Hard to believe how fast 25 years goes by. I remember it like it was yesterday, as I sat on the floor in front of the TV and Roberto Alomar stepped-up to the plate to face the dominating, but cocky Oakland reliever, Dennis Eckersley.
Back in 1992, Oakland was the team to beat in the American League and had been for some time. Lead by Eckersley, Mark McGwire, and Rickey Henderson, along with a trio of dominant starting pitchers that included Bob Welch, Mike Moore, and Dave Stewart. If the Blue Jays were ever going to make it to that elusive World Series, they’d first have to get past the powerhouse Athletics who’d won 3 of the last 4 American League championship series.
In Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS between Oakland and Toronto, with the Blue Jays leading the series 2-1, and the score 6-4 in favour of the Athletics, Alomar came to the plate to face Eckersley with one on and nobody out in the Top of the 9th. In the previous inning, with Oakland in desperation mode, they’d called on Eckersley after Toronto scored 3-runs in the top of the 8th that brought the Blue Jays to within two. When Eckersley came in during the 8th, there were no outs, and runners on 1st and 2nd. The A’s closer proceeded to make quick work of Kelly Gruber, Pat Borders, and Ed Sprague to preserve Oakland’s 2-run lead.
Upon striking out Sprague for the third and final out of the inning, Eckersley gave an emphatic fist pump as he stared down the Blue Jays dugout. That lack of sportsmanship and foresight on Eckersley’s part lit a fire under the Blue Jays, and when they came up to bat again in the top of the 9th, they’d be leading off the inning with the top of their order and be ready to go about putting him in his place.
Devon White would single to begin the top of the 9th for the Blue Jays, which set the stage for Alomar. It was their best against ours, two future Hall of Famers, Eckersley vs Alomar. With the count 2-2, Alomar smoked a shot to right field for a 2-run home run that tied the ball game.
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) October 11, 2017
It was Alomar’s signature moment as a Blue Jay, and his whole career for that matter. What should have been an Oakland win to tie the series turned into a Toronto victory that they ended up winning in 11-innings to take a commanding 3-1 series lead. For Oakland, that moment ended their run of dominance in the American League which had been ongoing for five long years. As for the Blue Jays, it was a watershed moment that changed everything for the franchise. After coming so close to making it to the World Series in 1985, 1989, and 1991…three days after Alomar’s perfectly timed home run they’d win Game 6 against Oakland and were finally on their way to the World Series.