TORONTO (Apr. 30) — Perhaps Dave Perkins, the legendary former baseball columnist at the Toronto Star, said it best while on the phone with me this afternoon. “Be prepared to never be surprised,” Dave offered when I asked for a reaction to the Roberto Alomar saga — that the Toronto Blue Jays have severed ties with the greatest player in franchise history after allegations of sexual misconduct dating to 2014. “Just when you think you’ve seen it all, here it comes again,” said Perkins. “It’s a terribly sad moment, especially for the victim, if the charges are true. But, also for baseball here in Toronto. Robbie was the biggest part of those two World Series teams [in 1992 and 1993]. That home run he hit in Oakland off [Dennis] Eckersley is still the most–significant feat in Blue Jays history… including the [Joe] Carter walk–off blast a year later. It shows again that nobody’s an angel. None of us.”
For young Blue Jays fans that weren’t yet around when the club won its consecutive Major League championships, this may not hit with quite the thump as for those who do remember the ’92 and ’93 teams. And, the day in December 1990 when Alomar was acquired from San Diego in what is still the most–significant trade the Jays have ever pulled off. Alomar and Joe Carter came over from the Padres for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernandez. Robbie was MVP of the 1992 American League Championship Series, when the Blue Jays defeated Oakland and finally got over the hump into the World Series, where they upended Atlanta in six games. Carter, as every Blue Jays fan probably knows (and has seen on replay), won the ’93 World Series with a three–run homer off Mitch Williams of Philadelphia in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre).
But, Perkins is bang on. If it weren’t for Alomar’s legendary blast off Eckersley in Game 4 of the ’92 ALCS — tying the match in the top of the ninth at the Oakland Coliseum — the Blue Jays almost surely would not have advanced to play the Braves in their first World Series. So, it has to rank as the top moment in franchise history.
FROM MY 1992 BLUE JAYS SCRAPBOOK: ROBBIE ALOMAR’S LEGENDARY BLAST IN OAKLAND.
Perky and I were privileged to be on hand that late Saturday afternoon (Oct. 11, 1992) — Dave covering the match in the main press box of the Coliseum up and behind home plate; yours truly (for The FAN–1430), standing at field level with Blue Jays broadcaster Jerry Howarth, in an aisleway next to the visitors’ dugout. Alomar was no more than 30 feet from us when he slammed Eckersley’s pitch to right field and threw his arms in the air, knowing he had deadlocked a game the Blue Jays had trailed, 6–3. Toronto won in extra innings to take a 3–1 lead in the best–of–seven affair; lost Game 5 the next day at the Coliseum, then wrapped up their first American League pennant two nights later, at SkyDome. “I remember having to change my lede [paragraph] a few times that day in Oakland,” said Perkins about his game story. “No question that Alomar is the most–influential player to this point in Blue Jays history. He and Paul Molitor (of the ’93 championship team) played the game with their heads as much as their bodies. They would think their way through tough situations. Alomar was flawless at second base. It’s still hard to fathom that he only spent five seasons with the Jays. Thinking back, it seems like he was here forever.”
Alomar became the first player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay… and the first Blue Jays player to have his number (12) retired by the club (the late Roy Halladay, No. 32, was next). Both achievements have been commemorated by a banner that hangs from the Rogers Centre roof, high above center field. Sadly, and perhaps unjustifiably, the Alomar banner will be removed by the Blue Jays. “I’m not sure that’s warranted,” said Perkins. “Obviously, we don’t know the details of the allegation that has prompted the decision. But, there’s no way of minimizing what Alomar did for the team on the field. And, that’s the reason he’s in the Hall of Fame, with his jersey number retired by the ball club. I believe there should be a separation. When you go to a Buffalo Bills game, O.J. Simpson is still along the Wall of Fame. Yes, he was acquitted in the criminal murder trial [of 1994–95], but found culpable in the civil trial [1996–97]. Countless people are certain he murdered his ex–wife [Nicole Brown–Simpson] and her friend [Ronald Goldman]. Yet, the Bills have chosen to keep his football exploits separate from the later events. For Crissakes, Harold Ballard is still in the Hockey Hall of Fame. I’m not sure why the Blue Jays acted so quickly to remove Alomar’s banner from the stadium. He’s the prime reason the club won consecutive championships. Could there not be another way of censuring the best player in franchise history?”
Neither, in a democracy, has Alomar been granted his day in court. He released this statement earlier today: “I am disappointed, surprised and upset with today’s news. With the current social climate, I understand why Major League Baseball has taken the position they have. My hope is that this allegation will be heard in a venue that will allow me to address the accusation directly. I will continue to spend my time helping kids pursue their baseball dreams. I will not be making any further comment at this time.”
ROBERTO ALOMAR’S NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL–OF–FAME BANNER (FAR–RIGHT) WILL BE REMOVED FROM ITS PERCH HIGH ABOVE THE OUTFIELD AT ROGERS CENTRE.
The sexual misconduct allegation represents Alomar’s second bout of infamy. As a member of the Baltimore Orioles, while facing the Blue Jays at SkyDome on Sep. 27, 1996, Alomar argued a called third strike with John Hirschbeck and then spit in the umpire’s face. Ultimately, he and Hirschbeck made peace and the baseball world forgave Alomar — writers electing him to the Hall of Fame, with the umpire’s approval, in 2011.
Now, Toronto sports fans must acknowledge that the Dave Keon of the Blue Jays is no longer a part of the team. Time and healing will determine if it’s the proper decision by the club… or if reinstatement becomes an option.
At the moment, there is sadness. In all corners.