Monday, January 08, 2007

Take Me Out...

I'm a fan of the Toronto Blue Jays. I remember going to games with my dad when I was a kid at the old "Mistake by the Lake" Exhibition Stadium. I'd get cool things like a Blue Jays digital watch just for being under 14! I almost caught a George Bell foul ball when it ricocheted off a pole and flew backwards into the most impossible place in the stadium to hit a ball... and the fat woman next to me who had JUST sat down in the 6th inning caught it instead of me. I remember not knowing who any of the players were and not even being quite sure how the whole thing worked. Why didn't we get to stay for the whole 9th inning just because the home team was already winning? I lost interest during the baseball strike (and was angry that the Expos were robbed of their playoff glory), but in the past few years my interest has returned. There's a lot to like in this team.

I think my favourite Jay of all time was Tony Fernandez. It didn't take long for me to like the guy... he was amazing on the field, and seemed to ALWAYS get a hit. Sure, Fred McGriff or George Bell could hit them further, but Tony was almost a sure thing to be on base. How many guys hit 17 triples in one season? I was sad when he got traded along with McGriff for two guys named Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar, and I was thrilled when he came back in '93 (Alomar and Fernandez up the middle.... wow). He was nuts to leave after that season, and the two more times he came back made me smile.

Strangely enough, for all the great double-plays, all the clutch hits, the '93 playoffs... my best memory is at the end. September 4th, 2001 vs the Yankees at the Skydome. Day after Labour day, and I'm in the 200 club seats behind home plate with my brother. Jays are up 8 or 9 to naught in the 7th inning. Tony's on his retirement tour, and gets subbed in DH for Shannon Stewart. The tiny crowd (couldn't have been more than 20,000 in a stadium that seats 55,000) starts cheering as Tony's name is called, with the bases loaded and 1 out. I yell "HIT IT OUT ONE MORE TIME TONY!" He hadn't hit anything out of the park in the time he's been there this season as a pinch hitter, and he's never been a home-run hitter. Next pitch... swing.. crack.. and THERE. SHE. GOES!! GRAND SLAM TONY FERNANDEZ! The crowd goes absolutely NUTS!! If you closed your eyes you'd swear there were 60,000 people and the Jays just won their 3rd World Series in the bottom of the 9th with 2 out and 2 strikes. A more meaningless and meaningful grand slam could not have been hit. The Jays went on to win 14-0, but all that mattered was that Tony got yet another moment of glory.

17 years, 2158 games, 7911 at-bats, 2276 hits, 1057 runs, 414 doubles, 92 triples, 94 home runs, 3 grand slams, 844 RBIs, 690 walks, 784 strike-outs, .288 career average, .347 on base percentage, .399 slugging percentage... and he's on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time this year. Cal Ripken Jr. and Mark McGwire are also there, and Alan Trammell is trying for the 6th time. Tony doesn't need the Hall of Fame, but I sure as hell would like to see him there.

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