Celebrate the Toronto Blue Jays (1976-1999)
With their Inaugural Season in 1977, the Toronto Blue Jays joined the Montreal Expos as the only other team representing Canada in Major League Baseball. On September 29, 2004 the Expos announced the team would move to Washington D.C. in the 2005 season and be renamed the Washington Nationals. This left the Blue Jays as the only team representing Canada in Major League baseball.
The Blue Jays have inspired Torontonian and Canadian baseball fans of all ages in their 42 year history. They first played at Exhibition Stadium from 1977-1989, then moved to the newly built Skydome in 1989, which was renamed Rogers Centre in 2005. Toronto won two back-to-back World Series Championships in 1992 and 1993.
You can discover many of the key executives, players and managers of the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto Public Library's Digital Archive. Specifically, the photographs in this blog are courtesy the Toronto Star Photograph Archive, which has been entrusted to the Toronto Public Library. Below are individuals associated with the team for their first 22 years — plus some anecdotal facts connected to each year. Enjoy the memories!
Peter Bavasi was appointed Executive Vice President and General Manager of the new franchise on June 18, 1976.
First field boss of the Toronto Blue Jays, Roy Thomas Hartsfield appointed on September 22, 1976.
Opening Day April 7, 1977. 44,649 fans braved snow and freezing temperatures as Major League Baseball made its debut in Toronto. Doug Ault became an instant hero, hitting two home runs in a 9-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.
April 22, 1978. Jim Clancy got credit for a 4-2 Jacket Day win over the Chicago White Sox in front of 44, 327 fans, including Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Clancy helped his cause by starting the first ever Blue Jays triple play. (Remember the triple play we were denied in Game 3 of the 1992 World Series vs. Atlanta?)
One of two experienced hitters, Rico Carty joined the Blue Jays for 1978, hitting 20 homeruns.
John Mayberry also hit 20 home runs in 1979. Combined with Rico Carty they hit 40 home runs total and drove in 138 runs. But the Blue Jays were outscored by 185 runs for the season.
Rick Cerone became the number one catcher for the Blue Jays in 1971 driving in 61 runs.
Shortstop Alfredo Griffin, acquired from Cleveland, went on to share the American League's Rookie of the Year Award in 1979. He hit .287 with 179 hits and 21 stolen bases.
June 26, 1979. A talented pitcher completed the leap from Class A ball to the major leagues in one season. Dave Stieb, a converted outfielder was 5-0 with Dunedin, 5-2 with Syracuse and 8-8 with Toronto, finished a combined 18-10. Photo courtesy The Trading Card Database.
Bobby Mattick, the Jays former scouting supervisor was promoted to field manager and led the team to its best record in its first four years.
Ernie Whitt, pictured far left (with Rance Mulliniks, Garth Iorg and Buck Martinez) became the team's no.1 catcher in 1980.
Lloyd Moseby, known to many as "the Shaker" earned a spot in the 1980 Jays lineup. Pictured here, he had three hits and drove in four runs on the day.
October 7, 1981 saw the resignation of Bobby Mattick as Field Manager to become Executive Co-Ordinator of Baseball Operations. On October 15, former Atlanta Braves Manager (1978-1981) Bobby Cox (left) signed as Field Manager for four seasons and ran into umpires including Drew Coble (right).
Known for his strategy of platooning players, Bobby Cox utilized Garth Iorg (pictured above) at third base with Rance Mulliniks.
Pitcher Dave Stieb (right) with manager Bobby Cox (centre) and catcher Ernie Whitt (left). Stieb had a winning record of 17 wins and 12 losses for the 1983 season.
The 1983 season marked Toronto's first exposure with pennant fever. Along with Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy pictured here had a record of 15 wins and 11 losses.
Pitcher Doyle Alexander went 17 wins and 6 losses and just missed an eight in a row game winning streak in the 1984 season.
Tom Henke pictured here became the bullpen closer in July, 1985. The Blue Jays won the American League East pennant on October 5, 1985 when Doyle Alexander beat the New York Yankees 5-1.
George Bell (left) contributed to the Blue Jays' American League championship, hitting .275 with 28 home runs and 95 runs batted in. Jesse Barfield would hit 27 homeruns and Ernie Whitt 19 homeruns. Garth Iorg added to the offense by batting .313 and Tony Fernandez batted .289.
In the Blue Jays 10th season, Tony Fernandez (above) led the club with a .301 average. Both Jesse Barfield and George Bell drove in a club record 108 runs. Barfield hit a club record of 40 home runs; Bell had 31 home runs and 38 doubles. All three players won Gold Glove awards.
Known as "Mr. Submarine" because he was a sidearm pitcher, relief pitcher Mark Eichhorn won 14 games in 69 appearances setting a club record for lowest earned run average at 1.72 earning him the Rookie Relief Pitcher of the Year by The Sporting News.
Jimmy Key (above) compiled a 17 wins and 8 losses record with a 2.76 earned run average and was runner up only to Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox for the Cy Young Award.
With 47 home runs and 134 runs batted in, George Bell was named the American League's Most Valuable Player for 1987 as well as the Major League Player of the Year by the Sporting News.
The Blue Jays led the American League in home runs (158), triples (47), total bases (2330) and slugging percentage (.419). Fred McGriff (above) led the American League in home runs with 34, as did the pitching staff with 17 shutouts.
The Blue Jays won their second American League East pennant in 1989 after a slow start, replacing manager Jimy Williams with Cito Gaston (above) on May 31, 1989. With a team record of 20 wins in August, the Jays were pulled into a tie with Baltimore. With back-to-back wins on the last weekend of the regular season, they clinched the American League East title.
In early August, Mookie Wilson (left) and Lee Mazilli were acquired from the New York Mets to help the Jays pennant run. A sprawling Paul Molitor (centre), who would come to play with the Jays in 1993 from the Milwaukee Brewers, would contribute to Toronto defending its 1992 World Series title.
In 1990 the Blue Jays were unable to combine pitching, hitting and defence for a prolonged winning streak. The team held or shared the lead of the American League East until key losses to Boston and and Baltimore in the final week. In the off season, on December 5, 1990, Tony Fernandez (above) and Fred McGriff were traded for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.
Fred McGriff, part of the trade for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, is pictured here hitting a home run in a big seven-run inning.
New faces for the 1991 season included from left to right (standing) pitcher Willie Fraser, infielder Rene Gonzalez, outfielder Joe Carter, designated hitter Pat Tabler and outfielder Devon White. Left to right (kneeling) is left-handed pitcher Ken Dayley and second baseman Roberto Alomar.
The 1992 Blue Jays were a well balanced team clinching their second consecutive American League East title. They would defeat the Oakland A's in six games in the American League Championship Series to make the World Series for the first time. They then defeated the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the World Series in a thrilling 11 inning victory in Atlanta. Pitcher David Cone (above) was a key to the successful season.
Pictured here after the Blue Jays clinched the American League East Pennant, designated hitter Dave Winfield acquired for the 1992 season hit an impressive .290 with 26 home runs and 108 runners batted in, earning him an American League Silver Slugger Award.
After recording the final out in Game 6 of the World Series, Joe Carter celebrates with his teammates.
The 1993 season had 11 new faces and the Jays captured their third consecutive American League East title. Paul Molitor (above) finished second in the American League batting race with his teammates John Olerud coming in first and Roberto Alomar third.
Batting an impressive .363 with 24 home runs and 107 RBIs, sweet swinging John Olerud — winner of the American League Batting title — was a huge part of the Jays winning their World Series Championship in 1993.
Roberto Alomar was also a key component of the Blue Jays World Series Championship in 1993, batting .326 with 17 home runs and 93 RBIs.
Joe Carter captivated a nation with his walk-off 9th inning home run off of Phillies closing pitcher Mitch Williams in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. In 2018 it remains the most recent instance of a walk-off homerun clinching a World Series championship.
Despite a disappointing shortened season due to the Major League Baseball strike, Rookie Carlos Delgado, who would eventually become the all-time Blue Jays leader in home runs, hit eight home runs in just the month of May.
Another highlight of 1994's shortened season was Joe Carter's Major League record of 31 runners batted in for the month of April.
Despite the 1995 season being a disappointing 56-88, finishing last for the first time since 1979, rookie right fielder Shawn Green set a club record with 50 extra base hits.
The Blue Jays 20th season was highlighted by pitcher Pat Hentgen who became the first Blue Jay to win the Cy Young Award, posting a 20-10 record leading the American League with 10 complete games and 265.2 innings pitched.
The acquisition of free agent Roger Clemens was the top Blue Jays story of 1997. He tied a club record with 21 wins and set a new record with 292 strikeouts. With a 2.05 earned run average, Clemens won the unofficial pitcher's Triple Crown and won the Cy Young award for the fourth time in his career.
Jose Canseco, acquired in February, 1998. clubbed out a team high 46 home runs while Roger Clemens earned a fifth Cy Young award with a 20-6 record and passed 3,000 career strikeouts.
Jim Fregosi was named Blue Jays manager in March, 1999.
The Blue jays traded Roger Clemens to the New York Yankees for left hand pitcher David Wells (above), Graeme Lloyd and Homer Bush.
Check out even more Blue Jays photos in our Digital Archive.