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Joe Carter is mobbed by teammates after his game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 6 of World Series on Oct. 23, 1993.

Joe Carter is mobbed by teammates after his game-winning home run in the bottom of the 9th inning in game 6 of World Series on Oct. 23, 1993.

The Associated Press

Everyone of a certain age remembers Toronto's last World Series. Big games offer fans a chance to reach a Zen-like state where every detail will stick with you for the rest of your lives

I watched the Blue Jays win their last World Series in a heaving highway roadhouse outside Niles, Mich.

Some pals and I had gone down there to watch Notre Dame play the University of Southern California. The game was in Indiana, but you could only find a motel room one state over.

It was a Saturday. We started drinking before we'd got out of bed.

There should have been three enforced hours of sobriety during the football game, but the stranger sitting next to me had smuggled in a mickey of rum hidden inside hollow binoculars. Notre Dame won big and we chose to take that as a sign.

I'm not sure how we picked the bar in which to watch Game 6 that night, but we chose wrong. For reasons that were obscure to me, this was a die-hard Chicago White Sox joint. The place was papered with pennants, posters, signed jerseys and all the attendant kitsch of a house of worship.

Toronto had beaten the White Sox in that year's American League Championship Series. A bunch of these people appeared to have taken that loss quite hard. A couple of us were wearing Blue Jays caps. That was noted.

You know that scene in every bad procedural where the socially maladjusted cop with a death wish walks into the biker bar, eyeballs the regulars and tells them to get up against the wall? That was us. Minus the authority, the courage or a decent wall. We did have the death wish.

But back then, being a Toronto Blue Jays fan was its own shield. You rooted for the best team in baseball. You strutted into a place. Being blind drunk can also be a confidence boost.

Everybody turned to watch us. A few people said some unwelcoming things. One of my friends said something about the declining state of American hospitality. That made everything a lot better.

That game started out well for the good guys. The Jays were up 5-1 on Philadelphia after five innings. We were not shy in reminding our new friends about the way the world works and their place in it. One of us did so while standing unsteadily on a chair and mocking all the screw-faced patrons individually. I grabbed hold of his belt, to make sure he didn't topple over.

In retrospect, it's a testament to the agreeableness of Midwesterners that we weren't savagely beaten with pool cues.

Among ourselves, we made a plan to stay until the eighth inning. Then we'd have to create some sort of diversion and flee.

Philadelphia scored five times in the seventh and took the lead. That was our St. Peter moment. We were now forced to agree (under some duress) that we might possibly have been wrong. That was the most relaxing part of the night. We were going to survive after all.

Come the ninth – Mitch Williams in, a walk to Rickey Henderson, an out, a Paul Molitor single. The place was triumphally loud now. These people weren't rooting against the Jays. They were rooting against four idiots who'd made the mistake of coming into their bar.

The only thing I remember about that inning, without having to look it up, is watching Joe Carter hook the ball over the left-field fence. The place got very quiet. We got very noisy. One of us had the presence of mind to pull all of his money out of his pocket and, without counting it, drop it on the table.

Arms raised, woo-hoo-ing, we moved in tight military formation toward the door. Most people were still staring miserably at the dog pile at home plate. Before anyone had the presence of mind to get on top of us, we were outside and sprinting from the scene.

Oct. 23, 1993. It's still my best-ever day as a fan.

If you're the right age and regardless of where you watched it or with whom, I imagine it's also one of yours. Studs Terkel could've made a very decent book from Canada's collective and interconnected emotions during the three-second flight of that ball.

Just as much as Carter skipping around the bases, the graven image of that moment is Williams' sprawling, frantic look as he watched the ball fly and then a short shot of him hurrying to get down the dugout steps. There has rarely been such a wonderful visual juxtaposition of the agony and the ecstasy. It was the sort of moment when sport gets to the level of devotional art.

And for a long time, that was it.

Nineteen-ninety-four was a four-month death march toward the inevitability of a strike. When baseball returned the following year, Toronto had faded back into the pack. After a decade of rising and rising, people had no desire to watch the team caught in the game's gravity, returning to Earth. That's the price of winning. It makes what inevitably comes next – merely competing – unsatisfying. It's harder to go hungry when you can still remember being full.

You weren't forming lasting memories about the Blue Jays any more. They had no real moments. Every once in a while, there would be a remarkable individual achievement – Carlos Delgado's four-homer game or Roger Clemens's second straight Cy Young – but they didn't amount to anything like 92 and 93. They were signposts reminding you of the general mediocrity. Each season bled into the next.

A decent big-league career might last eight or 10 seasons. Generations of players came and went, largely forgotten as soon as they'd left.

Now that it was no longer full every night, you began to notice that the SkyDome wasn't actually an architectural marvel. It was a wretched concrete bunker, more suitable to storing grain than hosting a fun night out.

Every time I see a Jays' fan under 30, I remind myself of that.

People my age and older could retreat to our crumbling baseball memory palace every time Toronto put in another desultory 80-win season. Close our eyes and – LaLaLa! – we're there on the beach with Dave Stieb, Ernie Whitt and George Bell.

Everybody who missed them closes their eyes and sees Jim Fregosi yelling in a dimly lit cellar.

Discovering this team in the mid-90s and beyond must've seemed like moving to Rome right after the sack. There's nothing for you there. But you stayed anyway. Those are the fans who really deserve this – whatever "this" is going to turn out to be.

The thing with most of the nostalgic moments in your life is that they only seem special from a distance. While they were happening, you didn't realize you were going on the road trip of your life or reading the book that would recalibrate your view of the world or meeting the person who'd change everything. You don't see the fork in the road until after you've taken it.

Those signposts can't be properly enjoyed in real time. Not the way they deserve. After a while, the faults of memory start fiddling with them. Did it really happen that way? You aren't sure any more. You weren't in the moment enough to document them. Our most meaningful recollections are a sensory patchwork – the way something smelled or felt, or how he said it rather than what he said. You're piecing it together after the fact.

Sports are different. You feel the tremors long before the quake arrives. Since the big game is scheduled, you can prepare yourself. Our athletic pastimes are knit together by nostalgia and crucially heightened by its anticipation.

Of course, it won't always work out. That's another thing that makes a sporting memory unique – that a grand failure can seem just as meaningful, even just as great, as a victory.

You've primed yourself for something to happen. So something is going to happen. You've taken off the blinkers of routine and surrendered yourself to a mass experience. Unlike every other day or every other game, you are seeing things with fresh eyes.

I'm not schooled in Taoism, but I imagine watching the big game is very close to Zen. We are fully in the moment and accepting of whatever comes.

Pros live this way all the time. They can recall the small details of a game they've just played – where the ball lay, or what the count was, or the numbers of everyone on the bench. Being in the moment comes naturally to them. Beyond the physical gifts, which many people have, that's why these few hundred are elite.

For the rest of us, it's an effort. We have to consciously put ourselves in that mindset and can't maintain it for long periods. We decided that for these two or three hours, we're going to forget the mortgage and the job and the gnawing feeling that life is pain, and just watch and record.

In the end, true nostalgia – the sort that sticks with you – is work.

It doesn't feel hard. It's light. Because it's not really about who won, but where you were and how you felt as they won it. Or lost it.

You can't know how this or any other thing will turn out. But you can know that it will be worth your notice.

You'll walk into a strange bar, like a hundred others that all seem like one in your mind, but this time you're not going to forget it. The things they said and what was on the wall and how it felt when it all unexpectedly went your way.

They play the game for money and because they're good at it. We watch to remember.


We asked readers for photos of their 1993 memories. A selection of their replies follows:

Joanne Archibald: "Here I am in 1993 with my mother, Elizabeth Palatics. We had seasons tickets back then – I wish we had them now! I've been a lifelong fan of the Jays and am so excited to watch them in the playoffs."

Peter Cunningham: "Yonge Street was closed from Front Street to past Eglinton Street, with Blue Jay fans coming from the SkyDome and bars. I was impressed and proud that there were no incidents of vandalism because that spring in 1993 the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup and there were problems on Saint Catherine Street and with other cities that had won championships."

Jennifer Wilson: "What I remember the most is when Joe Carter got up to the plate and hit the homer. The place went silent for a split second until we knew for sure, then the crowd went insane. I didn't even get to see the ball go over the wall as I was engulfed by my friends in hugs and cheers! There was a banner that went around the SkyDome at the 500 level that people started grabbing and tearing into strips and handing out to as many people as possible. We got a piece of that banner for our memorabilia wall in our basement. Then the crowd spilled out of the dome and walked up Yonge Street, singing and having a great time. It was such a party! We got home as the sun was coming up. It was a night I'll never forget."

Peter Bregg: I was chief photographer for Maclean's covering the game. My wife Diane was credentialed as film runner. After the game, the trophy was on a table at home plate so Diane and I got someone to take a photo of us with my camera. In the shot you can see a replay of Joe Carter's home run on the jumbotron.

Marry Warren Yuan: This was a photo from the game 6 World Series game against Phillies when the Jays won it all. I just watched the highlights on YouTube and it brought back all the emotions from the game. It was truly unbelievable. My husband (boyfriend at the time) and I (both pictured on the left) had just graduated from Law School and were starting our bar admissions course. We were at the game with my brother and sister-in-law, who made the trek down from Listowel to join us. My husband is a huge sports fan and somehow secured us tickets. It was like an explosion that went off in the Sky Dome when Joe Carter hit the home run. Before we left the Dome we asked a fan to take a picture of us. This picture was taken as the Dome started to clear.

#tbt #globejays #globleandmail #gojaysgo #bluejays

A photo posted by Jennifer Rout (@jenniferrout) on

Jennifer Rout: In 1993, I was a runner for photographer Carlo Allergi, who was shooting the World Series. I had the pleasure of watching the game from the photographer's box, which was by the Blue Jays dugout. Whenever Carlo got a good shot throughout the game I would have to run it underneath the dome to a photographer station that would then send those pictures around the world. Many times on a run I would pass the players right before they would go up at the water fountain underneath the dugout. The feeling was amazing: it was different than being up in the stands - you were right in the game. I don't wear that jacket much anymore. I wore it to a few games a couple years after that but now it's dry cleaned and it's just hanging in my closet. I was a big Pat Borders fan at the time.

Mike Andrade: As a kid, I had two VHS tapes that talk about and highlight the '92 and '93 World Series. I couldn't tell you how many times I watched those, but it was well over 100. No matter how many times I watched it, it just never got old. I loved watching the passion of the Toronto crowds getting excited and the player celebration of winning the World Series. One of my brothers also tells me stories about how he was downtown for the '93 World Series and when Joe Carter hit the walk-off home run, Yonge Street was absolutely flooded with people. He says it was as if someone dumped a giant bucket of water down Yonge St and it was just flowing, but the water was people. I always hoped the day would come where they'd make the playoffs so I could experience playoff baseball and actually remember it (I was only three in 1993). I've been waiting a great majority of my life for this, year after year hoping I could experience playoff baseball in Toronto and I'm trying to soak up as much of this season as I can. I already have tickets to the first two playoff games, which I'm sure will feel like I'm dreaming.

Arlene Korhonen-King: I was in town for OAC Showcase. My friends invited me to their child's birthday party. Rather than returning to my hotel, my friends invited me to join them at the ball game! Wow, what a night! I remember Philly was ahead but we had great hope. Man on base, smokin' Joe Carter hit that home run and BAM! I will never forget that roar of the crowd. Absolutely amazing. In photo: Della Bitove & Arlene Korhonen-King (me).

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