The Toronto Blue Jays are the only Canadian Team to play in the MLB, in the American League. The situation is similar to the Toronto Raptors in the NBA, who are the only Team representing Canada, along with their home town of Toronto. The baseball team also finds itself in a similar predicament, as they are the only baseball team in the American League. They represent all of Canada itself.
Named after the bird, the Blue Jays primarily wear a shade of blue in all of their outfits. Their primary colors include Royal Blue, Navy Blue, Red, and White.
1. Origins and the Home Stadium
The Toronto Blue Jays came into being in the year 1977, and are currently owned by Rogers Communications. The same company that acquired the SkyDome in 2004, and renamed it the Rogers Centre. Fittingly, the Blue Jays have been playing their home games in front of their native supporters at the Rogers Centre since it opened first as the SkyDome, back in 1989. Initially, though, their home games were played at the Exhibition Stadium since their inception in 1977.
Much like the Toronto Raptors in the NBA, they were not the only Canadian Team playing in an American League once upon a time. The Toronto Blue Jays were accompanied by the Montreal Expos in their representation of Canada. Still, the Expos were rebranded as the Washington Nationals in 2005, making the Toronto Blue Jays the only Team to be based in Canada.
2. Initial Struggles and Eventual Accolades
As is the case with a franchise that is newly developed, the Jays were faced with typical teething troubles in their first few years as a team. They usually finished last in the American League up until the fateful 1983 season, which saw the Toronto Blue Jays pick up some severe form. They had their first winning season in 1983 when they finished fourth under manager Bobby Cox.
Two years later, in the 1985 season, they won the division title for the first time and proceeded to embark on a long spell of good performances. Manager Bobby Cox was named the AL Manager of the Year during the so-called “Drive of ’85” During this time, the captured the division championship five times in nine seasons and making it three in a row during 1991-1993. The extent of their caliber was determined when they won the World Series Championship. Not just once, but twice in successive seasons in 1992 and 1993.
They were one of the best American League teams at the time, and are still to date, the only Team outside the United States to win the World Series Championship. They also have a fantastic record of going undefeated through the World Series Championship, having multiple appearances. A document that they share with the National League’s Miami based Team, Miami Marlins.
3. No-hitters by a Blue Jay
A no-hitter, or no-no as it is locally known as is a term used in baseball to describe a game where the Team that battled for nine innings were not able to register a single hit against the pitcher. As you can imagine, impressive feats like no-hitters are rare, and over the 100 years plus history of the MLB, only 303 no-hitters have been recorded.
In the Toronto Blue Jays, there has been only one no-hitter pitched in the history of the franchise. Dave Stieb pitched the only no-hitter of his career and the only no-hitter in the history of the Toronto Blue Jays’ franchise against the Cleveland Indians as they won the away game 3-0.
4. A Look into the Years of Glory
During the 1989 season of the Toronto Blue Jays, Cito Gaston was made manager. He was previously the hitting instructor of the Canadian Team. Under Gaston, the Jays would see changes to their lineup being established in 1990, as they acquired Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter in exchange for their players Tony Fernandez and Fred McGriff, who was sent to the San Diego Padres. Devon White was the last piece of the puzzles, as these acquisitions proved to be an essential step towards the victories that followed.
In 1991, the Jays won the division again. The postseason did not bode too well for them, as they lost to the Minnesota Twins, who went on to win the World Series Championship. After the 1991 season came to a conclusion, the Jays negotiated the signing of pitcher Jack Morris. He had recently been named the World Series MVP, and also added experience to their Team in the form of veteran Dave Winfield and made him the Team’s designated hitter.
A fascinating season followed in 1992, and many nail-biting finishes were played out during the season, but the Jays managed to become World Series Champions in 1992. The victory saw them become the first team to be based outside the United States to win the World Series, ever.
The following season in 1993 proved to be successful as well, and the Blue Jays managed to duplicate the accomplishments of the previous season as they won the World Series Championships again in 1993. New player Paul Molitor who was signed as a free agent, was named the World Series MVP for hitting a .500 in the series.
The Jays have had poor luck with their form in the seasons following their glorious 1993 season. They were locked out of the playoffs for 21 years but managed to break their dry spell in 2015 when they secured a playoff berth. They repeated their accomplishment in 2016 through an AL Wild Card Position. Surprisingly, in both 2015 and 2016, they won the AL Division Series but lost the American League Championship Series.
5. Fan Cultures and Traditions of the Blue Jays
No matter what sport you like, the fan culture is something special throughout the globe. Some would argue that the fans are the best part of sporting competitions in general. Their importance and impact in both outdoor and indoor sports have been felt profoundly due to the currently ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The fans of the Toronto Blue Jays have their own traditions and chants to support their Team. Around the seventh innings in games played at the Rogers Centre, you will find fans singing and clapping along to the song “OK Blue Jays” by Keith Hampshire and the Bat Boys. Fans at the stadium can also hear a version of the song being played sometime during the proceedings of the games.
During the home games of the Team, played at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, The Star-Spangled Banner is sung before O Canada as all the visiting teams are American. O Canada is sung in English and in French during home games. On the other hand, The Star-Spangled Banner is sung second during the away games of the Toronto Blue Jays as all of their away games are played in the United States. The tradition of singing the American National Anthem before the Canadian started back in 2005.
BJ Birdy was the Toronto Blue Jays’ original mascot since its formation all the way back in 1977 up until 1999. BJ Birdy was played by Kevin Shanahan throughout the character. In 2000, the long time mascot was replaced by a duo of birds known as Ace and Diamond. Ace became the lone mascot of the Blue Jays after Diamond was removed following the 2003 season. As of recently, Ace has been accompanied by his ‘younger brother’ known as Junior. Junior appears on select Saturday games known as Jr. Jay Saturday.
The Toronto Blue Jays are the only Canadian Team playing in the MLB, and since 2012, they have been honoring a member of the Canadian Armed Forces during Sunday games played at home at the Rogers Centre. The Team presents a personalized jersey to the member being accepted during the third innings.
Any league sporting league seems a lot more annoying if you cut out the high-intensity rivalries and the derby games that fans wait for throughout the season. Rivalries in sport can be found everywhere, within football, basketball, cricket, and of course, in baseball as well.
The Toronto Blue Jays have two main rivals now, but there was another, namely the Montreal Expos, who later relocated. They were the only other Team to represent Canada, so naturally, it made sense for the two Canadian outfits to have a “battle of Canada” themed showdown every time they met during the season.
The two main rivals of the Blue Jays that exist today are the Detroit Tigers and the Seattle Mariners. The rivalries are mainly based on a geographical reason, as both Detroit and Seattle are a four and three-hour drive from the Canadian border on average. A lot of Blue Jays fans take a long journey to go and support their teams during their road games in the United States as the drive is usually one that is not too long.
7. Notable Players and Records
Jack Morris, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Frank Thomas, Roy Halladay, Pat Gillick, Bobby Cox, Rickey Henderson, Phil Niekro, and Roberto Alomar have been given the honor of being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and are recognized for their careers with the Toronto Blue Jays. Roberto Alomar was the first-ever Blue Jay to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Team has retired his jersey number 12 to pay respect to Alomar.
The two other numbers retired by the Blue Jays are 32 and 42. Number 42 was retired all the way back in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson. The name has been withdrawn by each and every MLB team, and that is the reason why you won’t find any player with the 42 jersey number in baseball. And 32 was retired as recently as 2018 when Hall of Fame inductee Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in 2017.