MONTREAL — TORONTO has put the world in the World Series.
The Toronto Blue Jays' 4-to-3 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the sixth game means that for the first time a team from outside the United States has won the baseball championship. It came in the 11th inning on a double from Dave Winfield that drove in two runs.
The win prompted an outburst of national pride, not just in Toronto but across Canada. After the victory the television cameras cut to cities such as Ottawa, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Montreal, where baseball fans were holding noisy celebrations.
"It puts us on the map," says high school student Carn Lombardo.
"If Montreal couldn't win, I am glad Toronto did," said Tim Paquette, a Montreal Expos fan. "Hopefully it will be the start of a winning streak for Canada."
Nervous politicians hope he is right. The Blue Jays' win is such an event in Canada that politicians are hoping it could swing votes to the "yes" side in today's referendum on national unity, which the "no" forces looked set to win, according to polls.
"This is a sweet moment," said Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in a message to the team. "You have united a nation behind you, capturing the imagination of Canadians from coast to coast." He described it as "an historic victory, one which will live on forever in Canadian sports history."
Although the Blue Jays play in a Canadian city and are owned by a Canadian firm, the players, manager, and coaches are Americans and Puerto Ricans; there is not a single Canadian on the club. But Blue Jays fans did not let that detail hinder their celebration.
The victory came in Atlanta, a thousand miles from Toronto, but neither distance nor the chilly autumn night dampened the spirits of the more than 45,000 fans who gathered in the Blue Jays' home stadium to watch the game.
After the game, crowds spilled into the street, and there was a spontaneous celebration on Yonge Street, Toronto's main thoroughfare.
As many as 300,000 people filled the streets late Saturday night, according to estimates. "No problems, just one big, happy party," said a Toronto policeman. In Ottawa fans gathered near Parliament Hill, and there were Blue Jays parties in every major Canadian city.
In the last five years, the Blue Jays have made four appearances in the American League championships, but this is the first time they have made it all the way.
This year, as last, more than 4 million Blue Jays fans have come to Blue Jays games, giving the team the money needed to hire high-priced talent.
"The Toronto Blue Jays are without question the most successful franchise in major league baseball," says a spokesman for the owners of the team. He laughs saying the team needs the revenue from ticket sales, "because we sell tickets in Canadian dollars but pay the players in American dollars." It costs about $1.25 Canadian to buy US$1.
The Blue Jays came to Toronto in 1977. Their first game was played in snow, back when the team played at Exhibition Stadium, which caught the winds off Lake Ontario. Now the team plays in the Skydome, which boasts a retractable roof that pulls back to allow the sun to fall on 90 percent of the seats.
While the World Series win is great news for Canada, it could be bad news for CBS, the New York-based television network that carried the games. The presence of a Canadian team may have been the cause of low viewership in the US during the playoffs.
But US ratings do not count Canadian viewers, and more than 10 million Canadians - about 40 percent of the population - watched at least part of the Series.
For Canadian politicians who favor "yes" vote in today's referendum, Toronto's World Series Championship could not have come at a better time.