blue jays mlb

The Toronto area has had a long association with professional baseball, and a team from the city was mooted as a major league prospect as early as the tail end of the 19th century. Despite this early interest, Toronto had to wait a little bit longer for a major league debut; almost a century in fact.

Bringing Major League Play to Toronto

There were the Maple Leafs, who played for over 70 years, but the Blue Jays heralded the real advent of major league baseball in Canada. The expansion of 1977 was the impetus for the creation of the Blue Jays. It was not a trouble-free beginning! The original scheme for a Toronto-based franchise was the brainchild of Horace Stoneham. In 1976, as the then owner of the Giants, Stoneham sought to sell the Giants to a group of Canadian interests, which would have seen the Giants move, again, and become the Toronto Giants. However, there was resistance to the move from some quarters, and in the face of determined legal opposition, the deal collapsed. The Giants stayed in San Francisco, and Toronto had to look elsewhere for a baseball franchise.
The city was keen to host MLB games, and the thorough overhaul of the Exhibition Stadium only whetted the civic appetite for baseball. 1976 saw the city be awarded the franchise and a similarly- composed consortium to that which had been involved with Horace Stoneham, purchased the franchise rights for seven million dollars. In today’s money, quite the bargain, but at the time, a degree of risk permeated the project, as does risk with all such ventures. The question on everyone’s lips was would it be worth it?

Flight of the Blue Jays

But first, the team needed a name, a contest was held, and the Blue Jays was selected as the winning name. The name worked on several points, not least the fact that Labatt Breweries signature beer was Labatt Blue; they did not miss that particular trick! Also, blue has long been the hue favored by Toronto’s top-echelon sports teams. So the name worked, it was chosen, along with Peter Bavasi as GM and Pat Gillick as his assistant. The first season beckoned, and the Blue Jays took flight.

blue jays
They were not an over-night success. Every expansion team must face those grim early days; the Blue Jays were no better than those other rookie teams. The end of the seventies and the early eighties were hard, hard times, with the new franchise usually ending up in the last spot. But things improved and in 1983, they saw their first winning season; 1985 saw them take the division title. For the next eight seasons, they were a dominating force in the eastern American League, taking no less than five championships in just nine years. Impressive stuff; and these glory years were made golden by consecutive World Series victories in ‘92-93.
After the feast, there came the famine. After the ’93 season, the team did not qualify for the playoffs in over two decades. It was a tough time but the fans dug deep, and their loyalty was rewarded. For two seasons they qualified for post-season play, and while not going back to the glory of the early 90s, it is success nonetheless. And for this season? Things are looking up, and with the fans behind them, who knows where they will go?


Also published on Medium.