TORONTO -- When the Blue Jays have been at their best, downtown Toronto orbits around Rogers Centre.
With one of the best ballpark locations in baseball, Rogers Centre, which opened as SkyDome in 1989, has been home to the Blue Jays for over 30 years and hosted a long list of major events outside of baseball. The CFL, NFL, WWE and UFC have all packed the stadium at one point along with major concerts and stadium tours.
Even the NBA’s Toronto Raptors called the stadium home for their inaugural season in 1995. It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing, to say the least, but it was the backdrop to one of the greatest wins in that franchise’s history, when the lowly expansion Raptors shocked Michael Jordan’s incredible Chicago Bulls team, which won 72 games that season, 109-108.
Depending on which way your fandom leans, there’s no shortage of options for the greatest moments in the history of Rogers Centre. Here’s a look at some of the best, including some all-time Blue Jays moments and a memorable moment on the track.
1. 'Touch ‘em all, Joe'
Date: Oct. 23, 1993
Can this ever be topped? Joe Carter’s walk-off home run to win the 1993 World Series stands above all other moments in Blue Jays history. It’s the scenario we all re-enact in the back yard, throwing the ball up in the air as we call our own play-by-play, but Carter lived it out on the game’s biggest stage.
It also gave Blue Jays fans this famous radio call from the late, great broadcaster Tom Cheek:
“The Blue Jays are World Series champions as Joe Carter hits a three-run home run in the ninth inning and the Blue Jays have repeated as World Series champions. Touch ‘em all, Joe! You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”
2. The Bat Flip
Date: Oct. 14, 2015
While one generation of Blue Jays fans has Carter’s home run to look back on as their moment, another has José Bautista’s famous bat flip. With Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Rangers tied 3-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning and Rogers Centre bubbling over with tension, Bautista delivered his trademark moment.
“One-one from Dyson. Bautista with a drive …”
This was the Blue Jays' grand return to postseason competition after a long drought. The edge and energy that 2015 club played with was perfectly encapsulated by Bautista, who was better than you and he knew it. Has Rogers Centre ever been louder?
3. Encarnacion walks it off
Date: Oct. 4, 2016
If it weren’t for Bautista’s blast just a year prior, we’d talk about Edwin Encarnacion’s Wild Card walk-off even more. This underrated moment in Blue Jays history came with the Blue Jays and Orioles tied 2-2 in the bottom of the 11th inning of the AL Wild Card Game. The Blue Jays were trying for another deep playoff run after falling just short in 2015 and, just as things grew tense in extras, Encarnacion launched a no-doubt shot off Ubaldo Jiménez.
Within a split-second of the ball leaving Encarnacion’s bat, it was clear to everyone watching that the Blue Jays were moving on. The great Blue Jays slugger standing on home plate, bat dropped to the ground with his arms raised straight to the sky is one of the great images from the past decade. Just like The Bat Flip, Encarnacion’s home run convinced you that those Blue Jays teams had some magic to them.
4. Welcome to SkyDome
Date: June 5, 1989
There was nothing spectacular about the game itself, with the Blue Jays losing 5-3 to the Brewers, but the the first game at SkyDome marked a new era of baseball in Toronto. At the time, Toronto’s stadium was very modern with a retractable roof that was an engineering marvel.
SkyDome actually had an opening celebration two nights prior to this game broadcast on CBC Television. There were cheesy musical acts, mascots and, yes, even performances by dance groups dressed as the Blue Jays and the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts. If anything will make you appreciate just how long ago SkyDome opened, it’s that video.
5. The Fastest Man in the World
June 1, 1997
This stadium has hosted some incredible events outside of baseball, but few had such a broad appeal as Canadian sprinter Donovan Bailey racing American Michael Johnson for the title of “Fastest Man in the World.”
The same appeal that’s drawn so many of us to Usain Bolt’s Olympic recent greatness was alive and well in 1997, as Bailey, a Canadian sports icon, had just won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games, breaking the world 100-meter record with a time of 9.84 seconds. Johnson, at those Games, won the 200- and 400-meter races. There was a true rivalry between the two athletes and, yes, the “Canada vs. USA” factor was alive and well.
A 150-meter race was announced with incredible buildup over the months leading to June, and a $1 million prize was on the line along with their appearance fee and bragging rights. On race day, Bailey had a lead coming out of the turn and into the straightaway when Johnson pulled up with a quad injury. That was controversial at the time, with Bailey saying delivering the famous post-race quote, "He didn’t pull up, he’s a chicken."
The image of Bailey looking back over his shoulder as he crosses the finish line is still burned into the minds of many Canadian sports fans.