Some significant 40's as Blue Jays approach season 40

By: Bob Elliott

The game is all about numbers.

And this being the 40th season of Your Blue Jays we thought we should tell you a little about the number.

This isn’t about the 40 greatest players or the 40 best games. This is real easy stuff: it’s all about the number ... 40.

On that first opening day 40 seasons ago on April 7, 1977 at Exhibition Stadium:

The 40th hitter of the game Eric Soderholm flew out to left fielder John Scott to end the fourth inning with the score tied 4-4. If you could make out the pixels on the scoreboard in right field the Chicago White Sox had four runs and had made zero errors (4-4-0). Scott went on to hit .240 in 79 games for the Jays.

June 22, 1977.

The Jays lost for the 40th time in franchise history by a 7-5 score in 12 innings to the Cleveland Indians at Exhibition Stadium before 29,750. Jerry Johnson took the loss as the Jays fell to 24-40 the Indians scoring a pair on three walks and two singles against Johnson and Tom Bruno. Johnson wore uniform No. 44, after wearing No. 40 the previous two seasons with the San Diego Padres. Jim Norris drove in the winning run in one of the 440 at-bats he had that season. Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley worked 8 1/3 innings allowing five runs -- three earned -- for the Indians.

Aug. 14, 1977.

The Jays 40th win of the season was a 6-3 decision over the Kansas City Royals and Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog and third baseman George Brett thanks to six runs in the eighth. 

Dennis Leonard took a 3-0 lead into the eighth, walked the first two men and then the parade began thanks to a Dave McKay double, a Steve Staggs grounder, a Roy Howell single, an Otto Velez fly ball and a Sam Ewing double. When Leonard’s day was done he had allowed five runs in seven innings and had a 3.40 ERA. 

April 7, 1978.

The 40th player in franchise history didn’t appear in Year 1 as the Jays only used 36 players. New Jays in the lineup opening day in the top of the first in 1978 at Tiger Stadium were lead-off man Rick Bosetti (No. 37 all-time), DH Rico Carty (38th), first baseman John Mayberry (39th) and No. 40 was right fielder Tommy Hutton. Hutton made 24 starts in right that year. 

Mark Fidrych pitched a complete game win in a 6-2 Tigers verdict, as Hutton singled and knocked in a run.  

Oct. 3, 1986.

Leading off the bottom of the seventh, right fielder Jesse Barfield hit a liner over the right field fence against Milwaukee’s Bill Wegman for his 40th homer at Exhibition Stadium.

Barfield became the first Blue Jay to reach the 40-homer plateau. Barfield predicted 50 homers the next spring and finished with 28. He had 18 in 1988 ... some of which were dubbed ‘Barfield-ian’ home runs, which came with a what seemed like a five or six-run difference. 

Yet, this drive cut the Milwaukee lead to 3-1. Dan Plesac came on for the save as the Brewers won 4-1. 

May 27, 1988

Juan Beniquez pinch hit for Rick Leach singling in Fred McGriff with the tying run against Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen in the bottom of the ninth at Exhibition Stadium. After a walk to Lloyd Moseby, Nelson Liriano singled home Beniquez for a 4-3 win. Five at-bats later, Beniquez was released May 30.

The base hit was the 40th of Beniquez’s 66-game career with the Jays -- he was hitless in eight at-bats during the 1987 Meltdown in Motown.

The other player to finish with exactly 40 hits as a Jay was Steve Bowling in 1977.  

June 3, 1993.

Only once in their 40-year history have the Jays had the 40th overall pick. Scouting director Bob Engle selected lefty Jeremy Lee from Galesburg Ill. High Silver Streaks. 

Jim Sundberg, the Kansas City Royals catcher, who tripled off Dave Stieb in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series at Exhibition Stadium was the only major leaguer Galesburg produced at the time. And he’s still the only major leaguer. 

The Jays were given a supplemental pick for loss of free agent Tom Henke, who signed with the Texas Rangers as the Jays turned the closer’s duties over to Duane Ward. 

Lee pitched six seasons in the Jays system peaking at double-A Knoxville.

That June the Jays also selected right-hander Chris Carpenter (15th) and Mark Lukasiewicz (41st) who made the majors and outfielder Matt Farner (37th) who did not.

Toronto chose Lee ahead of second-round picks Scott Rolen a high schooler selected by the Philadelphia Phillies, right-hander Jeff Suppan, an Encino, Calif. high schooler who went to the Boston Red Sox and outfielder Chris Singleton, selected by the San Francisco Giants from University of Nevada-Reno.

July 23, 1997

Right fielder Orlando Merced walked with the bases loaded facing Milwaukee Brewers Jamie McAndrew to give the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead at the SkyDome. That was enough for Roger Clemens, who pitched eight scoreless in an 8-0 win over the Brewers.

The RBI was Merced’s 40th in his 98 games with the Jays. The year before at the GM’s meetings the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Jays completed a nine-player deal. The Jays acquired Carlos Garcia, Dan Plesac and Merced for minor leaguers Jose Silva, Abraham Nunez, Craig Wilson, Brandon Cromer, Jose Pett and Mike Halperin.

The Jays thought they had picked up two everyday players. Merced made 95 starts and Garcia 93. Plesac was the best addition.   

The only other player to knock in 40 runs as a Jay was Doug Rader in 1977. Rader went on to manage the Texas Rangers where he dispatched Henke to the minors and the California Angels where he did the same with centre fielder Devon White. Rader should have been given World Series shares by the Jays. 

Sept. 9, 2003

Tanyon Sturtze popped up Adam Piatt for the final out of the eighth inning as the Blue Jays lost 11-6 to the Tampa Bay Rays. It was Sturtze’s 40th and final game in his one season for the Blue Jays.

The other Jays with exactly 40 career games played were reliever Peter Munro (1999-2000), infielder Alexis Infante (1987-1989) and outfielder Leon Roberts (1982).

Oct. 1, 2005

Right-hander Dave Bush started against the 100-loss Royals in Game 161 of the season at Rogers Centre. Bush pitched five innings in his 40th start with the Jays allowing three runs on five hits leaving trailing 3-0.

Guillermo Quiroz, Reed Johnson and Frank Catalanotto knocked in the key runs in a six-run seventh to take the lead.

Justin Huber and Andres Blanco knocked in runs against Jason Frasor pinning the loss on current Jays pitching coach Pete Walker. 

June 23, 2007

Ty Taubenheim walked Colorado Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins and right fielder Brad Hawpe to open the sixth inning at the Rogers Centre.

And he was gone, lifted by manager John Gibbons for Brian Wolfe, good ol’ No. 40. The Rockies tied the score but Vernon Wells, Matt Stairs, John McDonald, Adam Lind and Gregg Zaun knocked in runs for an 11-6 win. Troy Tulowitzki tagged Taubenheim for a solo homer in the second for the Rockies first run.

to cut the Jays lead to 3-1. 

That was Taubenheim’s final pitch as a Jay and he finished with 40 career innings. 

July 28, 2011

Reliever P.J. Walters induced a not-so-routine double play ending the sixth. Baltimore Orioles Robert Andino popped to first baseman Adam Lind who threw to first with Walters covering doubling Nolan Reimold off first. 

And with that, Walters, wearing No. 40 walked off the mound with an 8-4 lead over the Orioles, the final player to wear the number. The Jays won 8-5 with Carlos Villanueva getting the win as Edwin Encarnacion and Eric Thames each homered.

Mike Timlin was the busiest to wear No. 40 for the Jays. Timlin (1991-1997) appeared in 305 games going 23-22 with 52 saves, a 3.62 ERA and pitching 393 1/3 innings. His only save in 1992 came when fielded Otis Nixon’s bunt for the final out of the 1992 World Series. 

The other No. 40s, the years they wore the number and the games they played (they may have worn other numbers in subsequent years):

David Cooper (2011, 40 games), Brian Wolfe (2007-2009, 72), Dustin McGowan (2005-2007, 56), Scott Cassidy (2002, 58), Kevin Beirne (2001, five), Matt DeWitt (2000, eight), Eric Ludwick (1999, one), Paul Spoljaric (1999, 37), Carlos Almanzar (1997-1998, 29), Bud Black (1990, three), Mark Whiten (1990, 33), Doug Bair (1988, 10), Rob Ducey (1987-1988, 61), Mickey Mahler (1986, two), Jackson Todd (1980-1981, 45), Mark Lemongello (1979, 18) and Joe Coleman (1978, 31).

Sept. 30, 2015, Camden Yards

The Jays were leading 10-1, the champagne was chilling when Jose Bautista stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth. He tagged a 3-2 pitch from Jorge Rondon for a line drive homer to deep left-centre.

The Jays went on to win 15-2 and clinch their first AL East title since 1993.

Baustista’s homer was his 40th of the regular season ... but not his last of the final season. 

Oct. 2, 2015

Mark Buehrle won his 40th game in a Blue Jays uniform at Tropicana Field putting the Jays into a tie with the Kansas City Royals (93 wins each, with the tie breaker going to the Jays). was right in the AL race for home field advantage.

The next night Roberto Osuna faced six men, retired two and Tampa Bay had a walk-off win. 

The only other Jays pitcher with exactly 40 wins is Brett Cecil, who registered his final win Sept. 28 in Baltimore.

April 3, 2016

The Blue Jays 40th season begins.

Back in the days of typewriters we were taught to type - 30 - at the end of a story so the desker didn’t go looking for a missing page. In this case:

- 40 -


EXPERT HELP: We asked Randy Robles of the Elias Sports Bureau to come up with a few of his favorite 40s on the eve of the Blue Jays 40th season. The former St. Catharines resident came up with these:

_ Number of playoff games played by the Jays since 1990 (40).

_ Number of pitchers who have won at least 25 game for the Jays (40).                          

_ Number of wins for Juan Guzman over his first three seasons (40-11).

_ Number of times a Blue Jay has hit MORE THAN 30 HR in a season (40).

_ Number of times the Blue Jays have beaten the Red Sox over the last four years (40).

_ The Blue Jays second series with the Yankees this season will commence 40 days after the conclusion of the first.