Ol’ Jimy One M and the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays

1988 Topps - Jimy Williams
1988 Topps – Jimy Williams

On this date in baseball history, May 15, 1989, the Toronto Blue Jays fired their manager, Jimy “One M” Williams, replacing him with hitting coach Cito Gaston.

You might recall that the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays were 12-24 at the time of Williams’ firing. That didn’t put them in last place, because the Detroit Tigers were in the division, and they were awful, but it put them pretty close.

You might also recall that the Blue Jays won the 1989 AL East title by going 77-49 the rest of the way. Sure, they got thumped by Jose Canseco and the Oakland A’s in the ALCS, but just getting there was impressive after a start like that.

Ol’ Jimy One M went on to a pretty successful career as a coach and manager in the majors. Although he was also fired mid-season by the other two teams he managed, the Boston Red Sox (2001), and the Houston Astros (2004), his career record as a manager is 910-790, a .535 winning percentage.

He did win the 1999 AL Manager of the Year award with Boston, and was the bench coach for the Philadelphia Phillies when they won the World Series in 2008.

No explanation has ever been given for why he only had one “m” in his first name.

George Bell, Josh Donaldson, MVP’s, and Purple Butts

Today, Josh Donaldson was named the American League Most Valuable Player, making him the first Toronto Blue Jay to win the award since George Bell in 1987. I decided to share a few quick facts about each of these great players, to help give us all a better understanding of two of the most significant players in team history.

There are some similarities, some differences, but overall, you’ve got some dudes that can do baseball things really well and cause some shit at the same time.

1987 Fleer - George Bell
1987 Fleer – George Bell

George Bell, 1987 AL MVP:

1. Was called Jorge Bell until about 1985.
2. Feuded mightily with Jimy “One M” Williams when the manager tried to make him a Designated Hitter against his will.
3. Apparently had a purple butt that he wanted fans to kiss.
4. Was a 5.0 WAR player in 1987, his AL MVP year.
5. Stolen from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 Rule 5 Draft

2015 Topps - Josh Donaldson
2015 Topps – Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson, 2015 AL MVP:

1. Played the majority of his games at catcher until 2011
2. Became a legend when he said, “this isn’t the try league, this is the get it done league. Eventually, they’re gonna find people who’ll get it done.”
3. Apparently wanted the Anaheim California Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or whatever they’re called, to suck his cock.
4. Was an 8.8 WAR player in 2015, his (first) AL MVP year.
5. Stolen from the Oakland Athletics for a Canadian fellow with a lot of tattoos and some other stuff.

There, now you know.

Mike Krushelnyski, Cartoon Airbrushing and a Simpler Time

8889OPC-MikeKrushelnyski
1988-89 O-Pee-Chee – Mike Krushelnyski

Cards like this beauty of Mike Krushelnyski bring me back to a simpler time. A time when we knew which photos were altered and which ones weren’t. Things are a lot more complicated, photo-wise, now. Just go on the Internet and look for anything, you’ll understand.

In 1988, there was no Photoshop, and I think the public was generally assumed to be pretty dumb, which is in large part why O-Pee-Chee was able to get away with this. 

A lot of times they stuck to head and shoulder photos for their airbrushing “magic,” so you might not notice what they’d done right away – like with Jimmy Carson below. But with Krushelnyski, they basically made him into a cartoon. I know they wanted to show off the fancy new Kings jerseys, but this might not have been the best approach. 

1988-89 O-Pee-Chee - Jimmy Carson
1988-89 O-Pee-Chee – Jimmy Carson

That said, if you’re looking for me, I’m going to be in the basement, airbrushing old pictures.

Knocking Hockey Hall of Famers Down a Peg or Two

There’s a lot of talk today about the class of 2015 being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame tonight. And sure, it’s a great group. Among NHL stars Sergei Fedorov, Phil Housley, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Chris Pronger, there is US National Team star Angela Ruggiero as well as builders Peter Karmanos and Bill Hay.

All are clearly deserving inductees, but I’m not here for that. I’m here to knock them down a peg or two.

1997-98 Score - Sergei Fedorov
1997-98 Score – Sergei Fedorov

Sergei Fedorov: I’m not sure celebrating a Stanley Cup win with the Detroit Red Wings is reason enough for that shirt, and those pants, even if it was their first title in 42 years. Hall of Famer yes, Fashion Icon no.

1992-93 Score - Phil Housley
1992-93 Score – Phil Housley

Phil Housley: The Gretzky Jofa is a legendary classic. The one that Housley sports here, even on his way to 97 points, was a disgrace to the game. You can be better, Phil.

1991-92 7th Inning Sketch - Chris Pronger
1991-92 7th Inning Sketch – Chris Pronger

Chris Pronger: Someone on the Peterborough Petes’ staff was clearly angry at Chris in 1991-92, which is why they gave him the biggest helmet and visor combo they could find, like ever. Tough to make a 6-6 guy look tiny, but they found a way.

1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Nicklas Lidstrom
1991-92 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Nicklas Lidstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom: I actually don’t think it’s possible to make fun of Nicklas Lidstrom. I’m not even mad at him for being Swedish, or playing for the Empire of Evil in Detroit his whole career. Let’s just appreciate this Red Wings retro jersey from before the time when retro jerseys were cool.

Congratulations to the inductees.

Now, If only this baseball superstar, Canada’s Bo Jackson, was going into the Hockey Hall of Fame too:

1990 Score - Eric Lindros
1990 Score – Eric Lindros

Joe Torre, Playoff Droughts and Being Uncomfortable on Photo Day

1981 Fleer - Joe Torre
1981 Fleer – Joe Torre

With Game 5 of the World Series going tonight at Citi “I Wish They Still Called It Shea Stadium” Field, I thought I’d talk about the Mets a little. And in this case, someone that a lot of people forget was a Met for a while.

Joe Torre, who looks wildly uncomfortable here on 1981 Fleer cardboard, transitioned directly from being a player with the Mets (1975-77) to being a manager, and actually spent 18 days as a player-manager before retiring as a player. I think Joe’s discomfort on photo day that year comes from the fact that he knew he’d end up being a legendary Yankee manager someday, and the Mets uniform felt unnatural. I don’t even like the Yankees and I know that’s probably a cold hard fact.

Torre actually played the sixth most games in baseball history without ever making it to the playoffs, and then managed another 1,901 with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals before finally being part of a playoff team with the Yankees in 1996, when they won their first World Series in 18 years. That’s over 4,100 Major League Baseball games before getting to the playoffs even once. That’s the equivalent of over 25 seasons. 

If that doesn’t give you hope, you’re probably a Cubs fan.

Doug Jones: Closer, All-Star, Moustache.

1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier - Doug Jones
1992 O-Pee-Chee Premier – Doug Jones

There is a lot of 1992 to discuss here. I’ll start with the moustache. Thick and rich, getting in the way of food and drink… that’s what a real man’s moustache is supposed to look like. I’m told that he looks “like a vacuum cleaner.” I had to have that one explained to me, but think about it, it kinda makes sense. It would literally take me 17 years to grow anything close to that.

There are also the sunglasses. If you were into baseball in the early 1990’s and you didn’t want a pair of sunglasses like those, I’ll bet you didn’t even care about life. The strap on the sunglasses, you’ll notice, holds them securely in place while a glorious mullet is allowed to flourish. The sunglasses were for the business, and the flow was for the party.

Along with great fashion sense, Doug Jones was actually one of the best closers in baseball for a time, a five-time All-Star, and finished his career with 303 saves, playing for seven teams, most notably Cleveland, Houston and Milwaukee.

The card above (O-Pee-Chee Premier… classy) shows him when he was about to have the best season of his career with Houston in 1992, after his worst season with Cleveland in 1991. He had lost his closer’s job and got sent to the minors for a bit. But then he came back in September, started the only four games of his career, and was pretty decent (3-1 record) before being released and signing with the Astros in the offseason.

He also pitched in the Major Leagues until he was 43 years old. Could he have done that sans moustache? I doubt it.

Winfield Wanted Noise, Edwin Wants Calm: The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays

1989 Fleer - Toronto Blue Jays
1989 Fleer – Toronto Blue Jays

That was fun, wasn’t it?

The 2015 Toronto Blue Jays took us on a ride that we haven’t experienced as Blue Jays fans – or Toronto sports fans in general – in a long time. Way too long, really. Even though some of us had grown up with some decent teams in Toronto, 1993 was a generation ago now, and our kids will see 1993 like we saw 1967 – except standard definition rather than black and white.

I’m not even sure we knew how to handle it anymore, all the stress and anxiety, the scheduling conflicts with our real lives and forced conversations with bandwagon jumpers in our social circles, but I think we’ve learned that winning is something we can get used to again as adults.

2015 sure didn’t start the way we wanted, when Marcus Stroman came down off that mound in Dunedin and tore his ACL. He said he’d pitch again this year, but we didn’t really believe him. It all looked lost from the start.

The season didn’t end the way we wanted, either, because by the time they’d made it to the playoffs, we’d decided that wasn’t enough. We wanted it all. Six games in the ALCS wasn’t a World Series title, and we wanted that.

But, you can’t always get what you want, they say, and the part between the beginning and the end sure was a lot of fun. When the sting of the loss to Kansas City fades, we’ll look back on 2015 with a lot of pride.

Above all else, even when we’ve forgotten all the details, there will always be Jose Bautista’s bat flipping, pitcher-staring, beer-throwing ridiculousness against Texas in the ALDS. Dave Bidini put it absolutely perfectly on his one45everyday site about how that moment was the one Toronto needed when he said this:

“Toronto hasn’t had many Jose’s. We’ve had gentle Mats Sundin and salt of the earth Wendel and the Robbie Alomar’s wattage. We’ve had wordless Roy Halliday and good guy Tim Horton and the ghost of Dave Keon. We’ve never had an angry vengeful superstar; at least no one as angry or jilted as Jose Bautista is and will be evermore.”

2015 Topps Heritage - Jose Bautista
2015 Topps Heritage – Jose Bautista

He’s completely right. That’s the face of this team, and that’s who we are now. We’re going to be the team that nobody likes. We’re not the feel-good Chicago Cubs or the everyman Kansas City Royals. We’re arrogant and angry and obnoxious, we yell a lot and wear our blue hats everywhere we travel with this team. We need to stop throwing stuff on our plastic grass field, but we know that now. In 1992, Winfield wanted noise, but in 2015, Edwin told us to calm down. It’s different here now. Toronto the Good maybe still, but also Toronto the Rowdy.

It sure does suck at the moment, though, right? It doesn’t feel good to lose, although you’d think we’d be used to it by now. But at the end of the day, when you really think about it, 2015 was absolutely good enough, for the Toronto Blue Jays, and us as their fans. But it was only good enough if there is more to come. There has to be more to come. 2015 can’t just be a blip on the radar. It has to be the start of some consistent winning.

Sure, it’s a bit sappy, but I’m going to close with a quote by Tom Boswell from Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary – because really, let’s be honest. I’m just going to miss watching these guys play.

“I’ve always thought that the six months during the baseball season, there was something in the day that wasn’t there the other six months in winter. It was not that you had to listen to the game, but that you could if you needed it.”

Apparently there’s a hockey season starting now. I’m going to try to get excited about it until pitchers and catchers report in February.