O Canada! Jays win it, 4-3 Winfield's double brings home 2 runs and title in 11th

October 25, 1992|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- It has been more than a century in the making. Professional baseball has lived quietly in Canada since the late 1870s, but it was not until last night that it became North America's international pastime.

The Toronto Blue Jays are the champions of the baseball world, and for the first time that world extends beyond the borders of the United States.

O Canada, indeed. The Blue Jays came back to the home of the Braves and defeated America's Team, 4-3, in 11 innings to win the World Series four games to two and serve up the ultimate disappointment to the sellout crowd of 51,763 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

No doubt, the Labatts was running like water on Yonge Street, the official celebration site for thousands of title-hungry Toronto baseball fans. The champagne flowed freely in the visitors' clubhouse in Atlanta, where the ghosts of postseasons past drowned in the fermented fruits of a victory that seemed so long in coming.

Meanwhile, baseball fans all over Canada were raising their glasses to 41-year-old Dave Winfield, whose two-out, two-run double in the 11th finally decided the game. They had to toast hired gun David Cone, who pitched a solid six innings only to be cheated out of a victory by another dramatic Braves comeback. And they could not forget catcher Pat Borders, who hit safely in every game of the postseason to win the Most Valuable Player award.

They can also tip their cups to the Atlanta Braves, who won back-to-back National League pennants and must wait at least until next year to win baseball's ultimate prize.

The Braves had one more big comeback left. They rallied in the bottom of the ninth to tie the game after Toronto stopper Tom Henke had them down to their last strike. Outfielder Otis Nixon slapped an 0-2 pitch into left field to tie the game and force the Blue Jays to deal with their demons one more time.

They had blown a 3-1 lead in the 1985 American League playoffs. They had blown a 3 1/2 -game division lead with seven games to play in 1987. They had come up short in two more playoff series. And for two innings, they had to wonder if they were going to let a 3-1 Series lead evaporate in Atlanta.

The Blue Jays came back to Atlanta exuding confidence. They still had the upper hand in the series. The Braves still were on 24-hour termination notice. The world championship was right there for the taking. But not all of the leading indicators were quite so positive.

Recent history has not smiled on the visiting team in such situations. The previous five World Series teams to go on the road with a 3-2 lead had lost the final two games. The Blue Jays, with their own come-from-ahead historical perspective, wanted no part of a seventh game, but they had another hurdle to overcome if they were going to keep the series from going the limit.

Just look at the five-game statistics. The Blue Jays entered last night's game batting a combined .204 and averaging just six hits per game. They had been out-hit and outscored by the Braves, so there was room to wonder if they could muster enough firepower to take the initiative in Game 6.

Braves left-hander Steve Avery found out sooner than he might have liked. Devon White opened the game with a single and the Blue Jays played station-to- station baseball to get on the scoreboard. White stole second easily and moved to third on a grounder by Roberto Alomar. He scored when David Justice lost a Joe Carter line drive in the lights for a two-base error, but White would have tagged up and scored anyway.

The first inning said a lot about the outlook of each club. The Blue Jays played for one run, as if they wanted to make sure that no scoring opportunity went unturned. Manager Cito Gaston looked like he was playing don't-blow-it baseball, and he was not alone. The Braves played the infield up with White at third, as if one run would be enough to beat them.

They had their reasons. The Braves also struggled at the plate until they broke through for seven runs in Game 5. If it wasn't for the offensive magic of Deion Sanders and one big swing by Lonnie Smith, they would have entered last night averaging just 1.8 runs per game.

Sanders was making his fourth start of the Series and he again made the most of it. He doubled and stole third base to set up the tying run in the third inning, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Terry Pendleton. He singled and stole his fifth base of the Series in the fifth, but was stranded at second.

The Braves set out to terrorize Cone on the base paths in Game 2. They stole five bases against him in that game, but pinch hitter Ed Sprague pulled Cone off the hook with a dramatic

ninth-inning home run. This time, Cone had more success

keeping the bases clear, but he could not do anything about Sanders, who has had surprising success against him throughout the year.

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