Blue Jays: Top-five greatest outfielders in franchise history

Division Series - Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Five
Division Series - Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Five / Vaughn Ridley/GettyImages
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No. 2 Joe Carter

“Touch ‘em all Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”

There hasn’t been a call that captured the magic of the moment more than Tom Cheek’s legendary words when Joe Carter hit the biggest home run in Blue Jays’ history. The image is etched in every Blue Jays’ fans' memories: Carter leaping up and down, fireworks exploding, fans rushing onto the field to celebrate the franchise’s second consecutive World Series title.

Carter arrived in Toronto in an almost equally franchise-altering moment two years before. He and Roberto Alomar were traded to the Blue Jays for franchise icon Tony Fernández and future Hall of Famer Fred McGriff in December 1990.

He then established himself as the most feared slugger the franchise had yet known. He hit at least 33 home runs in his first three years in a Blue Jays uniform. He drove in at least 100 runs every year. He twice finished in the top five in MVP voting.

The Blue Jays couldn’t have hoped for a better option to come to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 6 against the Phillies. The Blue Jays trailed 6-5 as the Phillies were threatening to send the series to the seventh game. Then Carter came up with two runners on to face Mitch Williams.

Carter was 0-4 in his career against Williams. The Phillies closer fell behind 2-0 before throwing a fastball that Carter took for a strike. Carter then made a weak lunge at a slider in the dirt as the count went 2-2. Williams shook off his catcher before throwing another slider. It was supposed to be high and away. It stayed low and in. Carter didn’t miss.

“When I made contact, I looked up and I couldn’t see the ball. All I saw was the bank of lights in left field. I knew I hit it good, but I didn’t know if I hit it high enough to get out. That’s what all the jumping was as I was going to first base: I was trying to see what the elevation of the baseball was and help it out of the park,” Carter reminisced to Sportsnet’s Evan Rosser 20 years later.

Carter’s three-run home run was only the second series-clinching walk-off home run in World Series history, and the first while trailing. “I was jumping up and down going to first base and the one thing I told myself was, ‘touch all the bases'”, Carter said. “I’m going along the bases, listening to fireworks, looking at all the fans, people running onto the field, knowing what had just happened.”

It was the pinnacle of Carter’s seven-year career with the Blue Jays, one that ensured a special place in franchise history. But even if the home run hadn’t happened, Carter would still be remembered as one of the greatest players to wear a Blue Jays uniform. The only year he didn’t eclipse 100 RBI with the Blue Jays was the strike-shortened 1995 season. In 1994, he was on pace for 150 RBI before the strike forced the cancellation of the rest of the season.

Carter hit 203 home runs with the Blue Jays, second to José Bautista and Vernon Wells among outfielders. He’s fourth in RBI. He was the first Blue Jays outfielder to eclipse 30 home runs in a season four times. His six seasons with at least 100 RBI are two more than any other outfielder in franchise history.

Carter will always be remembered for his series-ending home run, but he built a reputation for consistent production in the heart of a Blue Jays lineup that twice reached the top of the sport.