By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (Sep. 17) – It was deja vu in Baltimore Tuesday night.
I can close my eyes and still recall the privilege of being at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) working for The FAN-590 when the Toronto Blue Jays clinched American League East Division titles in 1989 (vs. Baltimore), 1991 (vs. California) and 1992 (vs. Detroit). It was early in the SkyDome era – the stadium opened for baseball on June 5, 1989 – and you couldn’t find a ticket with a compass. When Baltimore clinched the A.L. East at Camden Yards against the Blue Jays Tuesday night, it re-kindled memories of a time in my radio career before I began covering hockey and the Toronto Maple Leafs. The SkyDome stood for victory in its early years – Blue Jays making the playoffs in four of five seasons (1990 the lone exception) after the ballpark became their home.
THE DAY AFTER THE BLUE JAYS LAST CLINCHED A PLAYOFF SPOT AT ROGERS CENTRE.
The Orioles rampaged to the East Division title this year – leading second-place Toronto by 13½ games after clinching. Though the Jays remain mathematically alive by a razor’s edge in the American League Wild Card race, the club long ago (and wisely) began auditioning for next season – deploying youthful players in the field and on the mound.
Kudos to Sportsnet for a good job and a classy job of staying with the telecast after Baltimore won the Division. It would have been easy for Buck Martinez to wrap it up quickly and throw to Ken Reid and Evanka Osmak in the Connected studio. You may think that Sportsnet had an obligation to show the Orioles’ victory romp but there are teams in the U.S. that would do otherwise. When the Blue Jays clinched the 1993 American League East title at old County Stadium in Milwaukee, the Brewers’ local telecast faded to black before the visitors could clear the dugout. Sportsnet did very well for its audience.
SPORTSNET STAYED WITH THE TELECAST IN BALTIMORE AFTER THE ORIOLES CLINCHED THE AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST AGAINST THE BLUE JAYS TUESDAY NIGHT. MANAGER BUCK SHOWALTER (BOTTOM-RIGHT) STOOD IN THE DUGOUT AND ALLOWED HIS PLAYERS TO CELEBRATE. IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO – 1996 – THAT HALL-OF-FAMER JOE TORRE REPLACED SHOWALTER AS MANAGER OF THE NEW YORK YANKEES AND GUIDED THE CLUB TO FOUR WORLD SERIES TITLES IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. SPORTSNET IMAGES
As you are aware, this is no halcyon era in Toronto professional sport. The Maple Leafs already own the longest current Stanley Cup drought. And, if the Kansas City Royals make the playoffs for the first time since their World Series year of 1985, the Blue Jays will have, to themselves, the longest current playoff famine in the Major Leagues – 20 seasons (and 21 years; the 1994 playoffs were canceled by labor strife).
For some warm memories, Blue Jays fans, here’s a look at newspaper images from my 1992 scrapbook when the club last clinched a Division title at SkyDome (en route to its first World Series championship):
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