The Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners entered the league together with a shared expansion draft on November 5th, 1976
Forty years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners took their first real steps as MLB franchises.
At the 1976 MLB expansion draft, the Blue Jays and M’s selected 30 players each to form their first rosters which would debut in 1977.
All established MLB teams at the time had the ability to protect 15 players on their 40-man roster. After round one and again after round two, all teams could add another three players to that protected list.
The Mariners, who went 64-98 in their debut season, opened the draft by selecting Ruppert Jones, an outfielder from the Kansas City Royals. Jones was an All-Star for the M’s as a 22-year-old in ’77 and went on to have a nice 12-year career.
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With their first selection, the Blue Jays snatched up OF/SS Bob Bailor from the Baltimore Orioles. Bailor played four seasons in Toronto with a .650 OPS.
Toronto’s next selection was the young left-hander Jerry Garvin from Minnesota. Garvin was just 21 at the time and had been selected 11th overall by the Twins in the 1974 MLB Amateur Draft. He already had a pair of 200+ inning seasons under his belt (how the times have changed..), and the Blue Jays rode him hard to 244.2 innings over 34 starts as a rookie. He bounced between the rotation and bullpen for several years after with varying success before throwing his last Major League pitch at 26.
The Blue Jays followed those picks with Jim Clancy, Gary Woods, Rico Carty, Butch Edge, and Al Fitzmorris. Soon after being selected, Fitzmorris was flipped to Cleveland in a deal that landed Alan Ashby in Toronto. Later in the draft, with the 32nd selection, the Blue Jays grabbed Doug Ault from the Texas Rangers. Ault lives on in Blue Jays lore for his two home runs in Toronto’s first home game, a 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Just after Ault with the 34th overall in the expansion draft, Toronto selected a catcher from the Boston Red Sox by the name of Ernie Whitt. He went on to appear in 1,218 games over 12 seasons with the Blue Jays.
Another workhorse starter was added with pick 43 in Dave Lemanczyk. He led the inaugural Blue Jays rotation with 252 innings including 11 complete games.
One of Toronto’s best picks in the draft came even later, 53rd overall, when they picked up Otto Velez from the New York Yankees. Velez stayed for six seasons in Toronto, only appearing in over 100 games twice, but putting up excellent numbers when he was on the field. His career line as a Blue Jay ended at .257 / .372 / .461 / .834.
Toronto continued to stay busy on the trade front leading into 1977. They added 38-year-old Ron Fairly from the Oakland Athletics to be their veteran DH anchor. Catcher Rick Cerone was added from Cleveland and years later was included in the package that landed Toronto the electrifying Damaso Garcia from New York. Third baseman Roy Howell came over from Texas and gave the Blue Jays four strong seasons, including an All-Star appearance in 1978.
The Blue Jays improved to 59-102 in 1978 and finally cracked the 60-win plateau in 1980 at 67-95. The team’s first winning record came in 1983 at 89-73.