An amazing ending for a wild finish

KEN ROSENTHAL

October 24, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

TORONTO -- It had to end this way. One last comeback by the Phillies. One final rally by the Blue Jays. And one more fireworks display ignited by everyone's favorite baseball arsonist, Mitch Williams.

Oh, they were setting them off in SkyDome last night, setting them off after Joe Carter gave Toronto its second straight World Series title, hitting a three-run homer off Williams in the ninth inning, lifting the Jays to an 8-6 victory.

The Phillies were two outs away from forcing Game 7 when Wild Thing made all of Toronto's hearts sing. It was a game the Blue Jays appeared to have won much earlier, but that's not the way this series went, was it?

Of course not. Baseball need not look any further for its next commissioner. It should be the Philadelphia fan who coined the game's new motto -- "Will pitch middle relief for food."

It was middle relief that blew the Blue Jays' lead after Dave Stewart gave up a three-run homer to Len Dykstra in the seventh inning, the one that pulled Philadelphia to 5-4.

And it was middle relief that persuaded Phils manager Jim Fregosi to summon Williams, after David "Wild Wild" West and Larry "Old Old" Andersen barely escaped a bases-loaded jam in the eighth.

Fregosi no doubt will be second-guessed for going to Williams, who helped the Phillies blow their 14-9 lead in Game 4. But really, what were his options, John Kruk and Pete Incaviglia?

Williams started the ninth with the obligatory four-pitch walk to Rickey Henderson. He then got Devon White to fly to left field on a 3-2 count. That probably was his final out in a Phillies uniform.

Paul Molitor followed with a single, and then Carter hit his booming home run down the left-field line. Just like that, the Blue Jays became the first team to win back-to-back World Series since the 1977-78 New York Yankees.

The Yankees did it with two different managers, the Blue Jays did it with two different teams. How fitting that the MVP was Molitor, the thirty-something free agent who came to symbolize the Jays' dramatic turnover from last season.

How do you win the World Series, come back the next year with 12 different players, and win it again? Ask Pat Gillick, the cutting-edge general manager. Ask Cito Gaston, the laissez-faire manager. And ask Molitor, the consummate professional.

Molitor, 37, ignited the Blue Jays' three-run first with an RBI triple, then hit a bases-empty home run in the fifth to increase the lead to 5-1. He finished the series 12-for-24 with six extra-base hits -- your basic .500 average.

"It's very gratifying," the former Milwaukee Brewer said. "Naturally, you dream about being a major-league player. But you take the dream one step further, and it's being a champion.

"I had toiled 15 years, been there only once, and come up short. I watched postseason after postseason go by and wasn't a part of it. Naturally, you want to experience that."

The amazing part was, Molitor might not have been the best player in the Series. If the Phillies had won, the MVP surely would have been Dykstra. He had four home runs and eight RBI in the series. And, oh yes, he scored 14 runs in 12 postseason games.

It was Dykstra who knocked Stewart out, Dykstra who made this a game. Stewart, the lion who had pitched four AL playoff clinchers, had given up only two hits going into the seventh. He, too, looked like he would be a hero. But he never got another

out.

Dykstra's three-run homer followed a walk to Kevin Stocker and a single by Mickey Morandini. Danny Cox replaced Stewart, and the Phillies kept surging, tying the score on a Dave Hollins single and taking the lead on Milt Thompson's sacrifice fly.

The lead held through a tense eighth, but then Williams started the ninth, with the SkyDome rocking. Henderson got his walk, probably his biggest -- and final -- achievement as a Blue Jay. Molitor lined his single. And Carter crushed his home run.

The Jays will again have a new look next season, with Henderson, Tony Fernandez and Jack Morris likely to become free agents, and Pat Borders likely to be traded. But if this team could recover from losing Dave Winfield, David Cone, Tom Henke and Jimmy Key, it surely will bounce back again.

Indeed, in this age of unprecedented player movement, it might be a long time before anyone repeats what Toronto accomplished this season -- unless, of course, the Blue Jays do it again next year.

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