TORONTO — Raucous Blue Jays fans exploded onto Toronto streets after the team beat the Texas Rangers 6-3 in the decisive Game 5 of their American League Division Series.
It was their first post-season series win in 22 years, their last coming when the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993.
Thousands of fans chanted, sang and danced outside the Rogers Centre after the game. The smell of marijuana wafted in the air. It was the best of times.
But it could have been the worst of times. Fans seemed on the brink of rioting after a controversial call on a strange play gave the Rangers a lead late in the game.
“I guarantee there would have been a riot, no doubt,” said Jays fan Jason Turnbull, who was at the game that was delayed several times as the teams’ benches cleared twice.
At one point the players huddled in the infield while others sought refuge in the dugout to avoid the beer cans and garbage being tossed onto the field. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said he was nearly hit by a beer can.
A baby in the first row was sprayed by beer from a can that was tossed nearby. Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said they arrested a man and charges are expected.
About two dozen police officers ran on to the playing surface and stood guard around the perimeter of the field as stadium workers picked up the trash.
Then Jose Bautista hit a home run that changed the mood of an entire city when he hit a three-run homer in the seventh inning to the put the Blue Jays into the lead for good.
“Something weird happened,” said Chris Campaner, who watched the game from a bar near the stadium.
“Jose magic, I call it. And he saved the city from a riot.”
Fans sang “Jose, Jose, Jose,” a riff on a the soccer chant “Ole, Ole, Ole.”
“For a moment I thought everything was against us after that freak play. Like the curse of this city — we’ve barely seen playoff sports in this town,” said Campaner’s friend, Augustine Lanzarotta.
“But that’s gone now!”
Across the street, Ronnie Thistle hung out with his dog, Teddy Bear, a large Italian Bullmastiff wearing a Blue Jays jersey and hat. The dog howled and howled as fans sang nearby.
Teddy Bear was a magnet to delirious and drunk Jays fans. Dozens of fans hugged and squeezed the dog while others took selfies, freezing the moment with “Toronto’s most famous dog” forever.
Thistle, missing several teeth, could barely speak because he was cheering so much. He said he had been living on the streets with his dog until last week when he finally managed to find a place to live. He was out on the corner hoping to collect a few bucks from fans. Only a few threw coins into a small box in front of the dog.
“Bear is my best friend. We’ve been through thick and thin together. He’s the most famous dog in Toronto, he is,” said Thistle, who watched the game through the windows of a nearby Boston Pizza.
“It was a beautiful game. People like me need happiness in their lives, but so do the slick businessmen down the street.”
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press