Touch ‘Em All, Joe: Joe Carter’s 1993 World Series Walk-Off
It took a bit of time, but by 1993, America was settling into the ‘90s quite nicely. Just two years earlier, bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam led the nation’s headlong dash into grunge, while other cultural phenomena, such as neon windbreakers, flannel shirts and Friends, have burst back into today’s cultural zeitgeist. Aside from Operation Desert Shield, which lasted for less than six months from 1990-91, the ‘90s had been and would continue to be a period of peace for the U.S.
In sports, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and Emmett Smith’s Dallas Cowboys were well on their way to establishing basketball and football dominance in 1993 while in baseball, an unlikely new dynasty was threatening to leave its mark. Coming off of a World Series victory in 1992, the Toronto Blue Jays had quietly assembled a roster of stars, including future hall of famers Rickey Henderson, Jack Morris, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar. The group was supported by all-stars Devon White, Pat Hengten, Duane Ward, John Olreud and Joe Carter. The latter two players, Olreud and Carter, were arguably the team’s best offensive players in 1993, with Olreud batting above .400 as late as August 24 and Carter leading the team in home runs (33) and RBIs (121). (Both players, in fact, demonstrate how hallowed the real estate in Cooperstown’s plaque gallery really is. Despite having distinguished 16-year careers, neither Olreud nor Carter made it to the Hall of Fame.)
In the last year of the American League’s two-division format, the Blue Jays replicated their success from the previous season by defeating the Chicago White Sox, who were led by AL MVP Frank Thomas, in a six-game ALCS.
In the opposing dugout for the 1993 Fall Classic were the Philadelphia Phillies, led by Darren Daulton, Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk and Curt Schilling. The Phillies, who finished last in the NL East in 1992, surprised the baseball world by winning the NL Pennant, and they embraced their underdog role. Perhaps no one embodied their “Macho Row” persona more than closer Mitch “Wild Thing” WIlliams, who led the league with 43 saves on the year.
The teams split the first two games in Toronto before the Blue Jays took two out of three in Philadelphia, so when the series moved back to the Great White North, the Jays needed to win just one out of two. For the first six innings of Game 6, it appeared the Blue Jays would wrap things up easily, this time on their home turf (in 1992, the Jays clinched in Atlanta). Toronto took a 5-1 lead into the top of the seventh but, powered by a Dykstra three-run bomb, the Phils stormed back to take a 6-5 lead, which was still the score heading into the bottom of the ninth.
With the game’s preeminent closer on the bump, the outlook for the Blue Jays was bleak; however, Henderson, the undisputed greatest leadoff hitter of all-time, managed to walk on four pitches to start the inning, and after a Devon White flyout, Toronto trotted future Hall of Famer Paul Molitor to the plate. Molitor, who built his decorated career on being reliable and solid, calmly smacked a single, putting two men on with one man out and the winning run walking to the plate. The Jays were officially in business.
Joe Carter had been the team’s best player all season, and it was fitting that he should have the chance to end it. After working the count to 2-1, Carter sat on a Mitch Williams heater, which is why he missed the curveball by a mile.
“The swing that Carter took on the 2-1 pitch might have been the ugliest second-strike swing I have ever seen,” said journalist Bob Elliott.
Why Williams threw the 2-2 fastball is something only he, Darren Daulton and Jim Fregosi could answer, but he did, and Joe Carter crushed it.
“When I made contact, I looked up and I couldn’t see the ball,” Carter said afterward. “All I saw was the bank of lights in left field. I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t know if I hit it high enough to get out. That’s what all the jumping was as I was going to first base: I was trying to see what the elevation of the baseball was and help it out of the park. To see Pete Incaviglia stop at the wall and give up on it, and to see it go out was like an out-of-body experience.”
“I knew it was gone,” said Williams I gave it the courtesy double-look back and I just kept walking. Remember it like it was yesterday.”
Blue Jays announcer Tom Cheek knew, too, saying as Carter hopped his way to home plate, “Touch ‘em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life!”