The 1992 World Series: The Trophy Goes North Of The Border
The Toronto Blue Jays were finally in the World Series after knocking on the door since 1985. The Atlanta Braves were back after losing a gut-wrenching seven-game Fall Classic the prior year. This one wouldn’t go the distance, but the 1992 World Series broke a couple historical barriers and most of its six games went to the final inning.
Toronto won the first American League pennant in franchise history, after surviving a tough AL East fight from the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers. The Blue Jays then eliminated the Oakland A’s in the American League Championship Series.
Toronto had a rising star at second base in Roberto Alomar, a 40-year-old DH in Dave Winfield, who had a fantastic season, along with power sources in Candy Maldonado and Joe Carter.
The Blue Jays wanted to strengthen both their pitching and their October know-how and they did both when they signed Jack Morris away from the Minnesota Twins. The Braves had bad memories of Morris after he tossed a ten-inning shutout to win Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
The veteran pitcher, who had also won in 1984 with the Detroit Tigers, won 21 games for Toronto in 1992. During the season, the Jays added David Cone to give their pitching further depth.
Atlanta had no issues with starting pitching. Tom Glavine was a 20-game winner, and John Smoltz won 15 more with a 2.85 ERA. Steve Avery and Charlie Liebrandt were solid starters, and the Braves had the best ERA in the National League. The bullpen was far less certain and that would be a decisive factor in this World Series.
The Braves’ offense managed to finish third in the National League in runs scored, even though David Justice and Terry Pendleton were the only really productive players. It’s a tribute to manager Bobby Cox—who ironically had overseen Toronto’s rise to prominence and their first postseason trip in 1985—that Atlanta still won the old NL West going away, and then won a seven-game National League Championship Series with a stunning ninth-inning rally to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Morris and Glavine squared off for Game 1 in Atlanta. Morris picked up where he left off the previous October and put five scoreless innings on the board, leading 1-0. Atlanta finally broke through when Damon Berryhill hit a three-run homer and Glavine went the distance for the 3-1 win.
Atlanta looked ready to put the Series under firm control when they took a 4-2 lead into the eighth inning of Game 2. Winfield drove in a run to cut the lead to a run, and then in the ninth, light-hitting infielder everyone Ed Sprague hit a stunning two-run homer to put the Jays in front and they evened the Series.
The World Series went to Canada for the first time in Game 3, and once again the Blue Jays came up with a late rally. Atlanta led 2-1 after seven innings, although the lead could have been more if not for a magnificent running catch by Toronto centerfielder Devon White. White’s catch would be favorably compared to Willie Mays in the 1954 Fall Classic.
Cox, perhaps feeling burned by his bullpen, stuck with Steve Avery into the eighth. Toronto’s Kelly Gruber homered to tie. In the ninth, Alomar led off with a single, stole second and scored the winning run.
Game 4 didn’t involve a blown lead, but it did produce another one-run Toronto victory. Jimmy Key outdueled Glavine for a 2-1 win and catcher Pat Borders homered. Borders’ blast was one part of a 9-for-20 showing that would earn him Series MVP honors.
Toronto was now one game from a title, but Morris’ magic had run out. With Game 5 tied 2-2 in the sixth, Lonnie Smith hit a grand slam and the Braves won going away. The series would go back to Atlanta.
Cone and Avery put on another tense pitchers’ duel, but it was Toronto leading 2-1 in the ninth. With the Braves down to their last out, centerfielder Otis Nixon delivered an RBI single that extended the game and kept the champagne on ice. In the 11th inning, Toronto had runners on first and second with two outs. Winfield smacked a double that, with the speedy Alomar on first and running on contact, resulted in two runs. Alomar’s run would prove important.
Atlanta wouldn’t go quietly, and a hit, an error and two productive outs cut Toronto’s lead to 4-3 and had the tying run on third. Once again, Nixon was Atlanta’s last hope. He tried to catch the Jays’ off guard and laid down a bunt. It was a good one, but Toronto was alert and got him at first.
The World Series trophy went to Canada for the first time. Toronto manager Cito Gaston became the first African-American to manage a Series winner. And the Blue Jays had finally made it all the way home.
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