Norm? Ed's jaw dropped when he saw what his puppy had become.
"I thought I'd get a chance to hit in the World Series," Ed says. "Especially in Atlanta, with the National League rules. You need more pinch hitters. I got a hit in Toronto against Dennis Eckersley in the playoffs, so I knew the manager was thinking about me. I struck out in Oakland against Eckersley, but that was as nervous as I've ever been. I had 30 friends and relatives in the stands. I was determined that if I got a chance in the Series, that wasn't going to happen again."
This was one of those learning years. In 24 games and 47 at bats he hit .234 with one home run. He was with a good team, learning good habits. If there wasn't a future in Toronto, there would be a future somewhere else. He was an attractive prospect, able to play third or first or catch. For a while the controversy about his wife had bothered him. There were different stories about how his family was smug and didn't care about Canada.
"Finally I went to Dave Winfield," Ed says. "I asked him for some advice. I respect Dave Winfield as much as anyone in baseball. He told me I could do one of two things: I could call a press conference and battle it out, or I could just wait and it would blow over. I thought about the press conference, but I waited. It finally quieted down."
Ed already had won a gold medal in Seoul and had been a member of two NCAA championship teams at Stanford, so big-time baseball was not a new experience. He also had strong baseball genes. His father, Ed Sr., was a major league pitcher with four different teams in nine years and had been part of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine. Ed Jr. has memories of running around the field at Riverfront Stadium with the sons of Pete Rose and Hal McRae and of swinging a bat as a teenager in batting practice against professional pitching when his dad owned a minor league team in Stockton, Calif., and his stepmother, Michele, owned another team in nearby Lodi. Playing baseball was natural. Playing baseball was what he was supposed to do.
"It's funny, but I always thought I'd be a major leaguer," he says. "I just accepted it as fact. Now I see how naive I was, how hard it is to make it, but I never thought about that. My dad played. I would play. It somehow worked out."
His World Series chance came in Game 2 in Atlanta. The Braves, who had won the first game 3-1, were ahead 4-3 in the ninth inning. The bottom of the lineup was coming to bat, and Ed was told before the inning started that he would be a pinch hitter, batting third. He had suspected as much, but now he had time to plan. The pitcher was Atlanta closer Jeff Reardon. Ed had watched Reardon lead oil the three previous Blue Jay hitters with fastballs and had been warned by veteran Rance Mulliniks to lay off the high fastball and look for the low one.
There were no nerves, no jitters. In fact Ed had told teammate John Olerud in batting practice before the first game that he hoped he would hit because he felt "locked in." Locked in? It was the same feeling his wife had had when she found it so easy to stay vertical. Who knows why these feelings arrive when they arrive? They simply do. Ed looked for a low fastball. Reardon threw it on the first pitch, with a runner on first. Ed hit the ball out of the park.
"I knew I had hit the ball well, and if this were the minor leagues, I probably would have put my head down and gone into a trot," he says. "But here I looked up and couldn't see anything because of the lights. Then I saw Deion Sanders turned around in leftfield, looking up. I said to myself, 'No way. No way I just did that.' That was exactly how I felt. It was the home run everyone dreams of hitting. I just started running."
Kristen was in the stands at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. She was determined to get a picture of Ed's first swing in the World Series. Who knew it would be a home run to win the game 5-4? She clicked a shot that later, when developed, showed the ball just leaving the bat. She was engulfed by people and noise. What happened? Finally she saw him circling the bases. She was shown on national television wiping away tears—this pretty woman in a stars-and-stripes jacket. Her coach, Gail Emery, back in Walnut Creek, was watching. She said she saw the same look of pride in Kristen's eyes that she had seen two months earlier on the victory stand in Barcelona.