Thanksgiving. A time for reflection. A time for joy. A time to be thankful. These are some of the things most people think of around the holidays. For the old guard of Jays fans a particular Thanksgiving weekend of yesteryear may hold a small place in their hearts. The creation of Legends Row for the Toronto Maple Leafs has stirred up debate about what really makes one deserving of being cast in bronze. Robbie Alomar; a hall of famer. The greatest player to ever don the uniform of the Toronto Blue Jays. The best second baseman of his time. The catalyst to a juggernaut, makes a sound case for himself.
When Alomar entered the baseball hall of fame on his second ballot in 2011 it didn’t come as much of a surprise for Jays fans. Just that it hadn’t happened sooner. The Blue Jays finally had one of their own in the hall. After being traded from San Diego to Toronto along with Joe Carter for Tony Fernandez and Fred Mcgriff, Alomar came into his own as one of the best offensive second baseman in the league, batting over .300 in nine seasons, and scoring more than one hundred runs six times. Combine that with great speed, phenomenal range, a fantastic throwing arm and an amazing ability to turn two. Its no wonder Robbie took part in twelve consecutive all star games and won ten gold gloves. An MLB record for second baseman. Over the years, the accolades continued to stack up for the Jay’s middle infielder but it isn’t just the awards and great numbers that make him worthy of enshrinement. It was his ability to come through on the big stage, and one hit in particular encapsulates all of this.
It was one Sunday afternoon at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in October 1992. Many Canadian families were gathered together around television sets and radios; stricken with Blue Jays fever. The turkey would have to wait. The Jays held a two games to one lead in the series when play began that afternoon and they jumped out to an early lead with John Olerud’s solo shot in the second inning. However the Oaklands brought that hauntingly familiar feeling to the stomachs of Jays fans scoring five in the third and one more in the sixth. Those damned A’s seemed to be regaining control of the series. Despite Toronto’s three run rally in the top of the eighth against the formidable Dennis Eckersley, it seemed we would be brokenhearted again. Mike Timlin held it down for the Jays in the bottom half, and in the top of the ninth Devon White would lead off with a single to left field giving the Jays a glimmer of hope. The table was set for what would become one of the most important moments in Blue Jays history. A moment that deserves to be remembered forever. Roberto Alomar’s clutch two run homer to tie the game at six barely cleared the right field wall, but it was the moment the Jays stopped being that team that couldn’t quite get over the hump. The moment they became a team to fear. It was a turning point for the franchise. “After that home run we knew we could beat these guys. We came back won it all.” Alomar said of his now iconic jack. The Jays would eventually go on to win the game in eleven innings and take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series. Nothing was going to stop them this time. Not even the best closer of the day. Robbie’s home run was in a way, bigger than when Joe Carter famously “touch(ed) ’em all.” It erased any doubt in the minds of Jays fans that this team could ever be great, and it was delivered by the bat of the only player so far, to enter the hall of fame as a Toronto Blue Jay.
The significance of Roberto Alomar to the Toronto Blue Jays is impossible to ignore. Not simply for his amazing contributions on the field but also for his ongoing legacy. He has continued to work with the Blue Jays long after his cleats were hung up for the last time. Alomar has remained committed to the club and we can see this in his willingness to be a part of the Jays camps, and his founding of the T12 tournament. If not for Robbie, we may have never seen Canadian baseball grow the way it has. We may have never seen the emergence of local ball players such as Dalton Pompey. Alomar’s influence reaches all corners of this city and across the country. That alone should justify his immortalization. Arms raised, with a team and a country behind him. Ted Rogers may have saved the franchise from bankruptcy and possible relocation, but it was Robbie who put the Jays on his back and saved the franchise from its own self doubt. It was Robbie who with one swing of the bat brought confidence to an organization and to a fan base who hungered to believe and to be taken seriously. It was that moment- delivered by the greatest player to ever wear the Blue Jays uniform, a hall of famer and a Blue Jay for life- that everything changed. It’s time that we give our thanks.