Jays From the Couch brings you a look at the how far theToronto Blue Jays have come as they celebrate their 40th anniversary
It’s the 40th birthday of the Toronto Blue Jays and given the exciting season they’re coming off of, it promises to be an exciting year for Blue Jays baseball. So here we are, about to see what the 2016 team looks like. How different was it 40 years ago?
The 1977 Toronto Blue Jays were officially signed into the MLB on October 27, 1976. The franchise was owned by Labatt Breweries, Imperial Trust and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Peter Bavasi was the GM and Roy Hartsfield was the manager of the team that played at the Exhibition Stadium (now the site of BMO Field).
The Blue Jays spring training started in Dunedin Florida as it does to this day, and on March 11, 1977 the Blue Jays won their first pre season game against the New York Mets 3-1. It was a promising introduction to the team and on April 7, 1977, 44,649 fans were in attendance to see the Blue Jays play the Chicago White Sox at a snowy Exhibition stadium. A Zamboni loaned to them by the Toronto Maple Leafs was used to take the snow off the field, and the crowd was chanting “we want beer” because it was the only stadium in the MLB not to sell this baseball staple! The Blue Jays won that game 9-5.
The Toronto Blue Jays ended there first season with a record of 54-107 with players like Al Woods hitting six home runs and batting .284 -the highest among his teammates that season- and Ron Fairly (DH) hitting 19 home runs and batting .279. The struggles of this new team could be put down in part to the accounts of how manager Roy Hartsfield dealt with his players. By 1979 there was a revolt of sorts by the players who took to the media to shine light on what was going on in the clubhouse. According to Alison Gordon’s book Foul Balls: Five Years In The American League ( General Paperbacks, 1986), he was not the one to manage this new team.
“Hartsfield was a bitter man, loathed by many of his players, ignored by his coaches, and the focus of the frustration of supporters who were impatient to win. It was not an enviable position, but he handled it badly. He had given up all pretence of talking to his players or taking a direct hand in their day-to-day development. These basics he left to the coaches while he sat glumly in the corner of the dugout, lost in another world…It was embarrassing and painful to watch.”
Roy Hartsfield was replaced by Bobby Mattick after the season ended in 1979.
A sharp contrast to the Blue Jays of today. Fast forward to 2016. The Toronto Blue Jays are owned by Rogers, Mark Shapiro is the GM and John Gibbons the manager. They play at the Rogers Centre (formally the SkyDome), their home since 1989. They have just come off a season with a record of 93-69, and the chemistry in the clubhouse is talked about often. With players like Jose Bautista batting .250 with 40 home runs, Edwin Encarnacion batting .277 with 39 home runs and Josh Donaldson batting .297 with 41 home runs, the Blue Jays have a lot more power than that first team that took to the field. The chemistry continues with how the players feel about their skipper. Josh Donaldson spoke to Ian Harrison of Vice Sports about his relationship with Gibbons.
“I haven’t been with him for too long but from that short period, you can tell that he’s a player’s manager,” shortstop Troy Tulowitzki says. “He’s been great with my son. That’s been cool for me. There’s more to this game than just what’s out there on the field. How people treat your family and how people treat you as a person goes a long way and he’s definitely made me and my family feel welcome. You don’t have to do that. You could just go out there and manage the ball club, but he knows there’s a lot more to life than just wins and losses.”
That’s quite a difference from the Blue Jays of 1977. With the introduction of different technologies, a different ball park, updated uniforms, different managers, players and front office staff, the 2016 Blue Jays barely resemble the 1977 Blue Jays of their past. They’ve built and incredible 40 year history, and have solidified their place not only in the city of Toronto, but in the whole country of Canada. Happy birthday Blue Jays, you’ve come a long way baby…
*Featured Image Credit: S Doyle- JFtC
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Catherine Stem is a Blue Jays fan and writer who has combined both of these great things by writing for Jays From the Couch. Through all the ups and downs of baseball, all aspects of the game are explored. Keeping a close eye on the Blue Jays Triple A team, the Buffalo Bisons has also become part of her make-up.