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Now Or Never
Steve Wulf
October 19, 1992
The A's and the Jays, two teams for whom next year is too late, dueled in the ALCS
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October 19, 1992

Now Or Never

The A's and the Jays, two teams for whom next year is too late, dueled in the ALCS

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Reality led off the ninth in the person of Devon White, who singled and went to third on an error. That brought Alomar to the plate and a certain sense of déjà vu. "I saw Kirk Gibson all over again," said Toronto shortstop Alfredo Griffin, who was the shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers when Gibson homered off Eckersley to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. Said Alomar, "I'm not thinking homer there, but I think he thinks I'm looking for a pitch on the outside, so I think he's coming inside." He did. Alomar turned on the fastball, and as the ball flew into the right-field seats, Alomar raised both hands high. "I'm a little guy," he said, "but I guess the little guy became a big guy."

The homer tied the score at 6-6, but the A's could have won the game in their half of the ninth. With pinch runner Eric Fox on third with one out, Oakland (for now) catcher Terry Steinbach grounded to second. For some unfathomable reason, Fox took off for the plate. Alomar tossed the ball to Borders, and Fox was out by a proverbial two miles. "Four times he was told not to go unless the ball went through the infield," said La Russa. "What are you going to do? He said he wanted to score the winning run."

After Toronto took the lead in the 11th on a Borders' sacrifice fly, Henke came on to get his third save of the series. The role reversal was complete. That should have been Eckersley out there, shaking his teammates' hands.

In the morgue that was the A's clubhouse, Eckersley willingly bore the blame for, as he called it, "Gibson 2." Then he tried to explain what had happened. "This game is weird, man," he said.

Over in the happy Toronto clubhouse, Alomar shrugged and said, "This is a weird game, my friend."

High Noon. There was a vulture circling over the coliseum at noontime on Monday for the start of Game 5. The A's, however, were not dead.

In fact, they pretty much had their way with Cone. Ruben Sierra, who had said after Game 2, "Next time, it will be different," hit a Cone fastball for a two-run homer in the first and chased him in the fifth with an RBI single. But the real hero of Oakland's 6-2 victory was Stewart, who threw a seven-hitter in what may have been his last appearance for Oakland. If it is, the A's should start thinking about retiring No. 34—he has meant that much to them over the past seven years.

"The best example of what he means to us was today," said La Russa. "Sometimes there's no justice in baseball, like yesterday when Eckersley got hit. Today there was justice in Stew's complete game."

"It did cross my mind this might be my last game with the A's," Stewart said. "But more important, I just didn't want to go home after today. This team deserved at least one more game."

And he made sure they got it. As for the Jays, they got their chance to prove once and for all that the past is in the past.

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