day 12: the canadian slugger

Today is 12 days, which is one week and five days of the omer: hod she’big’vurah.

What’s that you say? A baseball legend in Canada? Yes, indeed, it’s not all hockey in the Great White North. I enjoyed my sojourn Sunday and again today in the 51st State.

Today’s pick, a Puerto Rican turned Torontonian, owns the second most famous baseball moment in the Land of Maple Syrup. (This post may or may not make fun of Canada all the way through. And no, I haven’t ever been to Canada — though some of my closest friends are Canadians. What do you want from me? I grew up in Texas! We go to Mexico.)

Speaking of Texas (I mean, aren’t I always?), second baseman Roberto Alomar grew up idolizing another Puerto Rican second baseman, Astros’ José Cruz, and got his first major league hit off of Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan. But anyway, moving on . . .

Alomar helped Toronto win two WS Championships, in 1992 and 1993. In the ALCS that first year the Blue Jays were up two games to one in a seemingly back and forth series. In Game 4, the Oakland A’s were ahead with with Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound, and Alomar hit the game-tying home run in the top of the 9th to force extra innings, where the Blue Jays eventually won.

Hod (glory, beauty, or admission), today’s sefirah, is associated with the Biblical figure of Aharon, the high priest, who will go on to become a leader in a mold quite different from his brother Moshe. In terms of this quality, I’m interested a kind of “secondary” position that Alomar occupied at the beginning of his career. He came to the Blue Jays in a controversial move from his first team, the San Diego Padres, and he only came into his own with this club — at second base. And of course, he did it all on a team playing America’s favorite pastime — in Canada.

And that famous home run? It didn’t win a game, or a series. It gave the rest of the team the chance to win the game, and then the series, and then another series. Alomar’s hit seemed to inject confidence into a club that hadn’t had much happen since its inception; the team’s three previous trips to the ALCS had ended in defeat. As Jays manager Pat Gillick later said,

I don’t think we’d have ever gone to the World Series in ’92 if he didn’t hit that home run off Eckersley in Oakland that day like 4:30 in the afternoon when you could hardly see at the plate [because of the shadows].

As a second baseman, Alomar was second to none (12 time All-Star, 10-time Golden Glove winner, and four-time Silver Slugger). But in a key moment — in that game, in that series, in the team’s history — Alomar contributed how he could.

Let’s count day 12 in honor of this modern-day Aharon (too much?) and his “glory within strength.”

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