The History of Our Home Openers: 1988


March 2, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves former manager Bobby Cox talks to special instructor Fred McGriff during a team workout during spring training at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Now I am quite certain there are a bunch of you thinking about George Bell‘s then record of 3 Home Runs in the season opener at the Kansas City Royals. Truly a historic feat which perpetuated the idea that he was going to build on his 1987 MVP season (still the only Blue Jay to ever win) and carry us towards the playoffs. Fred McGriff was now manning 1st (slamming 34 homers in the process) and Dave Stieb became the 6th modern day pitcher to throw back-to-back one hitters…a prelude to his historic game in 1990. Unfortunately the Boston Red Sox clinched the division as we settled into a tie for third, 2 games behind the Red Sox, with Milwaukee at 87-75…it was not to be but the talent the Blue Jays demonstrated made it all the more appealing to the average fan knowing thy would be in the thick of things for years to come.

Date: April 11, 1988
Location: Exhibition Stadium, Toronto, ON, Canada
Game: New York Yankees at YOUR Toronto Blue Jays
Weather: 8C…which by the lake meant brrrrrrrrrr…

Before the largest Home Opener crowd in team history of 45, 185 the Blue Jays went about smacking the Yankees upside the head in a decided slugfest. It was a pitching battle for the ages, I mean of the aged, with Rick Rhoden leading the way against newly acquired Mike Flanagan for the good guys. Unfortunately, even veterans have bad days and these numbers realllllly showed that: Rhoden, in just over 2 plus innings gave up 9 tuns on eight hits though his defense had something to say about that with 5 of those run unearned. Flanagan fared mildly better going 4 innings to give up his 5 earned runs. So it was all about mashing the ball, with new third baseman Kelly Gruber leading the Jays charge. in 6 at bats he had 4 hits, 2 of them home runs, and 5 RBI. Ernie Whitt helped out too with 3 ribbies of his own and Rick Leach (the former standout university quarterback) smacked 4 hits and added a couple ribbies himself.

The Yanks tried valiantly as Rickey Henderson swiped four bases, Bobby Meacham had 2 RBI as did Don Mattingly. Too bad it didn’t matter in this 17-9 take down by the home side This was not a Yankee team that instilled too much fear in the opponents. It was still during the dog days of the Steinbrenner administration and the team had an almost comical quality about it (like Steinbrenner telling all-star Mattingly he would be suspended if he didn’t trim his sideburns!). The team showed enough with the bat to instill uneasiness among the other teams. They were all starting to realize that the Blue Jays had been building a perennial contender and this 5th season in a row of over .500 ball is a testament to that. What was to come next was the beginning of the greatest 5 years in the history of the team. Keep following to find out why…1989 begins tomorrow…