If you were one of the fortunate 45,629 people at Rogers Centre on Sunday, you witnessed one of the most memorable regular season games in recent memory. I remember thinking after the classy tribute to Roberto Alomar — besides how fantastic the Dome looked and felt when it was actually full — how great it was that we were in store for a baseball game too, with a star pitching matchup of C.J. Wilson against Brandon Morrow.
The contest was just as exciting as the pre-game ceremony, as not only did Morrow toss seven strong innings with a season-high 11 strikeouts, but the Jays were able to tag Wilson for a season-high seven runs (five earned, though, which tied a season-high). Edwin Encarnacion‘s no-doubter in the first inning got the entire crowd in the game which was great to see, and Colby Rasmus snapped out his mini-funk as a Blue Jay with a 2-for-4 night with a double and two RBIs. I was even more impressed that Rasmus battled back after being down 0-2 to work the count full and crush a third-consecutive four-seamer over Rangers center fielder Endy Chavez for the two-run double in the fourth inning.
The Jays capturing the series win with a 7-3 victory was impressive, but in the end it was Alomar’s day, and he became the first Blue Jay in history to have his number retired. Here’s a look at the history of No. 12 in the Jays organization now that no one will ever wear that number again.
Ernie Whitt (1977-1989)
The first player in franchise history to ever wear Robbie’s 12, Whitt was left unprotected in the expansion draft when the Jays plucked him at the end of the 1976 season. Whitt’s path to the Majors was blocked by Carlton Fisk in Boston anyway, so the move worked out for him. He remains one of the more popular former Jays, and was extremely popular during the parts of 12 seasons that he spent with Toronto. I did a spotlight on him back in January, which can be viewed here.
Kenny Williams (1990)
Before Williams became a scout with, and ultimately the general manager of, the Chicago White Sox , he actually had a stint in his playing career with the Jays. He was waived by the Detroit Tigers in 1990, and was claimed by the Jays, playing primarily as a reserve outfielder and pinch-runner due to his speed. He was actually in center field for Dave Stieb’s no-hitter back on September 2, 1990, the only no-hitter in franchise history. Williams is perhaps best known for when he knocked out then-third base coach John McLaren when rounding third as a pinch runner in a game later that year. The Jays waived Williams the next season in 1991, and he was picked up by the Montreal Expos.
Tilson Brito (1997)
Signed as an amateur free-agent in 1990 out of the Dominican Republic, Brito made his Major League debut with the Jays in 1996 as a 24-year-old, appearing in 26 games. The infielder played second base and shortstop in 1996 and finished with a .238/.344/.363 slash line that year. The following year in 1997, Brito played second, short, and third, managing a .222/.281/.246 slash line in 49 games before being selected off waivers by the Oakland A’s in August 1997.
Tony Phillips (1998)
Not much to write about here, as Phillips played a mere 13 games and had 60 plate appearances with the Jays in 1998 before being traded to the New York Mets on July 31 for Leo Estrella. He played all of his games in the outfield, hitting .354/.467/.562.
Willie Greene (1999)
A first-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1989, Greene signed with the Jays as a free agent ten years later on January 19, 1999. He was with the Jays only for that ’99 season, appearing in 81 games primarily as a DH, finishing with a lackluster line of .204/.266/.394.
Luis Lopez (2001)
Signed as a free agent by the Jays in 1996, Lopez sat — and produced — for three years with Triple-A Syracuse from 1999-2001 before finally getting the call to make his Major League debut later in the ’01 season. His minor league success did not transfer over to the Majors, though, as the third baseman hit just .244/.291/.353 in 41 games for the Jays before being claimed off waivers by the A’s at the end of the season, similarly to Brito.
Edwin Encarnacion (2010)
Jays fans are much more familiar with this guy, who switched to 12 after wearing No. 10 in his first half season as a Blue Jay in 2009. Encarnacion switched back to his familiar 10 for this season, as many people felt that something was brewing for Alomar and that Jays ownership had asked Encarnacion to make the numerical switch. The move (and obviously increased playing time) has certainly paid off for him, as his .270 average is his highest since 2007 when he was with the Cincinnati Reds, and his 26 doubles in only 86 games are already seven off of his career high of 33 from his 2006 season, also with the Reds.
The fact is, none of these players’ contributions even compare to what Alomar did in his five seasons in a Jays uniform from 1991-1995. Alomar was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in every season he played for Toronto, he finished sixth in MVP voting for three consecutive seasons from 1991-1993, and won a Silver Slugger award in 1992. His .307 batting average as a Blue Jay ranks highest in team history for a player’s stint with the team, and he finished with an unbelievable .382 on-base percentage as a Jay as well. On top of making jaw-dropping defensive plays look routine, Alomar also finished 206-for-252 in stolen bases (81.7%) during his time with the Jays, swiping more than 50 in 1991 and 1993.
So, what was your favorite Alomar moment when he was with the Jays?