1992 World Series
Once again, the Atlanta Braves reclaimed their title as National League champions and were anxious to make amends for their devastating Game 7 loss to the Minnesota Twins in the previous Series. The Nationals were almost put out of the running, but recaptured the pennant with a three run, ninth-inning rally against the Pittsburgh Pirates to advance to the finals. The Toronto Blue Jays represented the first Canadian franchise ever to appear in a Fall Classic (after beating the Oakland A's in the American League playoffs) and held a benefit that had been an "Achilles heel" for the Braves in the '91 affair, an indoor stadium. Atlanta had been winless against the Twins at the Metrodome and the Jays' Skydome offered the same opportunity for home field advantage.
Game 1 belonged to Atlanta's Tom Glavine, (who tossed a four hitter) with Damon Berryhill coming up huge with a clutch, three run homer for the 3-1 opening victory. Toronto evened the score the following day with a 5-4 comeback of their own thanks to utility man Ed Sprague's pinch, two run homer off baseball's all-time saves leader, Jeff Reardon in the ninth.
As Game 3 moved across the border (for the first Canadian Classic) the question still remained of the Blue Jays' ballpark benefit. Both teams went head-to-head for eight innings and held a 2-2 tie going into the ninth. Candy Maldonado put the home team ahead with a bases loaded one out walk-off single off Reardon (again) who was retired for the remainder of the contest despite his career record of three-hundred fifty-seven saves. Devon White was the standout in the 2-3 event by making a sensational backhanded grab (against the 400-foot sign) off a David Justice blast with Deion Sanders and Terry Pendleton on base. The snag nearly resulted in a triple play as Pendleton passed Sanders on the base paths for an automatic out and Sanders just missed being tagged out in a rundown by Kelly Gruber.
Toronto continued its winning streak to three games in Game 4 as lefthander Jimmy Key and relievers Duane Ward and Tom Henke held the Braves to five hits in a 2-1 triumph that also featured a bases-empty homer by Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders (Series MVP) and an RBI single by White. Down as they had been throughout the playoffs, the ever-resilient National League champs bounced back in Game 5 for the crucial 7-2 victory as Lonnie Smith (who had made the costly base-running error in Game 7 of the '91 affair) erased the memory with a spectacular bases-loaded home run off Jack Morris. Atlanta was grateful for the extension as the Series shifted back home (to the outdoor settings) at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. The change of scenery proved meaningless though as the Braves entered the ninth inning down 2-1. Henke (with thirty-four saves) was brought in to maintain the Toronto bullpen's scoreless streak of 15 1/3 innings, but stumbled against the first three batters he faced. First, Jeff Blauser led off with a single and Berryhill advanced him to second with a textbook bunt. Then, pinch-hitter Smith followed with a walk, putting the potential winning run on base.
Francisco Cabrera (another pinch-hitter) sent a scorching line drive to left field. Candy Maldonado (whose leadoff homer in the fourth had broken the 1-1 tie) hastily retreated toward the wall and made a spectacular, extended grab for the second out of the inning. Otis Nixon (who fell behind at 0-2) managed to connect for a clutch double that scored Blauser and moved Smith to third. With the game winning (and Series-tying) run just 90 feet from home plate, Ron Gant flied out to White.
Things continued to look grim for Atlanta as Charlie Leibrandt surrendered a single to Roberto Alomar in the eleventh, moving White (who had been hit) to second with "batman" Dave Winfield stepping up to the plate. The versatile utility infielder / designated hitter followed with a sharply hit grounder down the left-field line that went for a two run double and the Toronto lead. Now down 4-2, Atlanta led off the frame with another Blauser single and Berryhill reached base on shortstop Alfredo Griffin's misplay of a ground ball. After Rafael Belliard's sacrifice left runners on second and third, Brian Hunter came through with a run-scoring groundout. Clinging to the 4-3 advantage, the Blue Jays brought in their seventh pitcher of the night, Mike Timlin who induced Nixon to bunt with the potential tying run at third. The quick-reflexed, right-handed reliever charged the blooper and made the throw to first ending the game and the Series. In the end, it was an anti-climatic finale to a very climatic Classic. The '92 title was the first championship crown ever won by a Canadian franchise and not surprisingly, it wouldn't be the last.