Thursday, May 17, 2007
By Ted Bauer
I had an interesting crisis right around the conclusion of the 1992 World Series, something that only a 12 year old could understand at the time but anyone north of that age could appreciate forever.
See, Game 6 of the '92 Series took place on October 24 of that year; the scheduled Game 7 would have been played the next night. That next night was also Halloween Havoc 1992; for those of you not in the know, that event ended up featuring Sting vs. Jake "The Snake" Roberts in the first-ever "Spin the Wheel, Make the Deal" Match (the stipulation was Coal Miner's Glove). Ron Simmons faced, and summarily defeated, the Barbarian for the WCW World Heavyweight Title.
Halloween Havoc 1992 was to be my first wrestling PPV purchase - I had been a wrestling fan longer than I had been a baseball fan, following the in-tights, fake-punching antics of my WCW and WWF brethren since the late 1980s, as opposed to only being a youngster who understood what a double was circa 1991 - because it took a long time for me to convince my mother it was a good idea to spend 35 bucks on this drivel. First, I had to figure out where she and my father could go during the wrestling PPV, because Lord knows they weren't going to watch it; next, I had to figure out a way to "pay them back" considering I was in fifth grade at the time and had no reliable source of income. Both problems were eventually surmounted.
So on October 24, 1992, I sat in a relatively awkward place. As a new baseball fan - I started liking the sport during that Twins vs. Braves Series the year before, which I'm pretty sure Peter Gammons still has ranked as one of the best World Series of all time - I wanted to see this thing go to 7 games. Here were the Braves, new on the championship scene still, and they had come oh so close the year before; yet, on the flip side, you had a Canadian (!!!) team in the championship series, and the first African American manager ever on the verge of winning it all, and that was pretty cool too. It had been a good series, and here we were, with Game 6, and I had a 12 year old crisis.
If the Braves won and forced Game 7, there was no chance I would still be able to watch Halloween Havoc. Ron Simmons! Sting! But... at the same time... I really wanted this series to contnue. What was a little boy to root for?
There I was, with my dad - to be honest, I had probably started to gain an interest in baseball circa 1986, when he hopelessly narrated to my six year old, nap-obsessed self highlights of the Mets vs. Red Sox World Series - watching a relatively dramatic Game 6 unfold. For those of you who don't remember, Candy Maldonado homered in the 4th to put the Jays up 2-1 (Oh Canada!). In the bottom of the 9th, that score stood, and it seemed the Great White North would raise the golden trophy for once - then, Otis Nixon doubled off Tom Henke, scoring Jeff Blauser to tie the game.
In the top of the 11th, Dave Winfield would lace a two-out, two-run double (his first extra base hit of that Series) down the line for a 4-2 Jays advantage they would ultimately keep. Interestingly, the final out came on a bunt by Nixon - the hero in the 9th - scooped up by Mike Timlin and fired to Joe Carter at first; the latter would obviously became a far more significant member of Blue Jays' postseason lore the following season.
I remember sitting in my living room with my dad, and realizing that I was up pretty late even though it was a Saturday, and thinking how absolutely cool that was, and how sports had this magical power to allow my father to convince my mother that it was good for me to be sitting here, witnessing this. I remember my dad telling me that was "a pretty good World Series, nothin' like '86 or '55 or even '60," and I nodded, as if I understood, or had grown up in Brooklyn like he had. I remember checking my mini-encyclopedia - which my parents bought me in 4th grade, when I started a new school - for more information on Canada, and Toronto specifically. I remember thinking, 15 years ago this fall, "That was pretty cool, overall." Then again, I can't be sure whether that was Cito and the Jays, or the fact that wrapping it up in six meant I got my shot at ordering Halloween Havoc, but I know this: now, whenever I see the Jays on TV (and living in NESN territory, that happens a lot), I think of two things - Ron Simmons powerslamming the Barbarian to retain his title, and that magical late Saturday with my dad, when Cito Gaston and Joe Carter and Jack Morris meant way more to a little fat kid from New York than they'd ever know.