In Sprague household, this homer rates silver

October 19, 1992|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- It's not every day that a World Series game-winning home run takes second place in a family's athletic accomplishments, but that's the price you pay when you're married to an Olympic gold medalist.

Ed Sprague, a Toronto Blue Jays reserve catcher, will forever be known as the man who got the hit that gave a foreign country its first win in the World Series, as his ninth-inning, two-run blast to left boosted the Jays over the Atlanta Braves, 5-4, last night.

But Sprague's homer off Jeff Reardon doesn't even make first place at home. His wife, Kristin Babb-Sprague, won a synchronized swimming gold medal for the United States in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, two months ago.

"I think hers is the bigger accomplishment. It just took me one swing. She had to train for 14 years. I've been fortunate to have some nice moments," said Sprague.

Few moments, though, were nicer than this for Sprague, whose homer marked the second time in World Series history that a pinch homer has given a trailing team the lead.

The other was Kirk Gibson's dramatic homer in the first game of the 1988 Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers against Dennis Eckersley of the Oakland Athletics.

Sprague, who was called up from the Blue Jays' Triple-A team in Syracuse July 31, got two at-bats in the American League playoffs. But he has come up big for the Blue Jays before in the clutch, hitting a three-run pinch homer to beat the Minnesota Twins Sept. 6.

"He's a good hitter and he doesn't get many opportunities. Luckily, he makes the most of them," said right fielder Dave Winfield.

Toronto manager Cito Gaston said: "You guys will hear from this young man for a long time. He studies the game, he works hard and he'll be around for a long time."

Sprague's home run took home-plate umpire Mike Reilly off the hook. Reilly appeared to blow a fourth-inning call that cost the Blue Jays a run and could have cost them the game.

Roberto Alomar, Toronto's second baseman, appeared to sneak his left hand between the legs of Braves pitcher John Smoltz, as he tried to score on a wild pitch in the fourth.

Reilly called Alomar out, leaving the Blue Jays trailing, 1-0.

Alomar had led off the fourth with a walk, then moved to second on a wild pitch. Winfield grounded back to the mound, and Alomar moved to third.

With first baseman John Olerud batting, Smoltz threw a pitch that bounced about 10 feet away from Berryhill to the right of the plate.

Alomar broke for the plate and slid in headfirst. Catcher Damon Berryhill quickly recovered the loose ball and flipped to Smoltz covering.

Three CBS-TV replays showed that Alomar appeared to get his left hand through Smoltz's legs and touch the plate before Smoltz's tag.

But Reilly called Alomar out and stuck to his ruling after the game.

"In my judgment, Smoltz made the tag and he [Alomar] was out. That's really all there was to it," said Reilly.

Alomar said: "He made the wrong call. He has a tough job to do, but this is the World Series, and every at-bat, every run mean so much. That could have cost us the game."

Fortunately, for the Blue Jays, along came Sprague.

"You don't want to go home down 2-0 and you definitely don't want to sit around thinking about a play that could have cost you the game. Ed Sprague took care of that," said left fielder Joe Carter.

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