TORONTO — The catch. The catch. Everyone wanted to talk about the catch.
“I know I caught it,” pleaded Lloyd Moseby, his hair wet, his uniform stained with dirt. “The umpires are good. But a ball player knows when he catches a ball. And I caught that ball.”
There it was, top of the 10th, extra innings, the clouds dark, the wind biting cold, the score tied 4-4, two men out and Kansas City’s Willie Wilson on second base. What a game it had been! Weird. Wonderful. Men on base who never should have been there. Fielding gems that never should have been made. A ninth- inning home run to tie it all up.
And then Frank White hit a fly ball to center field, and it was sinking fast. Moseby charged it, charged it. The crowd rose to its feet, breathing cold smoke, screaming, and . . . “HE GOT IT! HE GOT IT!” Moseby lifted the ball high in his glove and trotted in, celebrating, victorious.
However, an umpire, standing 70 feet away, ruled he did not catch it. And Wilson — who had never stopped running — crossed home plate and suddenly the Blue Jays were losing.
“There was water on my glove from the wet field,” Moseby insisted. “If I trapped it, there’d be water on the ball. I was holding up the ball, saying to the umpire, ‘I got it! I got it!’ “
Uh-uh, said the ump. Ball’s a hit. Run counts. Kansas City 5, Toronto 4. Who was right? Who knows? This was a tease from the gods, so close that all the king’s TV angles and all the king’s zoom lenses couldn’t clearly put the ball in Moseby’s glove — or put it out of it.
“I made the correct call,” said the umpire.
“It was the wrong call,” said Moseby.
No. 1 on the hit parade
The hit. The hit. Everyone wanted to talk about the hit.
“OK. We came back to the dugout and Bobby Cox said ‘Let’s go! Let’s go!’ That’s all I remember,” said Moseby. “We couldn’t let that thing get us down.”
Now it’s the bottom of the 10th. The crowd is ugly, committing murder in its heart. That umpire. Gimme five minutes with that damn umpire. But the gods weren’t through with this one yet. Tony Fernandez reached base when Royals’ shortstop Onix Concepcion strangely lost his balance making a routine play. Weird.
Then Fernandez advanced to second on a ground out. And that brought Moseby to the plate, still dizzy from the catch, or the non-catch, or whatever.
“I wasn’t thinking about retribution, I wasn’t thinking ‘Take that!’ ” he said. “I was just thinking about getting a hit.”
The pitch. The swing. Pow! A single to right field. Fernandez raced home. The score was tied, 5-5, and Moseby was standing safe on first. The crowd shook Exhibition Stadium to its foundations. The Canadian flags were waving. The scoreboard became a prayerbook.
“LETS . . . GO . . . JAYS! . . . “
A run to remember
The run. The run. Everyone wanted to talk about the run.
“Well, I was taking a lead off first, and I saw the pickoff throw coming from the pitcher,” said Moseby. “I saw (Steve) Balboni drop it. He tried to keep me from running away.”
But Moseby broke free and took off for second, and nearly 40,000 pairs of feet ran with him in their seats. Run, damn it! Run! Safe! Delirium.
“I still wasn’t thinking, ‘Take that!’ ” Moseby said. Not yet. But one out later, Al Oliver stepped to the plate. Oliver, who’ll be 39 next week, who didn’t join this team until July . . . well, there he was in the box with two outs and bedlam raining down on him. And he cracked a single through the hole and Moseby sprinted across the plate, won the game, and leaped into the arms of his teammates and the hearts of this entire country.
“That’s when I said ‘Take that!’ ” he said, grinning. “Take that, yeah! We’re 2-0 now, going into Kansas City. We’re in great shape.”
Great shape indeed. And either Somebody Up There likes the Blue Jays or Somebody Up There doesn’t like Kansas City manager Dick Howser — who now has not won a playoff game in 11 tries. But this series has twisted towards Toronto in the most unpredictable fashion. Unpredictable, but ever so glorious to the thousands of Canadians crammed inside this stadium.
They knew their privilege. A league championship comes with every revolution of the earth around the sun. But magical games like these come around only when the moon is blue.
Toronto blue, apparently.
The catch. The hit. The run. The win.
They wanted to talk about it all. They’ll be talking for years.