30 Teams. 30 Posts: Toronto Blue Jays
In the newest installment of my “30 Teams. 30 Posts” project, I decided to cover a team that I’ve always followed on some level or another. I’ve never lived in Toronto or even been there, nor do I have any family connections to the city. The only real reason I ever took a liking to the Blue Jays was due to my brother. See, when I first discovered Baseball as a young boy around 1987/1988, my brother did as well. While everyone in my family is from San Diego and life-long fans of the San Diego Padres, my brother took an instant liking to the Blue Jays as well. He had to be in kindergarten or first grade at the time and his reasons for liking the Jays were simple enough as he based them on the Baseball cards in our collections. He liked the Blue Jays’ logo and he took an instant liking to slugger, George Bell. I could get behind this and fully supported my brother’s (somewhat odd) fandom. So by association, I ended up following the Blue Jays a lot growing up and always enjoyed watching them play.
While I liked George Bell too, I took a particular liking to players such as Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, John Olerud and Fred McGriff as well. It definitely helped that a number of notable future and ex-Padres were on the team during those years as this affected my childhood rooting interests. The World Series teams of 1992 and 1993 were easy to pull for as they were filled with many great and likable players. With that said, I’ll always remember the ’92 team beating the A’s in the ALCS on their way to winning the pennant. I was actually not all that tore up about it.
Now days, I casually pay attention to the Blue Jays. My American League East allegiance tends to be with the Rays, but I always try and pay attention to what’s going on with the Blue Jays. I always tune in when R.A. Dickey is pitching and I root for many of the current players on the team such as Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle and Munenori Kawasaki. Even though I’m not necessarily a “fan” of the team, I’ll always have an affinity for them as they trigger many memories from my childhood.
So without further hesitation, I give you some Toronto Blue Jays images and memories that I enjoy and would like to share. Oh yeah, after typing up this post, it got me thinking that I’m going to have to splurge and buy one of the old blue & white Blue Jays throwback caps in the near future.
As I mentioned above, my brother’s favorite player growing up was the short tempered and power hitting, George Bell. In turn, I became a big fan of him as well and made it a point to root for him and collect as many Baseball cards that featured him. With that said, my brother and me always had an understanding that when we got any George Bell or Tony Gwynn (my favorite player) cards, that we would willingly trade them to each other. He always had priority on Bell cards before me and I was OK with this.
I always thought it was unfortunate that Bell left Toronto prior to their World Series victories in ’92 and ’93 as he had spent almost a decade with the team prior to this without any real post-season success. He had some monster seasons with the team during his tenure there, including his 1987 campaign in which he won AL MVP with 47 home runs. Last I heard, Bell was working in the Blue Jays system as a roving hitting instructor or something along those lines, so it’s good to know he’s still involved in the game and with the Blue Jays.
I’m sure that anyone from my generation would agree with me when I say that the 1993 World Series captivated my imagination in a way that only a scripted movie could. I must admit though, I was somewhat indifferent as to who I wanted to win due to the fact that Toronto won the year the before. I remember thinking that it would be cool if the Phillies got a ring too as I had never seen them win before. This is still a frame of mind I usually have when rooting for teams in the post-season. In any case, I was not disappointed whatsoever when Toronto won. It was pure Baseball magic and that is admirable.
I remember watching Game 6 with my family and actually walking out of front door when Joe Carter’s now famous at-bat occurred. I was being silly and said it was too much stress to watch, so I decided to step outside. I heard the cheering on the TV and popped back in after Carter hit the homerun that would forever define his legacy in the game. Bad timing on my part, but I think the amount of times that I’ve re-watched that at-bat since more than makes up for this poor choice. I swear that every time I watch Carter’s at-bat, I always manage to crack a smile. I doubt this will ever change.
In the late 80s, the San Diego Padres (my favorite team) had some incredible talent coming up through their system. Two of those players coming up were the Alomar brothers. I remember my Dad being a huge fan of the duo and often talking to me about them. Well, the Padres had a terrible ownership group who managed to destroy much of their young talent during a period of 4 years or so with a series of lopsided trades and then followed them up with a mind-blowing fire sale. Future Hall of Famer, Roberto Alomar was one of the Padres young stars let go as he was traded to the Blue Jays. As they say, the rest was history.
Alomar spent the next half decade as a fixture in Toronto while earning All-Star and Gold Glove awards every year he was in the Blue Jays uniform. Without a doubt, Alomar was my favorite second basemen growing up and I was delighted to see him go into the Hall of Fame as a Blue Jay. Still, I’ll always wonder what could have been if he (and others) stayed in San Diego during the early ’90s.
Like many others, I’m fascinated with the knuckleball. As a kid, I loved trying to throw it and from time to time, I still attempt to do so. I loved using it while playing the video game RBI Baseball as it was a sure way to strike out anyone. I also remember wanting to get my hands on the Baseball cards of anyone who threw it. This meant the Niekro brothers, Charlie Hough, Tom Candiotti and even a young Tim Wakefield. I’m telling you, for a period of time during my childhood, I was obsessed with the knuckleball.
This leads me to Blue Jays pitcher, R.A. Dickey. Everything about the pitch is unorthodox and as he says, “You’ve got to live and die with the pitch.” Dickey is not just one of my favorite pitchers in baseball, but one of my favorite overall players in the game. His story and attitude is great and I’m not lying when I say that I try and tune into every game he pitches. This leads to me watching more than your average amount of Blue Jays games from someone who doesn’t “follow” the team. As far as Dickey is concerned, do yourself a favor and read his book or watch the documentary “Knuckleball!” If you’re not a fan of Dickey after that, I seriously question your love of the game.
I don’t think it’s a crazy statement to suggest that Dave Stieb very well may be the most admired and recognized pitcher in the history of the Blue Jays. Yes, Roy Halladay was better and is probably a Hall of Famer, but Stieb was a Blue Jay during the early years of the franchise and although injured a large part of the season and released prior to the post season, he was still a part of the ’92 World Series team (he was given a ring by the organization for his contributions to the team). When I think of the Blue Jays of the 1980s, I think of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Dave Stieb. During his peak years, Steib was solid as it comes and his Baseball cards were highly sought after by both my brother and myself.
My favorite part of Stieb’s career was his relationship with the elusive no-hitter. You see, during his career, Dave Stieb blew four no-hitters in the 9th inning of a game. That’s right, FOUR. To add insult to injury, two of them came in consecutive starts in 1988. If you ask me, that is some heartbreaking stuff. Well, in 1990 Stieb finally attained Baseball immortality when he accomplished what he previously could not do when he no-hit the Cleveland Indians. Click HERE to watch footage from some of the blown no-hitters and his now famous no-hitter. The Baseball gods sure do work in funny ways.