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A Flag is Flipped and a Nation Flaps: The Politics and Patriotism of the First International World Series
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The title of “World Series” has often been scrutinized as being a flagrant misnomer for Major League Baseball’s best-of-seven championship event. While there is a long history of non-U.S.-born athletes competing in the series, prior to 1992 the teams had always represented and played in U.S. cities. The World Series between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays marked the first time an international city, albeit from the same continent, was featured in the fall classic. A decade prior, the Toronto expansion team had just come off a six-year stretch of consecutive last-place finishes in their division.1 In 1992, however, the Jays were scorching hot, and Canada had officially contracted baseball fever. More accurately, Blue Jays fever. An article published in Canada’s Maclean’s newsmagazine described it well. It explained how the Blue Jays “carried the hopes of Canada into the premier event of America’s national pastime. In a three-way compact, the players, the city, and the country all sought a World Series victory—now.”2

With Toronto being home to one of only two Major League Baseball franchises in all of Canada (the Montreal Expos being the other), Canadian baseball fans had slim pickings unless they decided to root for a team from the States, an option many took then and still take today. The success of the ’92 Blue Jays, however, captivated Canada from east to west.3 After all, this team was stacked with the likes of Joe Carter, Roberto Alomar, John Olerud, and soon-to-be World Series MVP Pat “North of the” Borders. The pitching staff had equal depth provided by starters Jack Morris, David Wells, Pat Hentgen, Juan Guzman, set-up man Mark Eichhorn, and the ever-solid closer Tom “The Terminator” Henke. Although not a single member of the Blue Jays’ roster was Canadian, “the twenty-five U.S.-and Latin-American-born players were understood to represent Canada as surely as twenty-five Canadians could have done.”4

After beating their rival Oakland Athletics in an intense six-game struggle for the American League pennant, the Blue Jays, backed by an entire nation were in position to make baseball history and receive due recognition on professional baseball’s biggest stage. The Blue Jays’ designated hitter and “41-year-old elder statesman” Dave Winfield may have said it best: “We’re aware that we don’t represent just a city. We represent an entire country. Every team has its territory, of course, maybe a state or region, but we’ve got all of Canada.”5 The media on both sides of the border had a great time propping up the international component of the series. In the United States the clamor was all about baseball being “our game,” and to the Canadians it was a matter of sending their Trojan Horse stateside to shake-up America’s game.6 On the day the Jays arrived in Atlanta, a local writer described it like this: “The Canadians are riding across the border trying to wrest away the Holy Grail of American sport and cart our game off to the frozen North.”7 The message was clear and, regardless of the outcome, the 89th World Series was predestined to be something special.

While it is beyond the scope or intent of this essay (not to mention the expertise of this author) to delve into a comprehensive analysis of the political and social landscape of Canada during the early nineties, for the sake of providing context it is worthwhile to note that this swell of national pride happened to coincide with a very interesting crossroads in contemporary Canadian history. A national referendum was scheduled for Monday, October 26, just days after the series concluded, asking Canadians to vote “Yes/Oui” or “No/Non” on a package of proposed constitutional amendments. The “Charlottetown Accord,” as it was called, contained new legislation pertaining to the balance of federal and provincial powers and several other issues of longstanding importance to Canadians. Among the most significant and polarizing issues at stake in the referendum were those dealing with the unique status of Quebec, Senate reform, and...