After two decades, Carter's homer resonates
World Series-winning drive, just the second of its kind, hasn't faded into history
TORONTO -- The home run that helped define baseball north of the border took place 20 years ago, but to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Carter, it feels like yesterday.
The former Blue Jays outfielder captivated a nation with his walk-off homer off Phillies closer Mitch Williams during Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. It remains one of only two home runs to clinch a championship, and the historic drive helped solidify Toronto as a powerhouse of baseball in the early 1990s.
A long time has passed since that memorable day -- Oct. 23, 1993 -- but to every Canadian who's old enough to remember the Series, it remains a classic moment.
"It really is hard to believe that 20 years has passed," Carter said during a phone interview from his home in Kansas City. "It's something that people still always talk about. I was just thinking, as long as there has been the World Series and baseball, this only happened twice in the history of the game. That's the rarest of rare feats.
"For it to be 20 years, it goes to show you, when you're young, time just goes by slow, but when you're older, it goes by incredibly fast."
There were certainly other top moments in Blue Jays history: the great teams of the late 1980s, the Roberto Alomar homer off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 American League Championship Series and the World Series win over Atlanta later that season. But ask anyone about the glory years of Blue Jays baseball, and more often than not, the first thing that comes to mind is Carter's home run.
Toronto entered the 1993 season looking to cement its place in the history books by proving its triumph in the '92 World Series wasn't a fluke. The regular season was a good starting point, as the club posted a 95-67 record to take the AL East, but the significance of that would've been minimized without another championship.
The Blue Jays got off to a strong start by beating the White Sox in a six-game ALCS, then heading home with a 3-2 advantage over the Phillies in the World Series. But the club found itself trailing by a run, 6-5, heading into the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 6 and was in serious danger of seeing the series extended to a winner-take-all final game.
Rickey Henderson got the rally started with a four-pitch walk, and two batters later, Paul Molitor singled to put the tying run on second and the winning run on first. That put all of the pressure on Williams, the embattled closer, and the sold-out crowd at SkyDome ensured the left-hander would barely be able to hear even his own thoughts on the mound.
Carter got ahead in the count, 2-1, before Williams threw him a breaking ball to even the count. Carter now admits that slider made him look so foolish there was hardly any doubt in his mind that it would be coming again on the next pitch. He turned out to be wrong, but surprisingly enough, Carter's inaccurate guess turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him and the Blue Jays fan base.
"He jerked a fastball down and in -- more like a cut fastball -- and because I was thinking breaking ball, I kind of stayed back on the ball," said Carter, who was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003. "Normally, if I'm looking fastball, I'd either swing and miss at that ball and nine times out of 10 times I hook it into the third-base dugout and scatter my teammates.
"But in that particular moment, because I was looking breaking ball, I kept my head down, and when I made contact ... I never saw the ball. All I saw was the bank of lights. I knew I hit it good, but I didn't know if I hit it high enough to get over the fence."
Carter might not have seen the drive to left, but everyone else in the building did. It was a hard liner into the corner, but there was still plenty of doubt about whether it would stay fair or even have enough height to get over the fence.
Thankfully for the Blue Jays, it went just over the wall and Carter realized it was gone when the crowd erupted. Carter became understandably lost in the moment, jumping around with his right fist pumping the air, nearly missing first base in his celebration.
Toronto had earned a second title in as many seasons, and Carter had secured legend status. The five-time All-Star spent seven of his 16 seasons in the Major Leagues with the Blue Jays and hit 203 home runs for the organization, but the homer against Philadelphia is the one few can forget.
The only other home run to end a World Series came in 1960, when Bill Mazeroski pushed Pittsburgh past the Yankees in Game 7. Despite the feat being so rare, "I don't think it gets the notoriety in the States like it does in Canada," Carter said. "I've always said, if I played for the Yankees or the Dodgers, one of those big-market teams, then it would have been huge. I think, at times, they give more honor to Kirk Gibson's home run in Game 1 of the  World Series. That was a great moment -- don't get me wrong -- a special moment for a special guy.
"But something like this, I don't think it gets the notoriety it gets in Canada. In Canada, it's unbelievable the reception that I get up there [from] people from the East Coast as far away as Halifax, Nova Scotia, all the way to Vancouver, British Columbia. People still talk about that home run as if it just happened yesterday, and it's at the forefront of their minds. I'm very elated that they still remember that, and it's indeed a special honor for me."