TORONTO (Oct. 9) — Well, that wasn’t exactly the plan.
A full 21 years, 11 months and 15 days after Joe Carter’s “touch ’em all” home run, playoff baseball returned to Canada and the Rogers Centre (it was still SkyDome when Carter won the World Series on Oct. 23, 1993).
The Blue Jays didn’t stink out the joint against Texas, losing 5–3, but were beaten by an “Odor” that wasn’t foul enough. Here’s betting that a large portion of the audience at the Dome on Thursday had never heard of Rougned Odor (pronounced Roog-ned O-door) — the Venezuelan–born second–baseman of the Rangers who shares a birthday with yours truly; I turned 35 the day he came into the world on Feb. 3, 1994.
Odor may not be a household name around here today, but he’s a bit more famous locally after a somewhat bizarre afternoon in the American League Division Series opener. He was plunked in the ribs by David Price in his first two at–bats — looking at plate umpire James Hoye after the second incident as if to say, “What is he doing out there?” While jumping to avoid Josh Donaldson’s hard slide into second base in the fourth inning, Odor inadvertently kneed Donaldson in the head, ending the MVP candidate’s afternoon for concussion protocol. And, the 21–year–old topped off his day by lining a home run to right field off Price in the seventh inning that was still rising as it cleared the fence. So, now you know Rougned Odor.
IN THE ONE–IN–A–MILLION CHANCE HE MIGHT GET PLUNKED IN THE RIBS BY DAVID PRICE FOR A THIRD CONSECUTIVE TIME, I ZOOMED IN ON ROUGNED ODOR WHEN HE CAME TO THE PLATE WITH ONE OUT IN THE TOP OF THE SEVENTH INNING. SECONDS LATER, HE TOOK PRICE OVER THE RIGHT–FIELD WALL FOR THE FINAL RUN OF THE BALLGAME AND A 5–3 TEXAS LEAD.
It was a demoralizing afternoon for nearly 50,000 occupants of the Dome and it began with a gutless decision by the stiff necks at Major League Baseball to keep the retractable roof closed on a perfectly pleasant fall afternoon. The weather was just fine before, throughout and after the baseball game; rain beginning, as forecast, around 8:30 p.m. — or two hours after the final pitch. Temperature was in the low 60’s Fahrenheit. MLB should be ashamed for denying Toronto fans outdoor playing conditions.
With that said, I present to you photos from my trusty NIKON on a somewhat historic sports day here in town, as an entire generation of baseball fans experienced playoffs for the first time:
THERE WAS NO REASON WHATSOEVER TO HAVE THE ROGERS CENTRE ROOF CLOSED ON A PLEASANT, EARLY–AUTUMN AFTERNOON. BUT, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL INSISTED.
AS PER USUAL, BLUE JAY FANS WITHSTOOD THE NEEDLESS SECURITY LINE–UPS OUTSIDE THE DOME AND WOUND UP LEAVING THE PLEASANT, FALL WEATHER BEHIND ONCE INSIDE.
WHILE WAITING TO THROW OUT THE CEREMONIAL FIRST PITCH, CITO GASTON — MANAGER OF THE BLUE JAYS WORLD SERIES TEAMS IN 1992 AND 1993 — SHOOK HANDS WITH AARON SANCHEZ AND GAVE THUMBS–UP TO FANS ALONG THE THIRD–BASE SIDE. CITO IS NOW A SPRY 71.
THE BLUE JAYS EMERGED FROM THEIR DUGOUT TO A ROUSING OVATION FOR INTRODUCTIONS AND JOHN GIBBONS PRESSED FLESH WITH TEXAS MANAGER JEFF BANISTER.
WHILE PLAYERS STOOD FOR THE NATIONAL ANTHEMS.
ROUGNED ODOR ASKED FOR TIME IN THE THIRD INNING… THEN JOGGED DOWN TO FIRST BASE AFTER GETTING PLUNKED BY PRICE FOR THE FIRST TIME.
WITH TEXAS LEADING, 1–0, VETERAN THIRD–BASEMAN ADRIAN BELTRE SINGLED TO SCORE DELINO DeSHIELDS… BUT THEN HAD TO LEAVE THE GAME WITH A STRAINED BACK.
DONALDSON WALKED… BRINGING JOEY BATTS TO THE PLATE.
BAUTISTA GROUNDED INTO A FIELDER’S CHOICE AND DONALDSON — WHEN SLIDING TO BREAK UP THE DOUBLE–PLAY — RAMMED HEAD–FIRST INTO THE KNEE OF ODOR. HE LEFT THE GAME WITH A HEADACHE AND WAS REPLACED AT THIRD BASE BY CLIFF PENNINGTON.
WITH THE BLUE JAYS TRAILING, 4–1, AND THE DOME RATHER SILENT, THE SPONSORED JUMBOTRON ASKED FOR NOISE ALL THE WAY FROM NIAGARA FALLS.
WITH THE BLUE JAYS TRAILING, 4–2, BAUTISTA LED OFF THE BOTTOM OF THE SIXTH WITH A HOME RUN TO LEFT FIELD — THRILLING THE CROWD AS THE CLOCK STRUCK 5:30 P.M.
ODOR DID THE HITTING IN HIS THIRD AT–BAT AGAINST PRICE — A ONE–OUT, LINE–DRIVE HOMER TO RIGHT FIELD THAT GAVE THE RANGERS THEIR EVENTUAL VICTORY MARGIN, 5–3.
ODOR’S BIZARRE DAY FLASHED ON THE BOARD AND TOWELS LAY DORMANT LATE IN THE GAME.