Special to ESPN.com
Only once had a World Series ended with a walk-off home run. That was in 1960, when Bill Mazeroski's leadoff homer in bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7 gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a 10-9 victory over the New York Yankees.
However, a player had never hit a come-from-behind, World Series-winning home run.
Until Joe Carter.
Ninth inning, Game 6, 1993 World Series, Toronto SkyDome.
The Toronto Blue Jays, vying for their second straight World Series championship, lead the Fall Classic, 3 games to 2, but trail the Philadelphia Phillies 6-5, following the Phillies' five-run seventh inning that included Lenny Dykstra's three-run homer. The Phillies and their fans have visions of a Game 7 as the game heads to the ninth, but those visions become blurred when reliever Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams races in from the bullpen.
Williams' presence often leads to disastrous results, just like in Game 4, when he helped blow a 14-9 lead as Toronto won 15-14. Williams is wild whether he's "on" or not. He so often found himself in full-count situations that he jokingly named his spacious Texas residence the "3 & 2 Ranch." So it's hardly a surprise when Williams walks Blue Jays leadoff batter Rickey Henderson on four straight pitches to open the bottom of the ninth. If Williams is going to nail down this save, as he did 43 times during the regular season, it is going to be typically hairy and adventurous.
Standing in the dugout, ready to walk out to the on-deck circle, Blue Jays cleanup man Joe Carter is juiced, knowing Henderson's presence at first base will force Williams to use a slide step, rather than his high leg kick, which reduces his velocity.
Williams faces Devon White is a nine-pitch battle, finally getting White to fly out to left field, with Henderson remaining at first base. The next hitter, Paul Molitor, has already homered and tripled in the game and is hitting nearly .500 in the Series. Williams' velocity creeps up to 90-91 mph as he runs the count to 1-1, but then Molitor drills a single to center. Henderson comes to a screeching halt, putting runners on first and second. The crowd rises. The rally is on.
Up steps Carter, one of baseball's greatest RBI producers. But Williams also knows that one pitch, one groundball, one double play, and the Series is tied 3-3.
He hopes to get Carter to bite and hit a hard grounder somewhere. Williams' first two pitches are both out of the strike zone, the first one down, the second up and away. Williams battles back to a 2-2 count after throwing a vicious 2-1 slider that Carter swings and misses, looking poor on the hack.
Williams unleashes his next pitch: a fastball on the inside portion of the plate. He intends for it to be high and away. Instead, because his release point is off, the ball sails down and in. "I jerked it so bad that it looked like a slider," Williams would say later to the press.
As the ball approaches the plate, Carter uncoils, takes a prodigious cut and connects with his classic power swing. The ball explodes off his bat, toward the left-field stands and foul pole.
The baseball world follows the flight of the ball, wondering if it has the distance, the trajectory and the arc to stay fair. Carter races up the first-base line, eyeing the flight of the ball, watching, wondering ...
"Ninety-nine times out of 100," Carter would say later, "I hook that pitch way foul."
But this is No. 100. Somehow the ball hooks to the right and screams into the left-field stands, the baseball gods blessing one man, destroying another.
The ball disappears over the left-field wall, turning a 6-5 deficit into an 8-5 World Series victory. When Carter sees the ball is gone, he jubilantly leaps to the heavens. As he reaches first base, he throws his helmet up in the sky, throws his arms up, and dances along the bases.
Molitor is overcome with joy and emotion, experiencing his first World Series victory. He calls it "one of those surreal moments that you're not prepared for. When I was on first, I was thinking about the 1982 World Series [when his team, the Milwaukee Brewers, were up 3 games to 2 only to lose the final two games to the St. Louis Cardinals].
"I was thinking, 'I don't want to play a Game 7.' But when Joe swung and missed at the 2-1 pitch, it didn't look good," Molitor would say. "But the next thing I know is the ball is going out of the ballpark. I wasn't prepared for an ending like that. I had chills."
As the Blue Jays pour out of the dugout and onto the field to greet Carter at home plate, Williams and the rest of the Phillies walk off the field, dejected and broken.
"I actually dreamed of that moment many times," Carter says today. "I dreamed of that moment when I was a little kid. I'd be sitting at my father's garage and daydreaming about that moment. I even wrote it down a few times: 'My dream is to hit a home run to win the World Series.'"
He grins and crosses his arms across his chest, a moment of reflection that is satisfying and heartwarming. "It was," he says, "the ultimate sports fantasy."