The History of Our Home Openers: 1981


Now this will forever be a unique situation in baseball lore. The 1981 season was torn apart by labour strife from the middle of June until early August. It forced baseball to rethink how to properly figure out who would be in the playoffs. So they split the season into two separate sections: First Half and Second Half (like they do in the low minors). The team with the best cumulative record would make they playoffs. Why does this matter to the 1981 Blue Jays? It doesn’t thanks to the proverbial messing of the bed they did in the first half (16-42). So I present TWO Home Openers for this season…hey my game my rules…

Date: April 13, 1981
Location: Exhibition Stadium, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: New York Yankees vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: 10C with a wee bit of wind…but sunny!

So here Bobby Mattick would send out his proven average starter, Jim Clancy to battle the feared Bronx Bombers and cagy veteran Tommy John (yes…he of the surgeries Tommy John). Throw in Willie Randolph, ex-teammate Rick Cerone, scrappy Bucky Dent and baseball machine Dave Winfield and you have the makings of a NY win…but this is baseball where nothing is ever over. It was Alfredo Griffin and Al Woods (again!..see previous article) with 2 RBI’s apiece that got things rolling offensively after a first inning run given up by Clancy (who would give up the lone run and walk 5 dudes as he gave the ball to Roy Lee Jackson in the eighth). Poor ol’ Mr. John gave up 5 earned in 7 innings to ensure another winning Home Opener: 5-1 Jays with Jackson earning his first save. Too bad it didn’t last.

Date: August 14, 1981
Location: Exhibition Stadium, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: Milwaukee Brewers vs. YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: 23C and sunny…aaaahhhhhh

In the second half of this season the Blue Jays didn’t resemble to first half Jays. They actually competed and finish a respectable 21-27. Not bad considering the records of the previous years. Our second half Home Opener was against our dreaded nemesis, the Brewers. After a 2-1 series win in Detroit we tossed Jim Clancy on the mound. This time through the season would prove more difficult. Pitchers were being played 2, 3 or 4 innings max to work up their arm strength again.

The Jays bats were ready for it against Pete Vukovich and ‘pen. Clancy gives up a home run to Gorman Thomas in the second, we score in the bottom of the inning. Luis Leal (another of the super average starters we grew to love in Toronto) takes over and gives two more runs in the fourth…but then we scored two in the bottom. Leal gives another in the fifth and we decide to push to the seventh before getting 2 more runs to edge ahead. Jackson gets the final four outs after relieving an effective Jerry Garvin and there you have a 5-4 victory. Four different players got 1 RBI (led by 2 hit king Ernie Whitt). What is it about Home Openers and us winning? Is it sustainable? Ummmm…..