They are number 2 at their position. Their position is number 2 if you're scoring at home. And if you are scoring at home during the 89th World Series, please do so with a number 2 pencil, because the itinerant backup catcher should never have his name recorded in ink.
The first international Fall Classic opened in Atlanta last Saturday, and the first two games were won on home runs by backup catchers. In Game 1, Damon Berryhill of the American team decided matters with one swing of his Canadian-made bat. In Game 2, Ed Sprague of the Canadian team homered in the presence of his star-spangled wife, U.S. Olympian Kristen Babb-Sprague. Thus, the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays were not only tied at one game apiece as the Series went through customs on Monday for Games 3, 4 and 5 at SkyDome, but the two teams had also blurred their respective national identities.
Of course, there were several reminders that the two franchises came from separate nations. For instance: On a scale of 1 to 10, Toronto leftfielder Joe Carter rated the Jays' scintillating 5-4 win in Sunday night's Game 2 as "an 11½." Thus, when you take into account the U.S.-Canadian exchange rate, this meant the game was worth a 10 in the States.
In the second inning of that game, Major League Baseball issued a statement apologizing "to the people of Canada and to all baseball fans" after a U.S. Marine color guard displayed the Canadian flag upside down during the playing of the national anthems. A baseball official said the incident was "wholly unintentional," but others suspected it was intentionally unholy.
"Let's just hope it was a mistake," said Blue Jay manager Cito Gaston. "This is not a battle of two countries."
Precisely. In fact, people should have focused last weekend on all that the two nations share, such as a common border. (And we do not mean the very common Pat Borders, Toronto's starting catcher, who, through Sunday, had thrown out exactly two of the 25 runners attempting to steal on him in the postseason.) Yes, people should have stressed all that is similar between the U.S. and Canada.
For instance: Toronto has the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and Atlanta has the Royal Incontinent Mounted Police. Blue Jay executive vice-president Pat Gillick was sniffing around the visitors' dugout on the eve of Game 1 when he noted, "It smells like horses down here."
In their excitement, the mounts that bore police onto the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium field following Game 7 of the National League playoffs had urinated prodigiously near the Jays' dugout and on the Braves' bullpen mound. The latter was deodorized by the Atlanta grounds crew in time for Game 1, but, curiously, the Toronto bench retained its stench as the Series opened on Saturday night.
Quasi-Canadian Tom Glavine, a Massachusetts native who was an NHL draftee out of high school, was the starting pitcher for the Braves. He was trying to recover from a savage one-inning, eight-run outing in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. Many minds suggested that Glavine not open the World Series or that he be removed from the Atlanta rotation entirely. After his Game 6 performance, when Glavine was contrite and unfailingly polite with the press, one radio guy actually asked the 20-game winner, "Tom, how do you not feel like a failure?"
The Blue Jays' starter was Black Jack Morris, 4-0 in five appearances in two different World Series, who seemed very cool as he warmed up in chilly Atlanta. It was not shirtsleeve weather, to be sure, which only semantically explains why singer Billy Ray Cyrus wore a sleeveless, Ted Kluszewski-like T-shirt while following up stage actor Michael Burgess's rendition of O Canada with a stylized version of The Star-Spangled Banner. Baseball's first international World Series finally began at 8:32 on Saturday night in—as they like to say in these parts—the land of the free and the home of the Braves.