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IN THERE!
Steve Rushin
October 21, 1991
Minnesota is World Series bound after sliding by Toronto in the American League Championship Series
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October 21, 1991

In There!

Minnesota is World Series bound after sliding by Toronto in the American League Championship Series

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As the Twins bused several blocks to their hotel, Toronto second baseman Roberto Alomar, leftfielder Candy Maldonado and Candiotti walked from the Blue Jay clubhouse determined not to take the ball game home with them, which isn't easy when your mailing address is SkyDome Hotel, built inside the park, overlooking centerfield. These three players reside there during the season, but none of them requires a DO NOT DISTURB sign. SkyDome is, as it would be for Saturday night's Game 4, almost always silent. However, several frugal Torontonians at the game, afflicted with hanky envy, did wave what is sure to become the enduring symbol of these limp Jays and their lame fans: a moist towelette.

Saturday night's performance, in which Toronto was Handi-Wiped off the artificial playing surface 9-3, was an epic of embarrassment for the Blue Jays and their fans: the agony and the apathy. The agony: Carter, valiantly but imprudently offering to DH on his sprained ankle, was 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. He stranded six runners and apparently inspired no-body. "If the man had been in a car crash, broken both arms and come out here clapping his hands, that would have been spiritually uplifting," said Toronto's Mookie Wilson. "But that was not what we needed. We needed hits. We didn't get them."

And the apathy: "I don't pay too much attention to the crowd," said Twins left-fielder Dan Gladden. "But I did notice tonight that everybody left in the eighth inning. The [on-field] security guard told me they were just getting refreshments. Well, there were an awful lot of people getting refreshments."

The pessimistic fans, however, had nothing on the Jays' manager. "It's not over," Gaston said after the game, "until they beat us tomorrow." Could this be? Apparently, yes. The Toronto skipper was throwing in the towelette.

Gaston waited all of two innings on Sunday before becoming the first manager ever to get tossed from a championship series game. He did so for no particular reason, also; he just took to cursing plate umpire Mike Reilly between innings when the Twins led 2-0. The Jays, however, rallied for five runs in the third and fourth innings, so inspiring SkyDome's crowd that one dink ran from the stands in the—what else?—bottom of the fifth and dropped trou in leftfield before hiking up his pants again and getting tackled by members of the grounds crew in shallow centerfield.

Then it was time for the Jays to bottom out. Minnesota tied the score in the sixth inning. In the eighth the Twins' Kirby Puckett, who is approached only by San Francisco's Will Clark as baseball's best clutch hitter, singled in Gladden for the go-ahead run and sent Knoblauch to third.

Two nights earlier, a SkyDome banner had proclaimed the Jays ALOMARVELOUS AND CARTERRIFIC! It kindly ignored the Twins' first baseman, who had been excellent afield but HRENDOUS! at the plate. As he stepped into the box with two on in the eighth on Sunday, Hrbek was hitting .100 (2 for 20) in the series. He promptly got a knock to left center, driving in two runs to ice both the Twins' 8-5 comeback and their second pennant in the last five seasons.

"Even when we lost last year, this team had a lot of dignity," series MVP Puckett said moments later in Minnesota's champagne-soaked clubhouse. "We weren't the Bad News Bears or anything. I'm not going to lie to you and say I thought we would win the American League pennant and go to the World Series. No. I just knew that we wouldn't finish last again." The Puck stopped here and smiled, his team the last to finish in the American League.

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