If Jose Bautista can fling a bat for the ages with a go-ahead home run in a late inning of a division series, what type of theatrics could Joe Carter have produced with a go-ahead blast to end a World Series?
Carter didn’t have time to admire his moment, the three-run laser beam that cleared the left-field wall to walk off the 1993 World Series.
“I didn’t realize my ball was out,” Carter said. “I had to run. Joey hit a no-doubter,” referring to Bautista, whose nickname is Joey Bats.
Not that Carter didn’t celebrate. A few steps along his path to first base, the crowd noise in SkyDome — now Rogers Centre — let him know what had occurred. Carter’s shot off the Phillies’ Mitch Williams became one of the most memorable moments in baseball history, turning a one-run deficit into an 8-6 victory in the sixth game.
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Carter leaped and raised his arms in triumph and floated around the bases. A scrum awaited him at home plate along with a hero’s shoulder ride.
He joined the Pirates’ Bill Mazeroski as the only players to end a World Series with a home run. Carter’s blast has the added bonus of injecting sports pride throughout a nation.
Bautista and this year’s Blue Jays are looking for their own magic, trailing the Royals 2-0 as the American League Championship Series shifts to Toronto for Monday’s third game.
Carter, who lives in Leawood, will be there as a matter of coincidence. He had planned a business trip to Toronto weeks ago, and it is happy circumstance that the teams he follows most closely are meeting in the postseason.
“This has worked out great for me,” Carter said. “I couldn’t be happier. Who am I pulling for? Both teams.”
Carter actually has three-quarters of the playoffs covered. He made his major-league debut with the Chicago Cubs in 1983 and served as an analyst on the Cubs network after his retirement.
The Kansas City area has been the Carter’s home since the mid-1980s. After the 1992 season, when he helped the Blue Jays to their first World Series title, Carter strongly considered a free-agent offer from the Royals.
He re-signed with the Blue Jays and won another ring, authoring the unforgettable moment in the process. Meanwhile, the Royals were a few years into their postseason drought that would last nearly three decades.
It took a few years, but the Blue Jays would follow the Royals into a playoff abyss. After the Royals won the 1985 World Series, their next postseason occurred in 2014. After Carter’s dramatic home run, the Blue Jays didn’t reach the playoffs again until this year.
To Carter, the hunger fed the exuberance of the Royals’ run last season and the Blue Jays during this charge, which started over the second half of the season and carried into their division series against the Texas Rangers. Toronto dropped the first two games at home against Texas before storming back, overcoming a deficit to win the fifth game.
“That was an emotional game and an emotional series,” Carter said. “I watched it and thought about all the emotion the Royals poured into last year. I didn’t see any disrespect for baseball.”
Learning when to turn off the switch became an issue for the Royals earlier this season, when they engaged in dustups and brushbacks.
“That’s what got the Royals in trouble early in the year,” Carter said. “They started doing some of that in April, and it took them a while to adjust.”
As for the championship series, Carter has seen one team continue its plan at the plate, the other not so much.
“It seemed like the Jays were trying to hit the ball nine miles, and the Royals were sticking to what they do best —a base hit here, a double there, moving runners along,” Carter said.
The power-hitting Blue Jays figure to become more comfortable in Rogers Centre, the site of two famous postseason home runs, and Carter said he has heard that Bautista’s blast has rekindled interest in his.
Bautista helped get Toronto to the next round. Carter’s won a championship. It didn’t need bat-flip punctuation.