While lifting yesterday I was listening to the radio and heard an interview with pitcher Dave Stewart talking about his lifelong friend Rickey Henderson entering the Hall of Fame. Henderson is baseball's all-time leader in lead-off home runs, walks, and runs scored and although he had a reputation as a third-person talker, his induction speech was very elegant. Dave Stewart grew up with Rickey but they also played together and during the course of this particular interview their time in Toronto was discussed. That got me thinking about that team, which participated in one of the more memorable World Series of my youth if not of all-time.
When you step back and look at this team's roster, it is no wonder they were as successful as they were. Much of the team was back from their 1992 World Series victory over the Atlanta Braves but in the off-season they added Paul Molitor and Dave Stewart. Then over the course of the season they traded for shortstop Tony Fernandez and added Rickey Henderson at the trade deadline.
Starting at the top, they were managed by Cito Gaston from 89-97 and is currently their manager. He has over 700 victories in his career and a .529 career post-season win percentage.
The Pitching rotation was headed by Pat Hentgen, who would go 19-9 in '93 and be selected to the all-star game. He would eventually win the 1996 Cy Young award with the Jays. They also had the Jheri Curl wonder before Pedro let his soul glow, Juan Guzman. Many may not remember Juan as he only went 91-79 in his career, but from the early to mid-90s, he was one of the best in baseball. In '93 he went 14-3. The rest of the rotation was Todd Stottlemyre, Stewart, and former World Series MVP Jack Morris. The Jays also had Al Leiter coming out of the pen, and he actually won game 1 of the World Series in '93. Leiter was just coming off arm surgery but contributed. In the closer role, Duane Ward replaced famed closer Tom Henke that year after being his set-up man and saved 45 games.
While the pitching was experienced, it was the offense of Toronto that was so formidable. Jon Olerud and Roberto Alomar were the right side of the infield and hit .363 and .323 respectively. Joe Carter was lead the team in home runs (33) and RBI (121). The acquisition of Paul Molitor did not disappoint as he hit .332 for the Jays. Add speedster Devon White to the top of the lineup and the Blue Jays had a potent scoring machine that was only shut-out once in the regular season. By the time the post-season came around and they had Fernandez and Henderson, it was a difficult line-up to handle. Henderson is the undisputed greatest lead-off hitter of all-time.
It all came together October 23 at the Skydome when the Phillies held a 6-5 ninth inning lead trying to bring the series to seven games. Phillies closer Mitch Williams had to face Henderson, White, Molitor and Carter. Williams, known as "Wild Thing" walked Henderson and then tried to slide step to prevent Rickey from stealing. He got White to fly out but then gave up a single to Molitor(his 12th hit of the series) and the walk-off to Joe Carter. Video of the 9th inning is here, the Carter home run is at 15:30 but the footage of the aftermath is great including the men in early-90s mullets in jubilation, an interview with Phillies manager Jim Fregosi by Jim Gray(lulz) and a melancholic Curt Schilling on the Philly bench. The Blue Jays are the only team besides the Yankees to win back-to-back World Series titles since 1976.