Blue Jays: Top-five greatest third basemen in franchise history

League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Three
League Championship - Kansas City Royals v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Three / Tom Szczerbowski/GettyImages
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No. 3 Ed Sprague

Ed Sprague started the most games at third base of any player in Blue Jays history, but his biggest moment came in a game he didn’t start.

The Blue Jays were already trailing the 1992 World Series 1-0 when they headed to the ninth inning of Game 2 down 4-3 in front of 52,000 tomahawk-chopping Atlanta Braves fans. The Braves had closer Jeff Reardon, at the time MLB’s career leader in saves, on the mound just three outs away from taking a commanding lead in the series.

After Derek Bell worked an eight-pitch, one-out walk against Reardon, manager Cito Gaston called on Sprague from the dugout to pinch-hit for pitcher Duane Ward. Sprague knew what to expect on the first pitch.

“I knew Reardon liked to start out with a fastball for a strike. It was down and I got on top of it. I hit it really hard,” he said after the game.

Sprague lost track of the ball in the glare of the lights of Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium as he ran toward first base. “When I got to first, I saw Deion [Sanders, the Braves’ left fielder] had his back turned. I threw my hands in the air a bit, I was so excited.”

His two-run homer gave the Blue Jays a 5-4 win and evened the series heading back to Toronto. The Blue Jays would eventually win the series in six games, bringing the World Series title north of the border for the first time. It might never have happened if not for Sprague.

Sprague became the Blue Jays’ starting third baseman the next season as the club repeated as World Series champs. He spent the next five-plus seasons manning the hot corner in Toronto, making 808 career starts for the Blue Jays at third, the most in franchise history.

His best season came in 1996, when he became the first Blue Jays third baseman to hit at least 36 home runs and only the second to reach the 100 RBI milestone. He’s second in Blue Jays history with 103 homers as a third baseman, second in hits with 719, and second with 382 RBI.

Sprague was traded to the Athletics at the deadline in July 1998, but not before he wrote his name all over the franchise record book. And, of course, there was the memorable homer, when the Blue Jays, on the brink, needed a hero. Sprague proved to be it, however unlikely it seemed.