After a pretty dismal second season, we started to see the beginnings of our championship reign. Alfredo Griffin, Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy…these names would define the greatness of subsequent years. Unfortunately when you are GM Pat Gillick you are building the team for a long stretch of winning which is usually code for “we gonna suck rocks” for now. They went 2-3 on the road to begin the season then they squared off against George Brett and the Kansas City Royals in their third Home Opener.
Date: April 13, 1979
Location: Exhibition Stadium, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game #7: Kansas City Royals vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: A nice and Balmy 43C with the threat of rain
In what would be Roy Hartsfield‘s last season as the original manager of the Blue Jays (a tenure wrought with infighting with the players and some truly horrid won loss records) he put on the mound Jim Clancy to start the Home Opener. Clancy was big and burly and didn’t always have the best stuff but he was a grinder and he knew how to win (and how to lose). Big league average at it’s best!
Paul Splittorff was the “famed” pitcher to toe the rubber for KC. George Brett once said “He knew how to pitch. He was blessed with a big heart and put it all on the line”. Well that line was in the Jays favour on this day as Roy Howell was the hero of the day going 2 for 2 with a solo home run and Rico Carty, John Mayberry (with a triple!!) and Al Woods also contributed RBI’s. Jim Clancy trudged along in his 6 innings of work to allow a measly unearned run to go along with 4 walks…which us older fans know sounds like the Jim Clancy we grew to know and cherish.
But Unky Jeff, you ask, baseball is a 9 inning affair. True, but due to the inclement weather that The Ex was noted for, the game was halted after the top of the sixth inning, thus preserving the 4-1 rain shortened home opener. The season was a true bottoming out. Hartsfield lost the players trust even though Pat Gillick was solidly behind him for his knack of developing young players, in this case Alfredo Griffin (who would become the rookie of the year). He helped lay the foundation of the organizational thought of building a winner year after year with proper player development (gee, where have we hard that one before?)
The Home Opener was not too noteworthy being a shortened game so I leave you with 2 interesting notes about the ’79 season: it was the season in which the Jays turned their first triple play (which didn’t happen again until the 2012 season) and it was the season in which we won the season series over only ONE team…the Oakland A’s (8-4). It was a nightmare season needed to bring the team to future glory. 1980 gave more glimpses into that glory…but more on that tomorrow.