The Toronto Blue Jays were finally in the World Series after knocking on the door since 1985. The Atlanta Braves were back after losing a gut-wrenching seven-game Fall Classic the prior year. This one wouldn’t go the distance, but the 1992 World Series broke a couple historical barriers and most of its six games went to the final inning.
You can read more about the paths the Blue Jays and Braves each took to get to the World Series, and about the seasons enjoyed by their key players, at the links below. This article will focus exclusively on the games of the 1992 World Series.
Atlanta held homefield advantage by virtue of the rotation system that was in place until 2003. The previous year’s Fall Classic ended when the Braves had lost an epic Game 7 battle to Jack Morris, then pitching for Minnesota. Morris was now in Toronto and the ‘92 Series picked up where ‘91 left off—with Atlanta facing Morris.
Morris pitched shutout ball for the first five innings, making it 15 straight scoreless frames he’d tossed against the Braves in the World Series. But Atlanta’s Tom Glavine was keeping his team in the game. Only a Joe Carter home run had the Blue Jays on the board and it was 1-0 going into the bottom of the sixth.
Atlanta finally broke through against Morris. With two on and two out, Damon Berryhill launched a three-run blast. It was all Glavine needed. He made the 3-1 score stand up with a complete-game four-hitter.
The Braves kept the momentum going in the early part of Game 2. They got a soft rally going against David Cone, getting a run thanks to a walk, stolen base, error and wild pitch. Atlanta added another run in the fourth to go up 2-0.
John Smoltz got the first two batters out in the top of the fifth. Then Toronto got rolling. Pat Borders worked a walk. Three singles later, one of them by Cone, plated two runs and tied the game. But the Braves immediately answered in their half of the inning. Deion Sanders singled to start a two-run rally that chased Cone and Atlanta took the 4-2 lead into the eighth inning.
Toronto got consecutive one-out hits from Roberto Alomar, Carter and Dave Winfield. Smoltz was lifted and the bullpen—the weak part of the Atlanta team all year, had to try and hold the 4-3 lead. Mike Stanton came on with runners on the corners and got John Olerud to pop out, then K’d Kelly Gruber. The lead was intact going to the ninth.
Jeff Reardon was summoned to close it out and put Atlanta in firm control of the Series. The closer faced the 8-9 spots of the batting order. He walked the first batter, Derek Bell. Ed Sprague, a light-hitting reserve came to the plate to bat in the pitcher’s spot. And in a stunning turn of events, Sprague homered. It was the first pinch-hit home run for Toronto all year and it won Game 2 of the World Series, 5-4.
After a day off, the World Series went to Canada for the first time in history on Tuesday night. Juan Guzman, a 16-game winner, was on the mound for the Blue Jays. Atlanta countered with Steve Avery, a talented young lefty who had already had some serious postseason pedigree as the 1991 NLCS MVP.
The first three innings went by scoreless. Deion got Atlanta going in the fourth when he beat out an infield hit. Terry Pendleton followed with a base hit. David Justice then hit a rocket to centerfield that looked sure to score two runs.
Only it didn’t. Toronto’s Devon White ran the ball down and made one of the most spectacular catches in World Series history. It would draw favorable comparisons to Willie Mays’ legendary catch in the 1954 Fall Classic. And just like Mays had in ‘54, White was able to double off a runner in complete shock the ball had been caught. Pendleton was out, while Sanders was caught in a rundown. Deion barely escaped the tag and got back to second base to avoid the triple play. No matter, the inning ended without a run.
In the bottom of the inning, Carter immediately struck with another home run. In the blink of an eye, the Braves had gone from a potential big inning, to trailing 1-0.
Deion was swinging a good bat though and his sixth-inning double set up a game-tying base hit from Justice. In the top of the eighth, Atlanta took advantage of a Kelly Gruber error and scored the go-ahead run on a single by Lonnie Smith. But Gruber made amends—he homered off Avery in the bottom of the eighth and tied it back up 2-2.
Avery was still on in the bottom of the ninth. Alomar touched him for a single and promptly stole second. He was bunted over to third. A lot of managerial cat-and-mouse between Bobby Cox and Cito Gaston followed, with a couple pitching changes and pinch-hitters announced. It boiled down to a pair of intentional walks to load the bases.
Reardon came on again. Again Toronto got him, as Candy Maldanado hit a ball into the right-centerfield gap that scored Alomar and won the game 3-2.
Glavine was back on the mound for Atlanta on short rest in Game 4, going up against veteran Blue Jay lefty Jimmy Key. Both finesse pitchers were sharp and going into the seventh inning, a Borders solo home run accounted for all the scoring. In the bottom of the seventh, White capped off a three-hit game by driving in Gruber with two outs.
The insurance run proved significant. In the top of the eighth, a Ron Gant double keyed an Atlanta rally that had runners on first and third with none out. The Braves got the run in from third, but Toronto reliever Duane Ward got two big outs and preserved the 2-1 lead. Jays closer Tom Henke closed it out in the ninth. All of these World Series games might be close, but it was Toronto that had the commanding 3-1 series lead.
Morris would get the chance to win the game Toronto had brought him in for, facing off with Smoltz in Game 5. It was 2-2 in the fifth and when Morris retired the first two Braves’ hitters, nothing dramatic seemed imminent.
But Atlanta leadoff man Otis Nixon singled and stole second to get himself in scoring position. Deion delivered with an RBI single that broke the tie. Pendleton hit a ground-rule double that put runners on second and third. After an intentional pass to Justice, Lonnie Smith broke the game open with a grand slam. Just like that it was 7-2 and that’s how it ended. We were going back to Atlanta.
Saturday night’s Game 6 pitted Cone against Avery and Toronto wasted no time getting their momentum back .White started the game with a single, stole second. He scored when Justice committed an error on a line drive to right field. The Blue Jays had a chance to get a big inning early, but Avery limited the damage and kept it at 1-0.
It was Deion who got the Braves going in the third, with a double and a steal of third. He scored on a sac fly to tie the game. But Toronto answered right back in the top of the fourth. Maldonado homered to start the inning. Again the Blue Jays threatened a big inning. Again, the Braves limited the damage. This time it was Deion doing it in the field, as he threw out Borders at the plate to end the inning and keep the score 2-1.
Both pitchers settled in and the tense game went to the ninth, still 2-1 and Henke trying to close out the championship for Toronto. Jeff Blauser kept hope alive for Atlanta with a leadoff single and he was bunted into scoring position.
Francisco Cabrera had been a ninth-inning hero in Game 7 of that year’s NLCS and he had a chance to do it again here. Cabrera made good contact, but lined out to left. Nixon was the last chance for the Braves. And he came through with a game-tying single. It was 2-2. We were going to extra innings.
A pair of lefthanded starters took over pitching duties, as Key came on for Toronto and veteran Charlie Leibrandt pitched for Atlanta. The game went to the 11th inning still tied 2-2.
White was hit by a pitch and Alomar singled, giving the Blue Jays a shot. Winfield came to the plate with two outs. He pulled a grounder down the left field line that stayed fair. Both runners scored and it turned out that, once again, Toronto would need the insurance.
Blauser capped off his three-hit night with a single in the Atlanta 11th. An error by Jays’ shortstop Mann Lee put runners on first and third. The scenario was eerily similar to the seventh game of the NLCS when Atlanta trailed by two runs in the ninth and the tying run reached on an error.
Smoltz came on to pinch-run and he was bunted up to second base. There were runners on second and third with one out. Brian Hunter, a dangerous pinch-hitter came up in the pitcher’s spot. He grounded out to first. The run scored and cut the lead to 4-3, but now there were two outs.
Mike Timlin came out of the Toronto bullpen. Once again, Otis Nixon was Atlanta’s last hope. The speedy Nixon dropped down a bunt and a pretty good one. If he beat it out, Smoltz could score the tying run. But Timlin was off the mound quickly, made the play and the celebration could begin in Toronto.
Borders was named World Series MVP, going 9-for-20. He only drove in three runs and, to be frank, didn’t seem entirely impactful. But he was as good a choice as any for a Toronto team that had mostly won with balance.
The signature individual performance of the series came from Deion Sanders, who had gone 8-for-15, scored four runs, stole five bases and thrown a runner out at the plate in Game 6. It all depends on how you feel about voting for a player from the losing team. I’d have given Deion the MVP, but Borders was certainly a reasonable selection.
Neither team was done on this stage. Toronto came back to the World Series in 1993 and repeated as champs, clinching on a memorable walkoff home run from Carter. Atlanta made it back to the Series in 1995 and won their first championship.