It was 21 years ago this week that Joe Carter touched them all. His home run off Philadelphia’s Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series won the Toronto Blue Jays their 2nd straight title. No one else has done what Carter did on the evening of October 23rd. There has been countless arguments about where Carter’s home run ranks in the history of baseball. There are a number of factors to take into consideration: the number of outs in the inning, the number of strikes in the count, and was the team facing elimination, just to name a few. But Carter’s home run should be the one others look up to.
What make this home run significant is that it came with the Blue Jays trailing 6-5 with Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor (2 future Hall of Famers) on base. Carter went into the at-bat having faced Williams 4 previous times, all resulting in outs. There was only one out at the time but hitting behind him was Alfredo Griffin, who entered the game as a pinch-runner for the reigning American League batting champ John Olerud. Griffin was not exactly a threat at the plate and (another future Hall of Famer) Roberto Alomar’s turn to bat was after Griffin, so Carter’s at-bat was really the game. Had the Blue Jays lost, that would have set up a 7th and deciding game the next night. Pat Hengten was a 19-game winner for the Blue Jays but was known to struggle at home. His mound opponent was veteran left-hander Danny Jackson. The Blue Jays seemed to have trouble against southpaws during the season so the combination of the two did not go in their favour. If you take in those factors as many people believed, the Blue Jays’ hopes for back-to-back championships once again rested on Carter’s 9th inning at-bat in Game 6.
There has been only one other walk-off home run that ended a World Series, Bill Mazeroski in 1961 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. There has also been only one other walk-off home run in the World Series that overcame a deficit, Kirk Gibson of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988. All other game-ending World Series home runs were solo dingers and/or came with the game tied. That not only makes Carter’s home run rare but also makes it even more significant in the history of baseball.
With the recent expansion of the playoffs to 3 rounds plus the play-in wild card game, we have seen more game-ending and series-ending home runs than ever before. With Travis Ishikawa’s feat last Thursday for San Francisco, there are now 6 post-season series that have been decided by a walk-off homerun since 1995, when the playoffs first expanded to 3 rounds. But before then, there were only 3: Carter, Mazeroski, and New York Yankees’ Chris Chambliss (1976 ALCS). Of those 9 home runs, only one came with the winning team trailing at the time. Again, no one has come close to Carter’s.
I’m sure there will be a situation where it is Game 7 of the World Series with the home team trailing by 3, the bases are loaded in the bottom of the 9th, the batter has a two-strike count on him, he has not hit a home run the entire year, and he is going up against a pitcher with a 100-mile-per-hour fastball who has not blown a save in over 80 appearances all season. A home run at that moment would obliterate Carter’s into dust. It would no longer be in the same league.
But until then…
Here’s an interesting note. Dana Demuth was the home-plate umpire for Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. He had a great view of Carter’s home run, but Demuth also had to see Carter, and Henderson and Molitor ahead of him, touch home plate to make it official. Imagine you are in his position standing at home plate patiently waiting for the runner to round the bases and you are surrounded by dozens of players, coaches, and managers plus thousands of screaming fans all who are in a more celebratory mood, also waiting for the runner’s arrival?