The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing as the Toronto Blue Jays seek to return for the World Series they held in 1992 and 1993. These were great times for Canadian baseball, which diverted the attention of many young Canadians from the rink to the diamond.
As they say, nothing succeeds like success and with Canada ripping the World Series out of hands of the Americans it felt especially good — even though (with the exception of one or two players) the entire team was made up of Americans and Central Americans. Still, they played under the big red maple leaf and that was good enough for most baseball fans living north of the US border.
Joe Carter could have become Canada’s Prime Minister in those years.
But for those who might recall, in 1994, the Jays were poised to make it three years in a row when it was pretty well guaranteed that the World Series would be won outside of the USA for the third season in a row. The Montreal Expos were tearing up the National League that same year and it looked like an all-Canadian world series. They had the best record in baseball, 74–40, and were six games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
US advertisers were nervous knowing that their real market in the home of baseball would not be watching no matter how exciting an all Canadian series might have been. As a result, revenues would have taken a serious hit.
Coincidentally, there was a labour dispute looming over the game that year. The players strike began on August 12, 1994 and resulted in the remainder of that season being cancelled, including the postseason and, for the first time since 1904, the World Series.
Coincidence? Maybe, but for Canada to poke the proud Americans in the eye three times in a row would have been devastating to the egos of all Americans. Hell, it could have sparked an armed invasion.
Unfortunately, the Expos could never repeat that remarkable season and the Jays powerhouse fell apart after attendance at every major league ballpark fell off due to public outrage over what was seen as greed. Players were making more than the President of the United States and still are.
Fans stayed away in droves the following few years in protest, painting all major league ball players as spoiled and greedy rich kids who lost the heart of the game itself.
Fortunately for everyone except the Expos, which folded, the game has recovered and the Blue Jays have returned to the powerhouse they once were.
Names like Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Pat Boarders, Jesse Barfield, Tony Fernando, Dave Winfield, John Olerud, Mark Eichorn, and Juan Guzman have been replaced with Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Kevin Pillar, Justin Smoak, Troy Tulowitzki, knuckle baller R.A. Dickey, twenty-year-old pitching machine Roberto Osuna, David Price and more.
The Rogers Centre is a full house once again and Canadian ball fans from coast to coast are waving Blue Jay flags. Like the late Yogi Berra said, “it’s like deja vous all over again.