Blue Jays: Looking back at the “start” of Ed Sprague’s career
When Ed Sprague hit his go-ahead home run in the 1992 World Series, he went from a seldom-used bench piece to a player who’ll never be forgotten in Toronto.
When the Blue Jays entered the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 1992, it was the first time any team outside of the United States had played in the Fall Classic. It was special for a wide variety of reasons, for the country, the Blue Jays, and for many of the individuals throughout the organization.
Looking back on the series, things definitely could have gone another way if not for some late-inning heroics from an unlikely source. With the Blue Jays down 1-0 in the series and trailing 4-3 going into the top of the ninth in Game Two, they turned to their bench in hopes of avoiding a two games to none deficit, and thankfully the rest is history.
After Derek Bell reached base on a walk (while hitting for Manuel Lee), Ed Sprague stepped in to hit for the pitcher’s spot in the lineup, and took the first pitch he saw over the left field fence. It gave the Blue Jays a 5-4 lead that they would hold on to, and evened the series at a game a piece. Without that clutch home run, who knows if the Blue Jays would have been able to mount a comeback in the series, or if they would have ever won that first title.
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For Sprague, it was the biggest moment of his career, but it was also a defining moment for his future as well. At that point he was just 24 years old and really hadn’t established himself in the big leagues yet. He’d only played in 22 games at the MLB level in 1992, after just 61 during his rookie season in 1991. However, his career would never be the same after that World Series blast.
Sprague talked about as much with Dan Shulman on Sportsnet in an interview that was aired on Sunday, and the former Blue Jay said, “I look back at that moment as obviously, kind of the kickstart to my career”.
He certainly has a point, as he was no longer a bench piece by the time the 1993 season rolled around. The Blue Jays had traded Kelly Gruber, their incumbent third baseman, to the Angels in December of 1992, and handed the starting gig at the hot corner to Sprague. He ended up slashing .260/.310/.386 in his first full season, and performed well enough to keep his job at third and be a part of the repeat World Series champs in 1993.
Sprague had his finest season as a Blue Jay in 1996 when he really hit his stride as a 28 year old. He slashed .247/.325/.496 with 36 home runs, 35 doubles, and 101 RBI over 159 games played, earning 3.1 bWAR that year. After leaving Toronto he also played for the Oakland A’s, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Diego Padres, Boston Red Sox, and Seattle Mariners, and made the NL All-Star team in 1999 while with the Pirates.
Perhaps his destiny was to be a MLB regular all along, but there’s no doubt that Sprague’s home run in the 1992 World Series gave his career a shot in the arm, and who knows just how much the history of the Blue Jays could have changed without it.