On This Day: The Blue Jays bring back a shortstop legend for yet another run

Sports Contributor Archive 2018
Sports Contributor Archive 2018 / Ron Vesely/GettyImages

The late, great Tony Fernández will forever be known as the greatest Toronto Blue Jays shortstop in franchise history (let's come back to this statement once Bo Bichette's career is done).

On this day in 1997, the Jays brought Fernández back for a third tenure with the club. His career is so tough to follow when glancing at the back of his baseball card thanks in part to his being a member of what felt like every team in the bigs during his 17-year career.

After spending each season from 1983-1990 in Toronto, Fernández had already established himself as a franchise icon. Along the way, he made three All-Star Game appearances and won four Gold Glove Awards for his elite defense at shortstop, arguably the most premium defensive position in the game.

In 1990, he set the franchise record for triples (17) that still stands today and may frankly never be broken. While his offensive numbers dipped ever so slightly, he still managed a 103 OPS+ and was able to draw more walks (71) than strikeouts (70) on the season.

Before the 1991 season began, Fernández was traded to the San Diego Padres alongside some random guy named Fred McGriff in exchange for two even more random guys in Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter.

After spending two seasons with the Padres, Fernández was dealt to the Mets, where he spent all of two months or so, before his being traded back to the Blue Jays, returning home for a second stint north of the border.

Fernández (and Joe Carter) was a key piece of the World Series winning puzzle for the 1993 Jays and ultimately became a free agent at season's end, this time with a World Series ring.

After spending 1994-1997 floating around from the Reds to the Yankees to the (then) Indians, Fernández was brought home to Toronto once more on this day in 1997.

Throughout both the 1998 and 1999 seasons, Fernández became a miraculously rejuvenated player reminiscent of his old self. He hit a combined .324 across those two seasons, driving in 147 runs in 280 games, posting an extremely impressive 123 OPS+. What makes that even more impressive is that he put up this offensive production in his age 36 and 37 seasons.

As any Blue Jays fan knows, Fernández wound up returning to the club a fourth time in 2001 as a 39-year-old before finally retiring from the game as a 17-year veteran. He is a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame as well as a part of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence.

Of course, Fernández tragically passed away at the far-too-young age of 57 back in 2020 after enduring multiple medical complications. He will be remembered as one of the best Blue Jays of all time as he is still the franchise leader in games played (1,450) and hits (1,583) to this day.

Sure, an article like this is titled "on this day" and highlights a mostly forgotten part of Fernández's career, but simply put, if you're given the opportunity to reflect on the incredible career of this Jays legend, you take it. Every time.