An hour before game 7 of the National League Championship Series, Toronto executive vice-president Pat Gillick called Atlanta skipper Bobby Cox, who had managed under Gillick for four years in Toronto, to wish him luck. The phone was answered by Atlanta coach Jimy Williams, who had served as Gillick's manager for three-plus years in Toronto. Williams passed along their former boss's best regards to Cox as well as to Atlanta coach Jim Beauchamp, who had been manager of the Blue Jays' Triple A team in Syracuse, N.Y., for three years.
Two minutes after the Braves beat the Pirates, setting up the World Series against the Jays, Toronto catcher Pat Borders phoned his best friend, Kash Beauchamp, Jim's son, and yelled, "Great! Can you believe it? We're playing the Braves!"
This is really the Small-World Series. "There are a lot of people on these two teams who are personally connected and tied," says Jim Beauchamp. "We were pulling for them to make it to the Series this year. Last year, too. We're tickled. We're all friends, we keep in touch. Now watch, we'll have a big old brawl."
The connections between these two ball clubs are more tangled than the lines of an old-time switchboard:
•Toronto manager Cito Gaston played for the Braves from 1975 to '78. (When Atlanta owner Ted Turner managed a game in '77, he wore Gaston's spikes.) Four years later Gaston was named Atlanta's minor league hitting instructor and then became the Blue Jay hitting coach, under Cox, in '82.
•In 1980 and '81, John Sullivan, now a Toronto coach, was a coach with the Braves. Sullivan and Blue Jay pitching coach Galen Cisco worked together as coaches for the Royals in '79 when John Schuerholz was K.C.'s director of player personnel. Schuerholz is now the Atlanta general manager.
•Toronto pitcher Duane Ward was acquired from Atlanta (along with Joe Johnson) in 1986 in a trade for pitchers Jim Acker and Doyle Alexander (who was dealt in '87 to Detroit for pitcher John Smoltz, who is still pitching and winning for Atlanta). In '89 Acker was traded back to the Blue Jays in exchange for a Pirate-killer-to-be by the name of Francisco Cabrera.
Cox still has special feelings for the Jays, even though their roster has changed considerably in the seven years since he left. In his final season in Toronto he guided the Blue Jays to their first divisional crown, but that team blew a three-games-to-one lead to the Royals in the 1985 American League Championship Series, after which Cox didn't leave his apartment for three days.
He left Toronto in October '85 when he was offered a job he couldn't refuse: the general managership in Atlanta, close to his home in Marietta. "I loved it in Toronto," Cox says. "I enjoyed every minute. Every day was a great day—except the last day."
It wasn't as bad as Williams's last day. Fired as the Blue Jay skipper early in the 1989 season, he didn't leave his condominium for two days and refused to speak to the press, even though cameramen and reporters were regularly seen in his front yard. The World Series brings him back to Toronto for the first time.
"There was no reason to go back," he says. "I took all my stuff and went home." Home is in Dunedin, Fla., where the Jays train in the spring. "I spent 9½ years in the Blue Jays' organization," he says. "I have good feelings about Toronto."
Blue Jay vice-president Al LaMacchia, who has been with Toronto since the birth of the Jays in 1977, is yet another one with links to both teams, having previously been a scout for the Braves for 16 years. "I used to think of Bobby Cox as a son," he says, smiling, "but now that we're playing them in the World Series, he's more of a son-in-law."
The Jays' Gaston (left) is an ex-Brave; Cox is the opposite.