Toronto Blue Jays

The Toronto Blue Jays ply their trade in the Eastern Division of the American League. They are based in Toronto in Canada, and are currently the only team in MLB to be based outside the United States. They are also the first and only team to win a World Series in Canada, courtesy of their back-to-back victories in 1992 and 1993.

Established in 1977, the ‘Blue Jays’ first played their home games at the Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. In 1989, they moved to the SkyDome. The name of the stadium has since been changed to the Rogers Centre in 2004, after Rogers Communications became the owners.

Despite having a relatively short history, the team have still enjoyed major success. The Jays can boast five East Division titles, two of which led to the aforementioned World Series victories.

History

An early franchise

Despite not joining the American League until 1977, Toronto Blue had been touted as being a major league city as early as the late 19th century. This was because Toronto was already home to major teams in both Ice Hockey and Canadian Football – the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Argonauts respectively.

When the franchise was finally awarded to the city in the 1970s, John Robarts, a member of the board of directors, was the major influence in fleshing out the nascent club as the ‘Blue Jays’. Much had to be sorted out but, surprisingly, the name proved unproblematic as, during a meeting, Robarts described how a blue jay flew past his window while shaving. The name caught on with the board members and, before long, the Toronto Blue Jays were formed.

By April 1977, the Blue Jays had played their first match, beating the Chicago White Sox 9-5. Unfortunately, that result could be looked upon as a false dawn, as the team finished bottom of the East Division in the American League and finished with a poor record of 54-107.

The Jays showed slight improvement over the next two years, but the team still failed to conjure up a serious title challenge. It was because of this poor run of form that they appointed a new manager in 1980 as Bobby Mattick replaced Roy Hartsfield at the helm. This brought about an immmediate improvement, as the Jays won fourteen more games than the previous year. However, Mattick couldn’t continue this surge, and was eventually replaced himself by Bobby Cox in 1982.

Signs of improvement

The 1982 season, under the guidance of Bobby Cox, can be seen as the first respectable season that the Toronto faithful had witnessed. For the first time in their history, the Blue Jays finished outside the bottom of the East Division as, with a respectable 78-84 record, they concluded the campaign in sixth.

Another first was achieved the following year, as the Blue Jays managed their first winning record and finished fourth with 89 victories. This would be the catalyst to future success.

The real success came in 1985 as the Jays took their first championship, ending two games in front of the New York Yankees to take the American League East division title. The success was thanks to a powerful pitching line-up balanced with an organised offense.

The team recorded the most wins in a season to date, finishing with a 99-62 record. Unfortunately, a World Series championship was a step too far, as the Toronto franchise lost 4-3 against the Kansas City Royals (who eventually went on to win the World Series) in the American League Championship Series.

Another exciting season gripped Toronto in 1987, as the Blue Jays just missed out on another championship. The team finished with a 96-66 record, meaning they missed out on the title by two games. Nevertheless, history was made as George Bell became the first and only Blue Jay to be crowned Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the American League.

A new home: a new beginning

The Blue Jays moved to a new home in the middle of the 1989 season. The opening of the SkyDome was followed by the most successful five years of the franchise’s history. They secured their second American League East title after finishing with a record of 77-49. However, the team again failed to turn this success into a World Series title, as they succumbed to a 4-1 loss in the ALCS against the Oakland Athletics.

The team continued to perform consistently in 1990, and just missed out on a consecutive championship after finishing two games behind the Boston Red Sox. Another record was set this year, as Dave Stieb pitched a no-hitter in the 3-0 victory against the Cleveland Indians, becoming the only Blue Jay pitcher ever to do so in the process.

The Blue Jays went one better the following year, as they sealed another division title. Unfortunately, history would repeat itself as they lost to the Minnesota Twins in the ALCS. That final step was still agonisingly far away for the Jays.

World Series Champions

Finally, the hoodoo was broken in the 1990s, as the Jays entered the pantheon of World Series winners. This was largely thanks to the performances of their pitcher and World Series MVP, Jack Morris.

The Blue Jays moved quickly and snapped up Morris for the 1992 season, and what a move it proved to be. Toronto also signed Dave Winfield as their designated hitter. Winfield would go on to be an inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Blue Jays sealed their second consecutive AL East title after they finished four games in front of the Milwaukee Brewers with a 96-66 record. And finally, unlike previous years, they went on to win in the ALCS, beating the Oakland Athletics 4-2.

Game four was the crucial game of this series. The Blue Jays were trailing 6-1 after the seventh innings, but Roberto Alomar hit a 2-run homer to bring the scores level at the end of the ninth innings.

The Jays went on to win 7-6 after eleven innings, making it 3-1 in the series. After eventually winning the series, a place in the World Series beckoned. It was here where they faced the Atlanta Braves.

Game two proved decisive against the Braves, as Ed Sprague hit a 2-run home run in the ninth innings to secure a 5-4 win for the Blue Jays. The team then went on to win games three and four after good batting and pitching performances respectively. However, the Braves pulled the series back to 3-2 when they won game five convincingly with a 7-2 scoreline.

It wasn’t to be for the Braves though, as victory in game six made the Toronto Blue Jays the World Series winners, making history by becoming the first team based outside of the United States to do so.

The Blue Jays had many heroes during the World Series, with Tom Henke and Dave Winfield particularly impressive. However, it was the performances of their catcher, Pat Borders, which earned him the MVP award for the World Series.

After winning the World Series for the first time, the Jays changed their roster for the next season, letting both Tom Henke and Dave Winfield leave the team. They acquired Paul Molitor from the Milwaukee Brewers as their designated hitter, along with Dave Stewart from the Oakland Athletics. These moves would prove pivotal to another very successful year for the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993.

By the start of that season, the Blue Jays had one of the best teams in Major League Baseball, with no fewer than seven All-Stars. With this team, it was clear that the Jays would be a force to be reckoned with.

They didn’t disappoint, and won the East division easily with a record of 95-67. They then went on to win the ALCS as they beat the Chicago White Sox 4-2, meaning they faced Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. Again, they didn’t disappoint as they won their second consecutive World Series by four games to two.

History was made in this series, as the Blue Jays became the only team in MLB history to win a World Series after hitting a walk-off home run when trailing in the bottom of the ninth inning.

The Future

After winning back-to-back World Series titles, the Toronto Blue Jays failed to continue their success into a new era. The Toronto public were expectant of further success, but this simply didn’t materialise.

The following season, the Jays suffered their first losing season since 1982, causing a players’ strike. Since their success in 1993, the Blue Jays have failed to win a single title. After finishing thirteen games behind the winners of the AL East in 2007, it remains to be seen whether the Toronto Blue Jays can be a force in Major League Baseball again.

Achievements – Titles

  • World Series Championships – Winners (1992, 1993)
  • AL Pennants – Winners (1992, 1993)
  • East Division Titles – Winners (1985, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993)

Retired Numbers

Apart from the number 42, which was retired by all baseball teams for Jackie Robinson, the Blue Jays have not retired any numbers as such. Instead, they set up a “Level of Excellence” at the Rogers Centre. The following players have been credited:

  • 1 – Tony Fernandez, SS (1983-90, 1993, 1998-99, 2001)
  • 11 – George Bell, LF (1981-90)
  • 29 – Joe Carter, RF, 1B (1991-97)
  • 37 – Dave Stieb, P (1978-92, 1998)
  • 43 – Cito Gaston, M (1989-97)
  • 4306 – Tom Cheek, Broadcaster (1977-2005)
  • Pat Gillick – GM (1977-95)
  • (on April 4, 2008) – Roberto Alomar (1991-95)

Hall of Famers

There are three Hall of Famers who have played for the Toronto based team:

  • 35 – Phil Niekro (Pitcher), 1987
  • 32 – Dave Winfield (Designated hitter, outfielder), 1992
  • 4 – Paul Molitor (Designated hitter), 1993-95