The 1992 and 1993 Toronto Blue Jays are baseball royalty. They were the first team outside of the United States to win a World Series. They are one of only three teams since 1931, not named the Yankees, to win back to back World Series. Their teams prominently featured three future Hall of Famers and three more may yet get inducted in by the Veterans Committee. They had 10 all-stars over the two seasons, six top six MVP vote getters, and four top seven Cy Young Award vote getters. And they capped it all off with one of only two World-Series clinching walk-off home runs in Major League history, with Joe Carter leaping around the bases after a Game 6 blast ending the 1993 season.
Next year will, incredibly, be the 25th Anniversary of the 1992 team, and the Rogers Centre should see a year of festivities which reintroduce a venerable who’s who of returning heroes to throw first pitches and commemorate the greatness. In anticipation of this, we decided to think about who we’d like to invite back and learn a little bit about what has happened in their lives since Toronto last celebrated like champions.
Here’s a list of the Top 20 Members of the 1992-93 World Series Blue Jays: Where Are They Now?
21 Pat Borders: Minor League Manager
Pat Borders is on this list for only one reason. A below average major leaguer even during his peak run from 1990-1993 as the starting catcher for the Blue Jays, he suddenly turned into Babe Ruth in the Postseason. His MVP winning performance in the 1992 World Series stands out but he also hit over .300 in 93 as well. Borders run of success didn’t end in Toronto. He was on the USA Baseball team that won the gold medal in Seoul in the the summer of 2000, joining teammate Ed Sprague (se below) as one of only four players to have a World Series and Olympic championship.
Borders spent most of his retirement from baseball in his hometown in Lake Wales, Florida, coaching at Winter Haven High, the school his children attended. In 2015 however, Borders was announced as the manager of the Williamsport Crosscutters, a Philadelphia Phillies class A affiliate. Borders new a little bit about what it means to be a minor leaguer struggling to advance to the next level. “I spent six years in the minor leagues before I got my first taste of the major leagues,” Borders said. “So that ‘Never give up’ attitude is what I’d like to maybe instill in (the players). I had to switch three positions, from third to first to catcher.” And what did the Crosscutters do in Borders very first year of manager, of course? Why only the New-York Penn League’s best record, that’s all.
20 Al Leiter: Broadcaster
Al Leiter (Pictured Right) was touted as the next Ron Guidry when he made his major league debut as a New York Yankee in 1987. But, unfortunately, his career, like Guidry, was heavily affected by injuries. When manager Dallas Green left him in a game for a remarkable, by today’s standards, 162 PITCHES in the spring of 1989, after just two more starts, including his first following a trade to Toronto, he started having arm trouble. Leiter battled to get healthy for years until he managed to stick with the 1993 Blue Jays, now a completely different pitcher. His strike-outs per nine were cut nearly in half but he pitched his first full season that year and finished with a 9-6 record as a part-time starter.
In the 1993 World Series, Leiter entered a tie ballgame in the 6th inning of Game One, throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings to earn the victory. The Game 1 winner went on to be known for his intelligence as a pitcher rather than his arm, using his brains to last 19 seasons in the bigs in total and becoming the first hurler in baseball to get a win against all 30 teams. After his retirement in 2005, he took his analytical talents to the booth, where he has been nominated for three National Emmy Awards as a studio analyst for the MLB Network. He has been with the most-watched regional sports network in the country, YES, for 10 years, and has also worked for ESPN and Fox Sports. A native of Bayville, NJ, in 2012, he was inducted into the New Jersey Sports Writers Association Hall of Fame.
19 Ed Sprague: Baseball Coach
Ed Sprague Jr. is the ONLY baseball player to win championships in the College World Series, the Olympics, and the Major Leagues, and accomplished it all before he reached the age of 26. A first round draft pick in for Toronto in 1988, he came with expectations of greatness after starring as Stanford’s middle-of-the-lineup third baseman, finishing his collegiate career second in the school’s history in home runs and fourth in RBI and was inducted into the university’s athletic Hall of Fame. This 1992 World Series hero, hitting a go-ahead ninth inning two-run homer to help win Game 2, never quite lived up to expectations but finished with a solid 11 year career that included an All-Star appearance.
After retirement, Sprague, who is a Stockton, California, native kept up his winning ways. Hired in 2004 as a coach for his hometown’s University of the Pacific, a team that had never had back to back winning seasons, he quickly delivered just that in 2005 and 2006. But after five straight losing seasons, and an overall record of 250-406, he stepped down following the 2015 season. Now, 14 years after he retired from the majors, he is back in uniform for the Oakland Athletics as a special assistant for player development and roving instructor, including, where else, their Single A affiliate, the Stockton Ports.
18 Dave Stewart: Front Office Free Agent
At age 36, Dave Stewart was looking for one last big deal before hanging it up in 1993. The former World Series MVP went on to be a vital part of Toronto’s rotation, and even added some post-season hardware, winning ALCS MVP that season, giving up just three runs in two starts, including the Game 6 clincher. He played one more year with Toronto and then returned for a final season with the team that had made him a star, the Oakland A’s, before retiring in 1995.
In 2016, Stewart is once again looking for another club to give him a chance, after being fired just last month from his job as general manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he was notorious for his refusal to embrace analytics and for making particularly bad deals (giving up starting outfielder Ender Incierte, #1 draft pick Dansby Swanson and two others for Shelby Miller and his 6.15 ERA was the biggest gaffe). Interestingly enough, his first opportunity to be a GM was with none other than… the Blue Jays. Gord Ash had just been let go following the 2001 season. Stewart had been working internally under him in the organization for three years, but they felt he didn’t quite have the necessary experience. They hired J.P. Ricciardi instead, who, of course, was highly unpopular in his own right (though he did trade for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion respectively in his final two seasons before heading out the door in 2009).
Instead, Stewart opened up his own business and became a player agent for 13 years, before becoming GM of the Diamondbacks in 2014. Now, he will have to re-invent himself again.
17 Tom Henke: Taos’s Hometown Hero
Tom Henke, a bit of a late bloomer at age 27, became one of baseball’s best closers from a ten year period of 1986-1995, and served that role for Toronto through 1992. His big, arguably nerdy glasses, didn’t keep him from striking fear in the heart of hitters, who were even more unnerved by someone who threw so hard but couldn’t necessarily see very well. It would have been easy to leave Henke off this list, particularly with his infamous blown save in Game 6 of the '92 World Series, that, in part, led to Toronto deciding to go with Duane Ward the following season, but if it wasn’t for Henke’s sudden retirement following the '95 season, still at the top of his game, he may have even been a Hall of Fame candidate.
Henke has stayed quiet after retirement. One of eleven kids from a small town, he returned to Taos, Missouri, and its population of under 1000, and has remained there ever since. In his Canadian Hall of Fame speech in 2011 he said “People say, ‘Why do you go back to that little bitty ol’ town?’ That’s where my family is. Family’s very important to me.” Not quite the post-baseball life expected of a player with the nickname “The Terminator,” but nothing about Henke’s career was ever really expected.
16 David Cone: Back in New York Where He Belongs
If this was the New York Yankees list of best players from a 1990s World Series Dynasty, than David Cone would assuredly be in the top five. Toronto however, only gave him one of his five World Series titles, and, in all, he only appeared in eight regular season games in a Toronto uniform during their World Champion run of 1992 (and made a brief return in '95 before being traded again). Still, they were a memorable eight, allowing only 15 runs over seven starts and one relief appearance down the stretch, leading the team to a 23-10 record over their final 33 games. When Cone arrived, they were only 2.5 games up of the Baltimore Orioles in the AL East. They finished 96-66, four games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, and a seven games ahead of the O’s. Cone was just average in the postseason, but one could easily argue the Jays would have never even made it without his late-season addition.
He is back where he belongs now, in New York, working with the Yankees for their aforementioned YES Network (alongside Al Leiter, among others), where he has been, on and off, since 2008.
15 Danny Cox: Back to His Cardinals Roots
1993 was Danny Cox’ first and only full season as a major league baseball reliever. The former 18 game winner for the 1985 NL Champion St. Louis Cardinals came to Toronto in 1993 after bouncing around as a struggling starter from St. Louis to Philadelphia in 1991 and then to Pittsburgh in 1992. No Blue Jays relief pitcher threw more innings than Cox’ 83.2 that season, and with a first-time full season closer, Duane Ward, pitching behind him, Cox’ veteran presence was an underrated part of Toronto’s success.
After his retirement, Cox went on to become manager of the Gateway Grizzlies, whom he led to their first championship in the independent Frontier League in 2003. He continues to be involved in baseball summer camps and clinics run by the Grizzlies as well as the Cardinals, and organizes fund-raisers for the Armed Forces and Make-A-Wish Foundation. He is also invited to pep rallies, signings, and sometimes to just simply enjoy Cardinals games with his family as a fan.
14 Candy Maldonado: ESPN’s Host of “Candy’s Corner”
Candido (Candy) Maldonado will forever be the answer to a great baseball trivia question: Who drove in the game winning run in an entire COUNTRY’s first MLB postseason game ever? Yes, when the World Series finally reached Canada in Game 3 of 1992, Maldonado’s single plated Roberto Alomar, ending a dramatic footnote in baseball history. The starting left fielder played his sole full season in Toronto that year, hitting 20 home runs over 137 games.
The Puerto Rican born journeyman played for seven teams over his fifteen year career, earning the nickname “Candyman” from ESPN legend Chris Berman. He now has his a show of his own on ESPN titled “La Esquina de Candy” (Candy’s Corner), which can be seen on ESPNdeportes.com, and is the co-host of the Deportes and ESPN International version of “Baseball Tonight”, “Beisbol Esta Noche.”
13 Jack Morris: Debatably Great MLB Retiree
Jack Morris being the only unlucky #13 on this list will draw some ire from certain Toronto fans. As seen in his up-till-now unsuccessful Hall of Fame bid, Morris’ qualities as a starting pitcher are the subject of much debate. He won over 14 games 13 times, including the strike shortened 1981 season, and had five top five Cy Young Award finishes, including his final one in 1992 in Toronto, when he reached 21 wins, albeit with a 4.04 ERA. In face, he never finished with an ERA under 3.00. One of the final people to be on the ballot for fifteen years (instead of the new rule of ten), Morris came tantalizingly close in his 14th year in 2013, drawing 67.7 percent of the vote (with 75 percent needed for induction.)
As for his place on this list, we are talking about the 1992 Blue Jays AND the 1993 team, for which Morris was 7-12 with a utterly horrific 6.19 ERA. In fact, the early '90s version of Morris was exactly what you might expect, a veteran pitcher who was 36 when he joined the Jays, capable of stretches of greatness that lead him to play on three straight World Series championship teams ('91 with Minnesota), but equally capable of such bad pitching that in '93, despite being the second highest paid player on the team, he didn’t even make an appearance in the postseason.
Today, the Minnesota native stays in the public eye calling games on the radio for the Twins, and is now eligible to be elected by the Expansion Era Committee, so the debate over his value will surely rage on.
12 Tony Fernandez: Cleveland’s Un-Redeemed Post-Season Goat
Tony Fernandez was a three time All-Star shortstop for Toronto teams from 1983-1990. Then came one of the biggest blockbuster trades in baseball history. Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick traded star first baseman Fred McGriff and Fernandez to the San Diego Padres for future Hall-of-Famer Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter, two names which will appear significantly closer to the bottom of this Top Twenty list, and making room at first base for a young player by the name of John Olerud (see #2.…) After a two year stint in San Diego, Tony signed with the Mets, and, mid-season, Toronto saw an opportunity to upgrade much like they had with David Cone in '92, and traded back for Fernandez. After hitting .333 in the World Series with a team leading nine RBIs (and most by a shortstop in history), Fernandez would leave again following the season.
Known during his playing years as a man of character, the Dominican Republic native now runs a charitable foundation for underprivileged children which he began during his career on the field. Unfortunately, Fernandez found himself back in the public eye this year for an entirely less deserved reason. His career low-light came back into the public eye when the Cleveland Indians failed to win its first World Series win in nearly 70 years. Their previous appearance, in 1997, ended when Fernandez’ 11th inning Game 7 error allowed the winning runner on base to eventually score on Edgar Renteria’s walk-off series-ending single. “I was the type of athlete and person who doesn’t dwell on the past,” Fernandez said. “Mistakes are important. You learn from them and move forward.” Lessons to be learned for the 2016 team.
11 Pat Hentgen: Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Newest Member
At the young age of 24 and only in his second full MLB season, the 1996 Cy Young Award winner (and first Jay to win it) had one of his best years in 1993, winning 19 games and making the All Star team. He would probably have appeared much higher on this list but he played only a small role on the '92 team, mostly appearing as a reliever, and was left off the postseason roster. After jumping around the majors for a few years in the early 2000s, Hentgen returned to the Blue Jays for a final season in 2004 and shortly thereafter, in 2007, re-joined the Jays as, at first, a front-office advisor, and then as bullpen coach in 2011 and 2013.
In 2014 however, Hentgen’s father fell ill, and he was given a year off to deal with the situation. He returned to the Blue Jays this year, with a new role in player development, earned after former GM Alex Anthopoulos started to invite him along on scouting trips during the last couple of years. He joined the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this summer, with three daughters of his own in attendance.
10 Jimmy Key: An Unflappable Amateur Golfer
Veteran pitcher Jimmy Key’s 13-13 record in 1992 belied a season in which he was the second best starter on the team. He was second in innings to Jack Morris and second in ERA to Juan Guzman, and as a lefty slow tosser, balanced the fiery Morris and the strong armed Guzman perfectly. He pitched 7 2/3 innings of one run baseball to serve as the winning pitcher in Game 4 of the World Series and picked up a second win in Game 6 when he came on in relief in extra innings. That would be his final appearance with the Jays as he accepted a four year deal, thanks to his wife, and agent, Cindy, with the New York Yankees, with whom he would get a second world championship.
Like so many retirees, Key is a regular on golf courses in Florida these days, but unlike many others he is a major contender in amateur tournaments. He credits his experience handling big situations and big crowds in the Major Leagues with some of his success.
9 Dave Winfield: Ageless Wonder Who is the Face of the Game
Hall of Famer Dave Winfield played only one season as a 40 year old designated hitter in Toronto in 1992, and came in with a legacy of playing with the rival Yankees and infamously hitting and killing a seagull at old Exhibition Stadium with a warm-up toss in 1983. The ageless wonder however, showed up in a big way, ending the season second on the team with 26 home runs and 108 RBI and finishing fifth in the MVP race. He would hit two more home runs in the ALCS against Oakland and his two-run double in the top of the 11th in Game Six proved the decisive hit in the World Series clincher.
Today, Winfield, one of four athletes in history selected in three different professional American sports drafts (MLB, NBA, and NFL) remains deeply involved in sport, serving as the ambassador for the Capital One Cup, which provides scholarship money to collegiate athletic programs, in conjunction with the College World Series. He also had a big, publicly visible year serving alongside Trevor Hoffman as San Diego’s spokesmen for the 2016 All Star Game.
8 Paul Molitor: Legend Replacing Another Legend
How do you replace a guy who finished fifth in the MVP race? By finding a player who goes on to finish second in the MVP race, that’s how. Indeed, when Toronto chose not to re-sign Winfield after 1992, they filled their DH hole with another aging future Hall of Famer, the 37 year old Paul Molitor. After 15 years only with one team (the Milwaukee Brewers), Molitor responded to his new environment by leading the league in in 1993 with 211 hits and even paced the powerful Winfield in RBIs, racking up 111 of them, and reached a career high in home runs with 22. He then went on to dominate the post-season, hitting .391 in the ALCS and following that with a ridiculous .500 batting average and scoring 10 runs, tying a record, on the way to being named World Series MVP.
These days Molitor is sweating out an offseason after managing the team with the worst record in baseball, The Minnesota Twins. Molitor DID lead the team to a surprising 83 wins in his first season after the 13 year tenure of Rob Gardenhire. Gardenhire joins the man HE replaced, Tom Kelly, as two of only ten managers in history with at least 1000 wins for one team. But if anyone can fill such big shoes, its Molitor. Owner Jim Pohlad seems to agree. He has already vouched Pual will be returning in 2017.
7 Duane Ward: Then: Blue Jay for Life
There are six players on the Blue Jays who can be truly seen as top performers on the team in BOTH 1992 and 1993, and they close out this list. Up first: Duane Ward, who actually pitched all but the first 10 games of his nine year professional career with the Blue Jays. In 1992, he was a lights out set-up man for Tom Henke, pitching to a 1.95 ERA. 1993, however was special, as he took over as closer, and immediately saved a league high 45 games and had a whopping, career-high, 12.2 k/9 strikeout ratio. The 29 year old, in the midst of his prime, seemed to be building a potential Hall of Fame resume. But then: a serious case of biceps tendinitis caused him to miss all of the 1994 season, and after just four games in 1995, at the age of 31, he retired.
Ward returned recently to Toronto’s Rogers Centre, throwing out the first pitch before the Game 3 clincher of this year’s ALDS against the Rangers. He has remained connected to the Blue Jays through the years, and is very involved in the Jays Care Foundation teaching baseball skills and building facilities for children.
6 Devon White: Undervaluing Defensive Studs
Devon White played his peak three seasons upon his arrival to the Blue Jays in 1991 at the age of 28. His stats from 91-93 were remarkably consistent, including winning the first three of five straight Gold Gloves (and seven overall) in center field for his defense, which he took particular pride in. On the offensive side, each season he stole over 30 bases with 15+ home run power, and scored 98 or more runs, primarily from the lead-off spot, until none other than Rickey Henderson arrived in a late season trade in 1993.
Like many of his teammates today, he takes part in the Jays Care Foundation and is a regular at the Joe Carter Classic Golf Tournament (see below). Perhaps most important to him, however, is the Devon White Baseball Academy in his native Jamaica, a three day clinic in his native Jamaica. And what does one of the greatest centerfielders of his generation think about defensive whiz Kevin Pillar? He’s gung-ho, hard-going,” White said. “Seems like I did it a lot easier, but the end result is catching the ball.” Seems like White thinks he might be able to teach Pillar at thing or two as well.
4 Joe Carter: Canadian Children’s Hero
In 1992 and 1993, right fielder Joe Carter was in the middle of what would be a nine year stretch of at least 24 home runs and at least 98 RBIs each season. He led the Jays with 34 HR and 119 RBI in 1992 (and was 3rd in MVP voting) and then led them again with 33 HR and 121 RBI in 1993. He then famously put an exclamation point on the back-to-back championships with one of only two World Series ending winning walk-off home-runs in history (Bill Mazeroski has the other for the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates), a three run shot in the bottom of the 9th of Game 6.
Today, besides having his iconic celebratory image, leaping in joy after his blast, landing on the cover of Toronto native Drake’s 2015 hit single “Back to Back,” he is most in the news for his annual Joe Carter Classic Golf Tournament, entering its eight season, which benefits the Children’s Aid Foundation, a Canadian National Charity. The event has continued to grow in size and raised $340,000 as recently as 2015.
3 Juan Guzman: Toronto’s Good Luck Charm
Juan Guzman burst on to the scene by finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting in 1991 and by becoming Toronto’s best pitcher in 1992, earned his first All Star appearance. His 2.64 ERA that year, at the tender age of 25, would, however, be his career low, and his 221 innings in 1993 would be his career high. He would only have one season even as close as good as those two years over the rest of his 10 year career. While his baseball card might not be as impressive as others on this list however, the Juan Guzman of 1992 and 1993 was simply dominant and didn’t stop in the post-season, pitching to a 2.44 ERA over eight games.
Guzman, therefore, is always a welcome guest in Toronto, and was on the field at the Rogers Centre twice this year, first appearing with former teammate Pat Hentgen and other Jays great starters Dave Steib and, of course, Roy Halladay, on the field as part of the 40 year franchise celebration in August. He then made a dramatic return in Game 4 of the ALCS, throwing out the first pitch, and the Jays, of course, went on to win their only game of the series.
2 John Olerud: Washington State’s Past Star
John Olerud had a 17 year MLB career and amassed 2239 hits, but, in 1990, he was simply a guy without a position whom allowed the Blue Jays to trade Fred McGriff and simultaneously allow the #2 AND #1 guys on this list to emerge as Jays stars. Olerud, now the starting first baseman, had a decent year in 1992, but in '93, at the age of just 24, he had a career year, leading the league in batting average, on base percentage, and doubles. Olerud was, of course, famous for wearing a helmet on the field, a safety precaution after surviving surgery to remove a brain aneurysm which caused his sudden collapse while jogging in January of 1989.
Olerud’s MLB career may have been impressive, but earlier this year he had the honor of being named Pac-12 Baseball Player of the CENTURY for his collegiate career as a Washington State University first-baseman and pitcher. In July, his father, Dr. John E. Olerud, a catcher who helped take WSU to the 1965 College World Series himself, tossed the honorary first pitch to his son on “WSU Day” for the Seattle Mariners. Indeed, this was a big year for dad too, as that very night he received the George H.W. Bush Distinguished Alumnus Award for his work in dermatologist, particularly in studying wound healing.
1 Roberto Alomar: Toronto’s Most Visible Former Star
Roberto Alomar was Toronto’s best player over the 1992 and 1993 period. Alomar finished sixth in the MVP voting in both seasons, and made the All Star team both seasons as part of his record 12 straight appearances for a second baseman. He was the MVP of the 1992 ALCS, hitting .423, and would have won the World Series MVP too after hitting .480 if fellow Hall of Famer Paul Molitor hadn’t incredibly edged him out by hitting .500.
Alomar is still constantly in the news locally. He joined Mayor John Tory in raising a Blue Jays flag at Toronto City Hall before the start of this year’s playoffs. He is the chairman of Foundation 12, a Canadian charitable organizations that assists youth baseball players and runs Alomar Sports, a marketing company based in Toronto that specializes in celebrity athlete appearances. When Alomar entered the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, even though he only played for Toronto for five years out of a 17 year career, the veteran who frequently bounced around from team to team went in… wearing a Jays cap.
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