The Toronto Blue Jays were arguably the premier organization in Major League Baseball throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Blue Jays, an expansion franchise that was established in 1977, were primarily inept over the first 10 years of its existence. However, Toronto developed into an American League juggernaut and captured five division crowns from 1985 to 1993. More importantly, the Blue Jays won consecutive World Series championships in the 1992 and 1993 seasons. Toronto’s title squads were comprised of stellar ballplayers and future National Baseball Hall of Famers.
The Blue Jays’ dominance was appreciated and fans flocked to the SkyDome in droves. In fact, from 1991 to 1993, more than four million fans annually visited the team’s multi-purpose stadium in downtown Toronto. Alas, the 1994 players' strike nearly ruined baseball in Canada and it curbed the Blue Jays’ momentum for more than two decades. Finally, following 21 mainly miserable campaigns on the diamond, Toronto qualified for the playoffs in 2015 for the first time in 21 seasons. The Blue Jays capitalized on its previous success and clinched a wild-card berth last autumn.
Whether winning or losing, the Blue Jays have consistently employed talented, engaging and controversial figures since its inception 40 years ago. These personalities allowed the Blue Jays to remain interesting even when fielding an abysmal product.
Accordingly, with polarizing characters like Roger Clemens, David Wells and Jose Canseco, let’s recall 15 Toronto Blue Jays from yesteryear and see where they are today.
15 ROGER CLEMENS
Roger Clemens was one of the most dominant, and reviled, players in baseball history. Nicknamed the “Rocket,” Clemens was an overpowering hurler in 13 seasons with the Boston Red Sox. Nonetheless, by the mid-1990s, Clemens became somewhat hittable and was deemed expendable by former Red Sox general manager Dan Duquette. The surly Texan was furious and he rejected Duquette’s fair contract offer to instead sign a four-year deal worth $40 million with the Blue Jays in February 1997. Clemens revitalized his career north of the border and won the Cy Young Award as a Blue Jay in 1997 and 1998. Clemens was traded to the Yankees in February 1999 for David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd.
Disappointingly, as one of the key faces of the Steroid Era, many of Clemens’ achievements were fraudulent. Clemens still resides in the Lone Star State and he bashes the Mitchell Report whenever possible.
14 RICKEY HENDERSON
Rickey Henderson is the preeminent leadoff hitter and baserunner to ever play baseball. Henderson, who debuted in the bigs with the Oakland Athletics in June 1979, was traded to the Blue Jays in July 1993. Henderson, a 10-time All-Star, three-time Silver Slugger Award winner and the 1990 American League MVP, fractured a bone in his hand shortly after becoming a Blue Jay. Consequently, Henderson struggled at the plate and failed to truly showcase his immense talents in Toronto. Still, the 2009 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee managed to contribute by stealing 22 bases and scoring 37 runs as a Blue Jay. With Henderson atop the lineup, Toronto captured the second of its back-to-back titles by defeating the Philadelphia Phillies in six games. Henderson, who earned paychecks from 10 MLB franchises, retired in September 2003.
The 58-year-old Henderson still periodically serves as a special instructor for the Athletics.
13 JOSE CANSECO
Jose Canseco was a force at the plate who remains despised by many of his former peers. An admitted juicehead and notorious whistleblower, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Canseco was a six-time All-Star who received the 1988 American League MVP award. Following eight brilliant seasons as an Oakland Athletic, Canseco became a journeyman who performed for six organizations. One of those six organizations was the Blue Jays, who Canseco signed a one-year contract valued at $2.1 million in February 1998. The two-time MLB home run leader soared as a Blue Jay and, while surprisingly not abusing performance-enhancing drugs, cracked 46 dingers and recorded 107 RBI. Canseco joined NBC Sports California in March to provide on-air analysis for Athletics’ games.
“I’ve got quite a bit of experience. I’ve pretty much been there, done all of that whether it’s on or off the field,” Canseco, 52, said. “I think the fans can expect the truth.”
12 DAVID CONE
The New York Mets traded flamethrower David Cone to the Blue Jays on August 27, 1992. Cone, a five-time All-Star and two-time MLB strikeout leader, shined in Toronto and went 4-3 with a 2.55 ERA and fanned 47 batters over seven starts. More significant than individual accolades, Cone pitched admirably in the playoffs and helped the Blue Jays defeat the Atlanta Braves in six games to win its first World Series crown. Following another brief stint in Kansas City, the Royals sent Cone back to Toronto for Chris Stynes, David Sinnes and Tony Medrano.
The 1994 American League Cy Young Award winner played for three more organizations before retiring in 2001. The 54-year-old Cone has mainly worked as a Yankees analyst on the YES Network since shelving his cleats.
11 DAVID WELLS
Standout southpaw David Wells premiered as a Blue Jays in June 1987. Much to the portly lefty’s chagrin, Wells labored as a reliever for his first few seasons in Toronto. Wells finally became a starter for the Blue Jays in 1990 and went 11-6 with a 3.14 ERA and 115 strikeouts. Approximately five months after clinching the 1992 World Series title, Toronto’s brain trust decided to release Wells in March 1993. Wells, a three-time All-Star and the 1998 ALCS MVP, was threw for four different franchises before the Yankees traded him back to the Blue Jays in February 1999 for Roger Clemens. Nicknamed “Boomer,” Wells prospered in his encore as a Blue Jay and was the American League’s wins leader in 2000.
The 54-year-old Wells currently serves as the head baseball coach for his alma mater, Point Loma High School, in San Diego.
10 DAVE STEWART
Following six primarily remarkable campaigns with the Oakland Athletics, Dave Stewart agreed to a two-year deal worth $8.5 million to become a Blue Jay in December 1992. Although not nearly as commanding north of the border, Stewart won 19 games in two seasons as a Blue Jay and he started the team’s decisive Game 6 World Series triumph over the Philadelphia Phillies in October 1993. Stewart, a one-time All-Star and the 1987 American League leader in wins, retired in July 1995 with a record of 168-129. Still, the 1990 Roberto Clemente Award winner stayed in the game as an executive, coach and agent. Stewart served as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ general manager from September 2014 until he was terminated last October. Somewhat surprisingly, Stewart said he was “kind of relieved” to get fired by Arizona.
“Quite frankly, I’ve got better things to do,” Stewart, 60, told USA TODAY.
9 JIMMY KEY
The Blue Jays selected Clemson University ace Jimmy Key in the third round of the 1982 draft. Key excelled in Toronto and led the organization to its first postseason appearance in 1985. Key, a four-time All-Star and the sport’s wins leader in 1994 and ERA king in 1987, became a New York Yankee in December 1992 after nine impressive seasons as a Blue Jay. The crafty southpaw prospered in the Bronx and was an instrumental part of the Yankees’ 1996 World Series squad. Key retired in November 1998 after two injury-plagued campaigns as a Baltimore Oriole. Altogether, as a member of the Blue Jays, Yankees and Orioles, Key compiled a mark of 186-117 with a 3.51 ERA and 1,538 strikeouts.
The 56-year-old Key lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and is a respected amateur golfer in his community.
8 JOE CARTER
The San Diego Padres dealt slugger Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar to the Blue Jays for Fred McGriff and Tony Fernández in December 1990. The blockbuster trade radically altered the fortunes of both franchises and solidified Toronto’s status as an American League powerhouse. Carter, a five-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, was an invaluable piece of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back championship teams. Most memorably, with Toronto trailing the Philadelphia Phillies 6-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the World Series, Carter belted a walk-off homer to seal the franchise’s 1993 title.
The 57-year-old Carter, one of 10 people in the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence, established the Joe Carter Classic charity golf tournament in 2010 to benefit the Children's Aid Foundation. Now in its eighth-year of existence, Carter’s charity has raised nearly a quarter-million dollars.
7 ROBERTO ALOMAR
National Baseball Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar was another integral contributor to the Blue Jays’ quasi-dynasty. Alomar, a 12-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner, was a Blue Jay from 1991 through 1995. For his vast achievements as a Bird, Alomar’s No. 12 jersey was retired and he is a member of the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence. Alomar resides in Toronto and he actively participates in numerous charities across Canada’s most populous city.
“I’m really grateful that the Toronto people still recognize me as a player,” Alomar, 49, told the National Post. “Being in the Hall of Fame has opened more doors. People also appreciate what I do for kids. What I’m doing now is giving back to the community and the people give me back a lot of joy and happiness from when I played in Toronto.”
6 JACK MORRIS
Jack Morris stifled Atlanta Braves’ hitters to will the Minnesota Twins to its second World Series championship in five seasons. Roughly two months following his World Series MVP performance, Morris signed a two-year contract valued at nearly $11 million to become a Blue Jay in December 1991. Morris flourished as a Blue Jay and went 21-6 in his inaugural season in Canada. Morris, a five-time All-Star, permanently shelved his cleats in March 1995. The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in 1981 finished his illustrious career with 254 victories, against 186 losses, and 2,478 strikeouts over 3,824 innings as a Detroit Tiger, Twin, Blue Jay and Indian.
A borderline hall of famer, the 62-year-old Morris provides broadcast analysis for the Twins on Fox Sports North.
5 DEVON WHITE
Center fielder Devon White was a defensive wizard who competed for the Blue Jays from 1991 to 1995. White, a three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner, retired in 2001 following a 17-year career with six organizations. White was hired in January to become the hitting coach for the Buffalo Bisons, the AAA Affiliate of the Blue Jays.
"It's not really about getting back into a rhythm for me. The game is in my blood," White, 54, told The Buffalo News. "I never really retired. I just stopped playing. I coached with the Nationals and White Sox and I was very involved with the Jays Care Foundation so I've stayed involved. The learning comes from these 'new-era' kids you're coaching. They're different from guys who came up in my time and they expect different things. It's my job to guide them in the right directions.”
4 JOHN OLERUD
The Blue Jays took legendary Washington State University star John Olerud in the third round of the 1989 draft. Olerud, a two-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove Award winner and 1993 American League batting champion, remained a Blue Jay until he was sent to the New York Mets in December 1996. Olerud batted .295 with 2,239 hits and 255 dingers over 2,234 games as a member of the Blue Jays, Mets, Seattle Mariners, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. A 2007 National College Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, Olerud was voted the Pac-12 Player of the Century in April 2016.
Olerud, who still lives in Clyde Hill, Washington, with his wife, Kelly, and their two children, reportedly keenly follows candidates for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year Award.
3 PAUL MOLITOR
Baseball Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is one of the most accomplished hitters in the annals of the sport. A member of the Major League Baseball All-Time Team, Molitor was a Milwaukee Brewer for 15 seasons before accepting a three-year deal worth $13 million to become a Blue Jay in December 1992. Molitor, a seven-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner, prospered in Toronto. In particular, Molitor flourished in the playoffs and earned the 1993 World Series MVP Award for his efforts against the Phillies. Molitor retired following the 1998 season and, approximately 16 years later, he was introduced as the Minnesota Twins’ manager in November 2014.
“Everyone tells me they look at our roster and don’t see a 103-loss team,” Molitor, 60, told the StarTribune in February. “Well, that doesn’t really reflect very well on the manager.”
The Twins currently sit atop the American League Central.
2 FRED MCGRIFF
First baseman Fred McGriff is a borderline hall of famer who competed as a Blue Jay for the first five years of his career. In a bombshell transaction, McGriff and Tony Fernandez were sent to the Padres for Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter in December 1990. Nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” McGriff ultimately became an elite journeyman who made five All-Star appearances and won three Silver Slugger Awards. McGriff batted .284 with 2,490 hits and 493 dingers in 2,460 games as a Blue Jay, Padre, Brave, Devil Ray, Cub ad Dodger. The feared southpaw slugger retired as a Devil Ray following the 2004 campaign.
The 53-year-old McGriff, who hit the first homer at the SkyDome, hosts a radio show on CBS Tampa Bay.
1 DAVE STIEB
Dave Stieb may be the most productive pitcher to ever take the hill for the Blue Jays. Stieb, a seven-time All-Star and the 1985 American League ERA leader, played in Toronto from 1979 through 1992. Altogether, as a member of the Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox, Stieb went 176-137 with a 3.44 ERA and 1,669 strikeouts.
"I feel like I was good," Stieb, 59, told Vice Sports in August 2016. "I'm not going to say I was great. I had great moments. But I was good. I was a pitcher to be reckoned with, obviously."
Stieb, who tossed the Blue Jays’ first no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in September 1990, resides in Reno, Nevada, and is actively involved with Toronto’s spring training camps.