By Bob Elliott
At first glance it looked as if the Blue Jays were taking this rematch with the Texas Rangers as serious as a cowboy trying to hang on to Big Nasty buckin’ in a bull riding competition for a full eight seconds.
Seated in the second row behind the Jays dugout was none other than former reliever Jim Acker, of Freer, Tex.
Acker watched as the Rangers were took batting practice on their first trip into the Rogers Centre since the last fall’s Game 5 of the American League Division Series.
The Jays won thanks to a seventh inning which included the Rangers scoring a disputed run, roughly 1,921 beer cans tossed from the 500 level, three Rangers errors, a misplayed pop up, the benches emptying twice and finally a three-run, home run by Jose Bautista in the bottom half.
And a bat flip.
If Danny Darwin wasn’t available, Acker, who could spin a cap in his day, could restore order.
“Hey, I never hit anyone, a few pitches might have got away on me,” said Acker, 57, who stood to reveal he was wearing a shirt with a Blue Jays logo. He looked about 10 pounds heavier than his playing weight.
“When I pitcher here we had a blue shirt and a white shirt,” Acker said, “I walked into Jays Shop and it was like walking into a buffet.”
Acker hit 33 opposing hitters in 917 1/3 innings in his 10 years in the majors. With the Jays (1983-86, 1989-91) he plunked 25 in 281 innings, ranking him 14th in hit batters. Only A.J. Burnett hit more in less innings (29 in 522 1/3 innings).
The talk about knock downs and retaliation was in good fun. Mostly, the second row of Section 124 of the Rogers Centre was filled with pride and love.
“I want you to meet my daughter Avery Acker,” said proud papa.
We’d read a lot about Avery, the really athletic member of the Acker household. Avery played volleyball for the SMU Mustangs and was honored with the Presidential Award of Excellence, awarded to three graduating seniors each year. Avery, who flew into Toronto on the way home from New Zealand, earned a degree in accounting and minors in chemistry and biological sciences.
Putting up a 3.941 GPA, Avery graduated summa cum laude and earned academic All-American honors. And come fall Avery enters University of Texas Medical School at Houston hoping to become an orthopedic surgeon.
“I know,” said the father, former champion Outlaw Hunter in the great state of Texas, “sometimes greatness skips a generation. I asked Avery why she chose volleyball over softball?”
Said the 5-foot-9 Avery in a tone only daughters use usually after a bad Dad joke: “Because dad, I knew it was something that YOU knew NOTHING about.”
Wearing his SMU dad ball cap Acker said he and former Jay right-hander Doyle Alexander sat high in arenas and watched the matches. Alexander and Acker were locker mates with the Jays (1983-86).
The two will give their time to play Friday in a charity golf tournament at Fort Hood, Tex. the image of the two grumpy men in the balcony of a Muppet’s skit comes to mind.
“No, he didn’t yell at the ref, he yells at the girls like ‘HOW DID YOU MISS THAT SERVE?’” Avery said.
Avery attended Freer High, home of the Fightin’ Buckaroos, Acker used to give us the scores each Saturday after results were in from under the Friday Night Lights in Freer (pop: 2,783).
And he would add “Do or die ... for old Freer High.”
Acker had a sense of humour. After finding out my father had curled in the Brier he asked “what’s this dumb game on TV where they throw rocks on ice while two guys sweep snow in front to make it slow down?”
In high school, Avery switched to Poth, Tex. (Pop: 2,353) and then on to SMU, serving three years as captain. Her older brother, Jake Acker, 25, played ball for coach Craig McMurty, the former Jay, at Temple College.
Acker had not been in the building since the Jays lost Game 5 of the 1991 AL Championship Series to the Minnesota Twins, who scored six runs against Tom Candiotti, Mike Timlin and Duane Ward for an 8-5 win.
No one was hit that night.
And in the first of seven meetings between the two teams Ian Desmond was hit with an 81 mph curve ball from Jays reliever Gavin Floyd.
STRANGER RANGER MOMENTS: Before Game 5 in the ALDS the top three moments in the Texas-Blue Jays rivalry would be the spring that the Jays ran out of pitchers at Port Charlotte, a tie was declared and Rangers manager Bobby Valentine accused Jimy Williams of being afraid to play the Rangers ... Texas reliever Mike Loynd hitting Lloyd Moseby, who chased a backpedaling right-hander to near third base in 1987 before the pile stopped moving ... Nelson Liriano ending Nolan Ryan’s try for a no-hitter with one out in the ninth on April 23, 1989.
ON THE MOVE: Two of the Jays top evaluators -- Dana Brown, special assistant to the general manager and director of pro scouting Perry Minasian -- were spotted in Atlanta watching first baseman Will Benson leading up to the June draft. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound high schooler has signed a letter of intent to attend Duke University and is ranked 47th by Perfect Game Scouting Service. The Jays select 21st ... Blue Jays stadium officials had a trip to Cleveland’s Progressive Field scheduled to learn the way to do things from Indians staffers.