We saw several long streaks go by in this year's MLB playoffs. Baltimore returned to the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. Cincinnati won its first playoff game in 17 years. Washington went to the postseason for the first time since FDR's first year in office (1933).
Canadian baseball fans know the Toronto Blue Jays now have a 19-year streak of not making the playoffs. What is even more shocking — and younger readers may not know this — the Toronto Blue Jays actually won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993.
On this day in 1992, the idea of Canada being in the World Series was brand spanking new. The World Series hadn't even made it to Canadian soil when before Game 2, the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard accidentally flew the Canadian flag upside down.
As the story goes, the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard received the Canadian flag at the last minute, and didn't realize what had happened until it was too late.
"The Canadian flag has a leaf, and the points of the leaf go right side up. Why would the points of the leaf ever go upside down?"
That was my reaction back in 1992, and I'm not Canadian.
The reaction from the American side was conciliatory. President George H.W. Bush apologized to Canadians, assuring them that "we would do nothing to hurt the national flag of Canada."
"They have respect for our flag, and we have respect for theirs. They are a great people, and I hope they come in second in the World Series."
Vendors responded by trying to profit by producing T-shirts and upside-down American flags.
So what happened in Game 3, the first World Series game on Canadian soil?
The U.S. Marines carried the Canadian flag (right side up) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police carried the U.S. flag. The Toronto crowd sang the U.S. national anthem louder than it was sung in Atlanta and on "land of the free," the crowd cheered even louder.
Classy, but you would expect that from Canadians. At numerous sporting events on the Canadian side of the border, you usually hear the U.S. anthem sung louder than the Canadian anthem on the U.S. side.
Baseball deputy commissioner Steve Greenberg received a fax (remember faxes) of Canada's flag with the word "TOP" across the top of the page. Since we are acknowledging mistakes, Canadian singer/guitarist Tom Cochrane inserted an incorrect version of an old lyric to O Canada at the start of Game 2. Maybe he was thrown off by the upside down flag.
Canada has been a part of MLB since 1969. For a variety of reasons, Canadian teams haven't had much success in making the playoffs. The Montréal Expos had only the ill-fated strike season of 1981. The Blue Jays made 5 appearances in a 9-year span, but none since.
The anger from the incident stems from some of the lack of playoff success, some from animosity about Canada possibly winning the World Series (like when the U.S teams started to dominate the Stanley Cup), and some about overall disrespect about Canada by the United States.
These days, Fox blows off the Canadian national anthem during All-Star Game coverage as if the country doesn't exist. We have seen Canada's invisibility in hockey coverage, too. If Montréal were still in the league and treated with decent respect (yes, we're looking at you Bud Selig and Jeffrey Loria) and both Canadian teams were doing better on the field, we might see better treatment of Canada by MLB. Then again, we wouldn't hold our breath.
What happened 20 years ago today probably was a sincere accident. But the incident revived feelings and emotions that simmer on the surface. The fact that Canada exhibited grace and the United States showed remorse is a beautiful sign of how these countries should react. The fact that these feelings existed and are still there remind us that these countries shouldn't take each other for granted.