possible.

If not for Alomar’s Game 4 ALCS home run, do the Blue Jays even get to the World Series in 1992? And do they get there again in 1993? If the Blue Jays don’t win that series in Oakland, does Paul Molitor sign with Toronto the next season? Does Dave Stewart jump ship from the A’s and sign with the Blue Jays?

With one swing, Alomar changed all that. He vanquished the demons of the 1985 season when the Blue Jays blew a 3-1 over the Kansas City Royals in the ALCS. He helped fans forget about the Blue Jays’ heartbreaking collapse at the end of the 1987 season.

Alomar helped people forget about the Blue Jays being blown out of the ALCS by the A’s in 1989 and by the Minnesota Twins in 1991. He changed the abysmal fortune of a franchise forever.

25 years ago, Roberto Alomar made Blue Jays history.



Sources:

  • Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball – Stephen Brunt
  • Toronto Makes Eckersley Pay for Early Celebration – Deseret News
  • Toronto Blue Jays 1992 World Series Champions – Toronto Sun
Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez “mine” incident. He’ll also retell the story of Game 5 of the ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

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