Book review: Win by 1993 Blue Jays caused the Saskatoon Riot

There was a riot on 8th Street in Saskatoon the night Blue Jays' Joe Varter hit his three-run walk-off to win the 1993 World Series.

There was a riot on 8th Street in Saskatoon the night Blue Jays' Joe Varter hit his three-run walk-off to win the 1993 World Series.

Remembering the bad with the good
By Matt Betts
Canadian Baseball Network

It seems everyone remembers exactly where they were when Joe Carter took Philadelphia Phillies left hander Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams over the wall in left field to bring the Blue Jays back-to-back World Series titles. 

Turns out Williams wasn’t the only wild one that night.

Brent Loehr grew up in a Meunster, Sask., a small village of about 400 people. Loehr has always loved the game and was fortunate enough to play it in high school and college, so when the Blue Jays won their back-to-back championships it was a dream come true for many. 

What followed though in the city of Saskatoon was more of a nightmare. 

Among the many high fives, cheers and tears of joy were also people hanging from street lights, jumping on the hoods of cars and people overturning bus stops. Simply put, the riot that followed Carter’s home run is infamous.

Now this is where Loehr comes in, as well as a ball player he also prides himself on his way with words. Loehr has produced a collection of 13 different stories that are all baseball related called The Global Baseball Classroom. One of those 13 stories is about the very riot that impacted his home province. 

“The story about the riot is a cautionary tale of what can happen when large gatherings occur and a number of idiotic people are present,” Loehr said about the story “Blame Joe.” “(The story) does not glorify what happened that night. In fact I think the opposite is true.”

The impact on Saskatchewan was clear but what about the rest of the country? Loehr makes the case that it is hard to tell exactly how the rest of the country felt the outcome of the riot. 

“Hard to tell. It was the only major negative major negative incident that size in the country and it occurred after such a positive event,” Loehr said when asked about how the rest of Canada was touched by the post game events. 

“I think some important questions were raised and a blame game occurred. That the riot happened was one thing … but why it happened is perhaps a more important enigma,” Loehr said. “Each chapter in the book starts with a quote that relates to the text about to be read. “Blame Joe,” the chapter showing the evolution of a celebration into the riot, starts with a quote from Einstein: “Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.”

It is hard for anyone to see such events coming, even after a potential negative outcome. This “gathering” as Loehr puts it was not pre-meditated by Facebook groups or mass emails, in fact the internet was a rarity of the time. When Loehr was near 8th street (around where the riot started) post game it went from cheering and evolved into people doing things they thought would result in no consequences. 

“Towards the end of my night I remember seeing smoke in the distance and wondering what the heck it was,” Loehr said. “Turned out it was tear gas.”

With all the excitement of the 2015 Blue Jays, it must beg the question of how that excitement compares to what people are experiencing now.

“The buzz of ‘How about those Blue Jays’ was ever present then as the fever is now,” Loehr said. “Bandwagon jumpers happened then as they did this past fall. A lot of media attention beyond normal coverage has occurred again as well. People who had never watched an inning that season were suddenly tuning in. 

“That in itself is worthy of study—the intriguing culture of latching on to something when there is a certain popular buzz about it and also how quickly people then ditch when that team falls out of favour.”

Loehr does agree that even the casual fans following the Blue Jays is good for baseball in this country as it puts the sport front and centre.

Loehr plans to continue his writing and one of the stories not included in the group of 13 is being considered for a children’s book. Anyone interested in baseball should definitely check out this collection. It can be exciting to read someone else’s recollection of events gone by.

As the Blue Jays quest for a third World Series continues I think most of us can agree to represent our team, ourselves and our country in a way that will make us proud to be not only Blue Jay fans but Canadian as well.

The book is available as a trade paperback and eBook and can be ordered online from Chapters/Coles/Indigo, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and the like. A  link to the major retailers

Matt BettsComment