Two-ronto puts Blow Jays to rest Now, late-inning mastery has them in league of own

THE BALTIMORE SUN

TORONTO -- Maybe it would have been an injustice for it to end any other way. When the Toronto Blue Jays overcame the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday night, they did so with perhaps the most dramatic finish in World Series history.

It was provided by Joe Carter, who launched a three-run, ninth-inning home run off beleaguered closer Mitch Williams to give the Toronto Blue Jays an 8-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 6, and a second straight World Series championship, four games to two.

Only one other time had the Series ended with a home run -- in 1960 when Bill Mazeroski's bases-empty shot lifted the Pittsburgh Pirates over the New York Yankees, 10-9, in Game 7. Mazeroski's blast broke a tie, and Carter's clout enabled the Blue Jays to come from behind -- again.

In case you hadn't noticed, that has become as much a Blue Jays trademark as the bird that adorns their caps. During the 1993 regular season they won 25 games in their last at-bat. And five times they won when trailing after the eighth inning, something that's not supposed to happen in this era of relief specialists.

On Saturday night, the Blue Jays played the 40th postseason game in the organization's history. It was the fourth time they erased a lead after the eighth inning. To put that in perspective, no team in 90 years has won more postseason games when trailing after eight innings. The Yankees also have done it four times -- in 212 postseason games.

The time has come to bury the "Blow Jays" moniker that had dogged this team. The Blue Jays are a very good team, perhaps now being recognized as one closing in on greatness.

Even before the stench from stale champagne had cleared the clubhouse, talk of a "three-peat" already was filling the air.

Carter's dramatics, and a shredded Phillies bullpen, enabled the Blue Jays to become the first team in 15 years to repeat as World Series champions.

Because they did so in a Series devoid of the superior pitching usually prevalent this time of year, the Blue Jays' triumph will be tainted in the eyes of some baseball purists. It shouldn't be. The 1993 World Series was one of the most entertaining, and generally well-played -- if not well-pitched -- in recent history.

And when the time came for it to end, the Blue Jays had the right people in the right places. "In the ninth inning we had the guys up there who can make it happen -- Rickey [Henderson], Devon [White], Molly [Paul Molitor] and Joe," said Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud. "Good things happen to good players."

For Carter, the glare of glory is perhaps long overdue. One of the game's steadiest performers, with more than 100 RBI in seven of the past eight years (and 98 in the other), he always has managed to rank a step below the game's superstars.

"I thank God I made it," Carter said amid the jubilation of his teammates. "This is a storybook ending. What can you say? This is awesome. I just can't explain it."

Carter, who had caught the ball for the final putout in last year's World Series and this year's ALCS win over the Chicago White Sox, admitted he wanted a personal repeat. "When you're losing in the ninth inning, you can't very well catch the final out," he said. "So I wanted to drive in the winning run.

"You always hope it's you in that situation. When I was out on the field [in the top of the ninth inning] thinking if Duane [Ward] could keep them where they were, we had a chance -- and it might come down to me."

It did, but only after Henderson and Molitor set the stage with a walk and single against Williams. For Molitor, the single capped an MVP performance and Carter's home run ensured Molitor of his first World Series championship ring.

"When I looked in his eyes, they were a little moist," said Toronto manager Cito Gaston. "And when I saw that, my eyes got a little moist, too."

At age 37, Molitor had a career year for the Blue Jays, making people forget that it was his predecessor as designated hitter, Dave Winfield, who got the hit that delivered last year's championship.

"It's very gratifying," said Molitor. "When you toil for 15 years, watching postseason after postseason go by, naturally you want to be a part of it. Coming here to Toronto, I tried to imagine the best possible scenario. I don't think it included being MVP . . . but winning a World Series . . . hopefully, yes.

"More than anything I have a feeling of thankfulness," said Molitor, whose only other World Series experience came with the Milwaukee Brewers, who lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1982. "It's been my best year. I can't explain why, but my timing was good."

Like Molitor, the Blue Jays can savor the moment -- and look ahead. The Oakland Athletics of 1972 to 1974 were the last team to win the World Series three straight years. They also won five straight division titles (1971 to 1975).

The Blue Jays have successive World Series trophies, and four division titles in the past five years, including the past three in a row. It is a team that needs only minor patchwork to remain in the baseball loft.

The first World Series victory is always the most enjoyable. A second straight is supposedly the toughest. The third is reserved for teams of dynasty.

This year it's "Two-ronto." Will 1994 bring a three-peat?

Don't bet against it.

LAST AT-BAT WORLD SERIES WINNERS

Teams that won the World Series in the bottom of the last inning, with team, opponent and rally:

1993 TORONTO BLUE JAYS

Joe Carter's three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning off Mitch Williams gave the Blue Jays an 8-6 win over the Philadelphia Phillies and a 4-2 victory in the Series.

1991 MINNESOTA TWINS

Pinch hitter Gene Larkin's bases-loaded single over a drawn-in outfield gives the Twins a 10-inning, 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves and a 4-3 triumph in the Series.

1960 PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Bill Mazeroski's ninth-inning homer broke a 9-all tie and gave the Pirates the championship in seven games against the New York Yankees. The Pirates' five-run rally in the eighth had given them a 9-7 lead, but the Yankees tied it with two runs in the top of the ninth.

1953 NEW YORK YANKEES

Billy Martin's one-out single, his 12th hit of the series, drove in the winning run in the ninth inning and gave the Yankees a 4-3 victory over the Brooklyn Dodgers and a 4-2 Series triumph.

1935 DETROIT TIGERS

Goose Goslin's two-out single in the ninth brought home Mickey Cochrane with the winning run of a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs, giving the Tigers a 4-2 Series triumph.

1929 PHILADELPHIA ATHLETICS

Bing Miller doubled in Al Simmons to cap a three-run rally in the ninth inning and gave the A's a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs and a 4-1 Series win. Mule Haas had tied the score with a two-run homer earlier in the inning.

1927 NEW YORK YANKEES

Earle Combs scored the winning run on Johnny Miljus' second wild pitch of the ninth inning, giving the Yankees a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates and a four-game Series sweep. Miljus had struck out Bob Meusel and Lou Gehrig with the bases full before the game-ending miscue.

1924 WASHINGTON SENATORS

Earl McNeely's ground ball bounced over rookie third baseman Freddie Lindstrom's head to bring home Muddy Ruel with the winning run in the Senators' 12-inning, 4-3 victory that gave them the Series 4-3 over the New York Giants.

1912 BOSTON RED SOX

Fred Snodgrass dropped a routine fly ball in center field, setting the stage for a two-run, 10th-inning rally that gave the Red Sox a 3-2 victory and a 4-3 Series triumph over the New York Giants. The Giants had gone ahead with a run in the top of the 10th, but Tris Speaker's single tied the score in the bottom of the inning and Larry Gardner's sacrifice fly ended the Series.

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