Reed Johnson clubs a game-winner
2003 was a good year for the Blue Jays. An 86-76 record fueled the optimism buzzing around the city of Toronto, giving fans reason to buy into General Manager JP Ricciardi’s five year plan for contention. The past season was filled with great moments, some bad times, and the Jays looked to build from their experiences. Here we present a run down of the top 10 moments, in order, from last year.
10: The SARS Sellout Game
In an effort to boost attendance, and morale in the city, the Jays parent company Rogers Inc. purchased every available ticket in SkyDome for a game in May against the Texas Rangers, and sold them to fans for $1 each. The announced attendance was 48,097 and the tickets sold at a rate of 2,000 an hour. It was a great night to be at the Dome, it was packed and the atmosphere was superb. Unfortunately, A-Rod and the Rangers left the game with the victory, but it was a great night nonetheless.
9: Hendrickson Goes Yard
Former Blue Jay Mark Hendrickson will go down in the Jays franchise record book for two honours. He’s the tallest player to ever suit up for the team at 6 feet 9 inches, and he became the first pitcher in club history to ever hit a home run. In an inter-league match up against the Montreal Expos, Hendrickson took Sun Woo Kim over the right field fence.
8: “The Catch” by Bobby Kielty
In what looked like a sure homerun off the bat of Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon, Bobby Kielty made one of the greatest plays ever witnessed by many. Damon drove the ball to deep right field, where Kielty completely flung his body over the fence, managing barely to hang on as his entire upper body was into the bullpen. He made what many describe as a miraculous play while the Red Sox relievers looked on in awe.
7: Offensive Onslaught in KC
Easily the Jays biggest burst of offense came on a wet Friday night in August against the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Birds exploded for 18 runs on 22 hits against a young Royals staff. Chris Woodward all drove in 2 runs each. It was not pretty to watch, if you’re a Royals fan.
6: Greg Myers’ Inside the Park Home Run
Greg Myers was really one of the nicest stories on the Jays. A former Blue Jay, he returned last year and had a marvelous season. One of the more humorous moments of the season was when Myers stroked an innocent-looking base hit into center field. The Orioles’ fielder ran in too far on the ball, and it caromed off the SkyDome’s Astroturf over his head, rolling all the way to the fence. While Raines lazily retrieved the ball, “Crash” managed to make his way all the way around the diamond – almost tripping over third base in the process. He became the second Jays catcher in two years to hit an inside the park home run (Ken Huckaby did it in 2002).
5: Jays Finally Sweep the Yanks
In what seems like an impossible statistic, the Blue Jays had never swept the Yankees in a four game series. Last May, the Jays finally did it, beating the Yankees in all four games of the series. And they did it in Yankee Stadium! In one of the more surprising games of the season, Mark Hendrickson pitched a complete game shutout in Yankee Stadium. The game was rained out in the eighth inning, but Hendrickson still shut out the Yankees for seven straight innings. It was truly a memorable weekend for Blue Jays followers.
4: Johnson Leads it Off, and Finishes it Off
On a hot Sunday afternoon in July, which also happened to be Father’s Day, with the Blue Jays in their alternate blue jerseys, Kerry Wood deep, and then capped it off by hitting a game-winning, walk off home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning. Seeing Johnson get swamped by his ecstatic team-mates at home plate was a joy to watch, knowing Johnson is the first Blue Jay to ever lead off, and end a game, with a home run. It was quite a feat.
3: What a Comeback!
Going into the bottom of the ninth inning down 9-4, not many people are predicting a comeback. But the Jays did exactly that, using a six run rally in the ninth to come away with a 10-9 victory against the Kansas City Royals at SkyDome. Toronto trailed 8-1 before scoring one run in the seventh and two in the eighth. Mike Bordick's single tied it, and the winning run scored on an error by Royals shortstop Angel Berroa.
Shannon Stewart's RBI double in the seventh pulled Toronto to 8-2, Josh Phelps' RBI double and pinch-hitter Greg Myers' run-scoring single made it 8-4 in the eighth. Toronto then opened the bottom half of the ninth with singles by Stewart and Frank Catalanotto off Ryan Buckvich and a walk by Vernon Wells that loaded the bases. Delgado's RBI grounder and Phelps' two-run double made it 9-7. MacDougal, who had been 9-for-9 in save chances, then allowed a double to Dave Berg that pulled the Blue Jays within a run. Bordick followed with a single that tied the score, and Stewart hit an a grounder to Berroa, whose throw to second base sailed past Relaford, allowing Berg to score.
While many had already left the SkyDome in disgust, those who stuck it out and stayed were treated to quite a show. It goes to show, it’s never over ‘til it’s over.
2: Halladay Tosses 10 Inning Shutout
Roy Halladay's 10-inning shutout of the Detroit Tigers was the first in the Majors since Minnesota's Jack Morris accomplished the feat in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. “Doc” came close to his first career no-hitter and pitched 10 shutout innings as the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Tigers 1-0. Halladay didn't allow a hit until pinch-hitter and former Toronto prospect Kevin Witt doubled off the centre-field wall with two out in the eighth inning. Halladay allowed three hits in total, all singles. He struck out five, walked one and hit a batter.
The last Blue Jays starter to pitch 10 innings was John Cerutti, who went 10 innings against California. Halladay flirted with a no-hitter as a rookie against Detroit in the last game of the 1998 season, but lost it with two out in the ninth when outfielder Bobby Higginson hit a solo home run. It was the only hit Halladay allowed in a 2-1 complete game victory.
1: Delgado Jacks Four
Carlos Delgado connected in all four of his at-bats against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, leading the Blue Jays over Tampa Bay 10-8. His first homer of the game also happened to be the 300th of his career.
Delgado was the first player to homer four times in a game since former Toronto teammate Shawn Green did it for Los Angeles. Delgado's record-tying shot came leading off the eighth inning, a long drive to center field that tied the game at 8.Delgado flipped his bat and his teammates threw up their arms when he connected on a 2-2 pitch from Lance Carter to match the mark. It was quite an exciting outburst from a very excitable player.
Once Delgado returned to the dugout, he took off his helmet and acknowledged the cheers from the crowd at SkyDome. It was a shame a small crowd was in attendance, because it was a special day in baseball history. Delgado became just the sixth player ever to hit four home runs in four straight at bats in one game.