1977 Toronto Blue Jays season
The 1977 Toronto Blue Jays season was the first year of Major League Baseball played by the Toronto-based expansion franchise. The Blue Jays finished seventh in the American League East with a record of 54 wins and 107 losses, 45½ games behind the World Champion New York Yankees.
|1977 Toronto Blue Jays|
|Major League affiliations|
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce
|General manager(s)||Peter Bavasi|
|Local television||CBC Television|
(Don Chevrier, Tony Kubek, Tom McKee)
(Early Wynn, Tom Cheek)
|Next season >|
- October 21, 1976: The Blue Jays traded a player to be named later to the Chicago White Sox for Phil Roof. The Blue Jays completed the deal by sending Larry Anderson to the White Sox on January 5, 1977.
- November 5, 1976: 1976 Major League Baseball expansion draft
- November 5, 1976: Al Fitzmorris was traded by the Blue Jays to the Cleveland Indians for Alan Ashby and Doug Howard.
- November 5, 1976: Chuck Hartenstein was purchased by the Blue Jays from the San Diego Padres.
- December 6, 1976: Rico Carty was traded by the Blue Jays to the Cleveland Indians for Rick Cerone and John Lowenstein.
- February 17, 1977: Dave Roberts was traded by the Blue Jays to the San Diego Padres for Jerry Johnson.
- February 24, 1977: Mike Weathers (minors) was traded by the Blue Jays to the Oakland Athletics for Ron Fairly.
- March 29, 1977: John Lowenstein was traded by the Blue Jays to the Cleveland Indians for Héctor Torres.
The Blue Jays spring training was held in Dunedin, Florida. In their first pre-season game on March 11, the Jays beat the New York Mets by a score of 3–1. The first two times that they played the Montreal Expos, the Jays were triumphant as well. Perhaps the highlight of spring training was a match against the Cincinnati Reds. The Blue Jays defeated the defending World Series champions as the Reds were missing only one regular starter from their lineup. After spring training, the Blue Jays 25-man roster was set. Ron Fairly, who had previously played for the Montreal Expos, was one of the most recognizable players on the nascent team. The only marquee name was Bill Singer. Pat Gillick had a deal with the New York Yankees to trade Singer for a promising, young left-hander named Ron Guidry. Blue Jays president Peter Bavasi vetoed the deal as Singer was part of his plan to market and promote the team.
The first gameEdit
On April 7, 1977, 44,649 fans were in attendance to watch the first game in Toronto Blue Jays franchise history as the squad played the Chicago White Sox. Notables in attendance that day included Paul Godfrey, Toronto mayor David Crombie, legendary broadcaster Foster Hewitt, and country singer Anne Murray. Besides the snow that adorned the field, there were hundreds of fans who missed the first pitch due to many traffic jams that day.
The umpires for the game included crew chief Nestor Chylak, Joe Brinkman, Rich Garcia, and 27-year-old Steve Palermo, who was making his major league debut. The game was broadcast on the CBC with Tom McKee (host), Don Chevrier (play by play) and New York Yankee legend Whitey Ford providing the commentary. McKee was the first ever face, and voice, to appear on the inaugural Blue Jays telecast. The Blue Jays would only appear on the CBC sixteen times that first season.
As the snow was squeegeed off the field (via Zamboni loaned to them by the Toronto Maple Leafs), the 48th Highlanders marched onto the field to perform the Star Spangled Banner. Canadian country music star Murray arrived to sing O Canada while wearing a red parka.
The fans chanted "We want beer", because Toronto's Exhibition Stadium was the only stadium in the major leagues to not serve beer.
Bill Singer took to the mound and threw the first pitch in Toronto Blue Jays history against Ralph Garr of the White Sox. The pitch was a high fastball called for a strike. From an 0–2 count, Garr battled back to get the count to 3–2, then drew a walk. Afterwards, Garr stole second base, and advanced to third base when Blue Jays catcher Rick Cerone's throw went into center field. The next batter was shortstop Alan Bannister who hit a fly ball for the first out of the game. Jorge Orta batted third and he hit a sacrifice fly which scored Garr, the first run at Exhibition Stadium. Richie Zisk followed and hit the first home run in the history of the stadium. The score was now 2–0 in favour of the White Sox.
Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield went to the mound to talk to Singer. As Hartsfield went to the mound, reliever Jerry Johnson started warming up in the bullpen. Singer was able to compose himself and he got Eric Soderholm to hit into a fielder's choice to end the inning.
John Scott was the first Blue Jay to take an at bat for the team. He faced White Sox pitcher Ken Brett, taking a strike on the first pitch thrown to him. He struck out, as did the next Jays batter, Héctor Torres.
The third Blue Jays batter into the game was Doug Ault, a 27 year old career minor leaguer with only nine games experience in the major leagues who had been the Blue Jays' sixteenth pick in the expansion draft. On a 1–1 pitch, Ault hit the first home run in Blue Jays history. The score was now 2–1 in favour of Chicago.
In the third inning, Torres had a single and Ault was back at the plate. With the count 1–1, Ault hit his second home run down the right field line, and the game was tied at 4 runs apiece. Heading into the fourth inning, Toronto got the lead as Dave McKay singled in García from second base.
Singer was still in the game in the top of the fifth inning, striking out Chet Lemon, but Brian Downing and Ralph Garr singled off him. Hartsfield came out to the mound and pulled Singer out of the game. Singer left to a standing ovation as Jerry Johnson entered the game. Johnson got the final two outs of the fifth inning.
Al Woods came up to pinch hit for Steve Bowling in the bottom of the fifth inning. With Otto Vélez on the basepads, Woods homered to right field. The score was now 7–4 in favour of Toronto, with the team having scored in every inning of the game to that point.
The Sox scored a run in the sixth inning and it was 7–5. Pete Vuckovich started the eighth inning. He struck out two batters, gave up a walk and a single, but got a ground ball to end the inning. In the bottom of the inning, Ault returned to the plate and singled in another run to make the score 8–5. Another run was scored on a double play to make the score 9–5 in favour of the Blue Jays.
In the top of the ninth inning, Vuckovich retired Jorge Orta on a ground ball. Vuckovich then struck out Richie Zisk. For the day, Zisk had four hits in five at bats. With one out to go for the win, Jim Spencer hit a line drive to left field but Scott dropped the ball for a two-base error. Oscar Gamble was up at the plate and he grounded out to the shortstop. The Jays won their first game in franchise history with Jerry Johnson picking up the win while Vuckovich got the first save.
The heroes of opening day would not have a future with the Jays. Jerry Johnson would end up in Hollywood working as a stuntman. At the 1977 Winter Meetings, Toronto traded Vuckovich to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Tom Underwood. Doug Ault was back in the minors in 1979.
April 7, Exhibition Stadium, Toronto, Ontario
|W: Jerry Johnson (1–0) L: Ken Brett (0–1)|
|HRs: Doug Ault (2), Alvis Woods (1), Richie Zisk (1)|
|Chicago White Sox||AB||R||H||RBI||Toronto Blue Jays||AB||R||H||RBI|
|Garr, lf||5||2||3||0||Scott, lf||5||1||1||0|
|Bannister, ss||5||0||1||1||Torres, ss||2||1||1||0|
|Nyman, ph||1||0||0||0||Mason, ph/ss||1||1||0||0|
|Nordbrook, ss||0||0||0||0||Ault, 1b||4||2||3||4|
|Orta, 2b||4||0||0||1||Vélez, dh||4||1||2||0|
|Zisk, rf||6||2||4||2||G. Woods, cf||5||1||1||0|
|Spencer, 1b||6||0||2||0||Bowling, rf||2||0||0||0|
|Gamble, dh||3||0||0||0||A. Woods, ph, rf||3||1||1||2|
|Soderholm, 3b||5||0||2||1||García, 2b||4||1||3||1|
|Lemon, cf||4||0||0||0||McKay, 3b||4||0||2||1|
|Downing, c||4||1||3||0||Cerone, c||6||0||2||0|
|Chicago White Sox||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO|
|Brett, L (0–1)||3.0||9||5||5||0||4|
|Toronto Blue Jays||IP||H||R||ER||BB||SO|
|Johnson W (1–0)||2.2||3||1||1||3||1|
|Vuckovich, SV (1)||2.0||1||0||0||1||3|
The Blue Jays would finish off their first ever homestand with a 5–2 record, sitting in first place in the American League East by 0.5 games, as the team took two of three against the Chicago White Sox and three of four from the Detroit Tigers. Pitcher Jerry Garvin picked up two of Toronto's five wins.
The Blue Jays struggled on their first ever road trip, as they were swept in a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox, followed by a split in a four-game series against the New York Yankees to return home with a 7–7 record.
On April 27, the Blue Jays were involved in their first ever extra innings game, as the team defeated the Cleveland Indians 6–5 in 12 innings.
The Jays would finish the month in fifth place with a 10–11 record, three games out of first place. Pitcher Jerry Garvin had an impressive 4–0 record with a 2.14 ERA. Outfielder Otto Vélez hit .442 with five home runs and 18 RBI and was named American League Player of the Month.
On May 4, the Blue Jays scored 10 runs in a game for the first time in team history, as they defeated the Milwaukee Brewers 10–3 at Exhibition Stadium. The team would get 10 runs again five nights later on May 9 in a 10–4 win in their first ever game against their expansion cousins, the Seattle Mariners.
On May 14, the Jays allowed double digits in runs for the first time in a 13–3 loss against the Minnesota Twins.
Toronto struggled during the month of May, as the team would post a record of 8–17. Following a 6–5 loss to the Oakland Athletics on May 25, the Blue Jays fell into last place in the American League East for the first time.
After losing their first two games in the month of June, the Blue Jays would win five of their next six games, as their only loss in that span was a 2–1 decision in 13 innings against the California Angels. Following that, Toronto would win only two of their next 14 games.
On June 27, Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees was carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning when he walked the bases loaded, then gave up a grand slam to light hitting Hector Torres, which saw his Blue Jays win the game 7–6.
During the month, Toronto had a 10–17 record, bringing their overall record to 28–45, seventh place in the American League East.
The Blue Jays would go into the All-Star break with a 34–58 record, 19 games out of first place. At the 1977 Major League Baseball All-Star Game held at Yankee Stadium in New York City on July 19, first baseman Ron Fairly was the only Blue Jays representative. He struck out in his only at-bat against Tom Seaver.
After the All-Star break, the Blue Jays would continue to struggle, losing eight games in a row, before ending the month with a win over the Milwaukee Brewers.
Toronto would have a record of 7–21 in July to bring their overall record to 35–66, and 24 games out of first place.
On August 9, the Blue Jays defeated the Minnesota Twins 6–2 in front of 23,450 fans at Exhibition Stadium, as the franchise broke the Major League record for attendance by an expansion team in a season.
It was another tough month for the ballclub, as Toronto went 10–18 during August, and a record of 45–84 during the season, 32.5 games out of first place. The Blue Jays lost their last five games in August.
Toronto began September with six losses in a row, bringing their overall losing streak to 11 games, before defeating the Boston Red Sox 3–2 on September 7.
On September 15, the Blue Jays earned a 9–0 forfeit victory over the Baltimore Orioles when Orioles manager Earl Weaver removed his club from the field in the fifth inning. It marked the first (and still the only) time since 1914 an MLB team has deliberately forfeited a game.
The Blue Jays inaugural season came to a close on October 2, as they split a double header against the Cleveland Indians in front of 27,789 fans at Exhibition Stadium, bringing the Blue Jays total attendance to 1,701,052, an MLB record for an expansion team.
Toronto finished the year in last place in the American League East with a 54–107 record, 45.5 games behind the first place New York Yankees. Toronto also finished 9.5 games worse than their expansion cousins, the Seattle Mariners, who had a 64–98 record.
|New York Yankees||100||62||0.617||—||55–26||45–36|
|Boston Red Sox||97||64||0.602||2½||51–29||46–35|
|Toronto Blue Jays||54||107||0.335||45½||25–55||29–52|
Record vs. opponentsEdit
1977 American League Records
Sources:              
- April 14, 1977: Canadian-born Paul Hodgson was signed as an amateur free agent by the Blue Jays.
- May 9, 1977: Steve Hargan and Jim Mason were traded by the Blue Jays to the Texas Rangers for Roy Howell.
- June 7, 1977: Future NBA star Danny Ainge was drafted by the Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 1977 Major League Baseball draft.
|1977 Toronto Blue Jays|
|1977 Game Log 54–107 (Home 25–55, Away 29–52)|
April 10–11 (Home 6–4, Away 4–7)
May 8–17 (Home 5–10, Away 3–7)
June 10–17 (Home 3–9, Away 7–8)
July 7–21 (Home 5–10, Away 2–11)
August 10–18 (Home 3–8, Away 7–10)
September 8–22 (Home 2–13, Away 6–9)
October 1–1 (Home 1–1, Away 0–0)
Starters by positionEdit
Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; R = Runs scored; H = Hits; 2B = Doubles; 3B = Triples; Avg = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in; SB = Stolen bases
Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; R = Runs scored; H = Hits; 2B = Doubles; 3B = Triples; Avg = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in; SB = Stolen bases
Note: G = Games pitched; GS = Games started; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; R = Runs allowed; ER = Earned runs allowed; BB = Walks allowed; K = Strikeouts
Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; ERA = Earned run average; R = Runs allowed; ER = Earned runs allowed; BB = Walks allowed; K = Strikeouts
Awards and honorsEdit
- April 7, 1977:
- Grand Slam: June 27, 1977: Héctor Torres vs. New York (AL)
- Walk Off Win: July 15, 1977: Toronto 8, Detroit 6 (13 innings)
- Phil Roof at Baseball Reference
- Rico Carty at Baseball Reference
- Jim Mason at Baseball Reference
- Al Fitzmorris at Baseball Reference
- Chuck Hartenstein at Baseball-Reference
- Rick Cerone at Baseball Reference
- Dave Roberts at Baseball Reference
- Ron Fairly at Baseball Reference
- John Lowenstein at Baseball Reference
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, Stephen Brunt, p. 91, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-023978-2
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, p. 90
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, p. 94
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, p. 92
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, p. 93
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, p. 95
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, p. 96
- Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, p. 97
- The Official Site of The Toronto Blue Jays: History: Blue Jays Timeline
- Paul Hodgson at Baseball Reference
- Danny Ainge at Baseball Reference
- Blue Jays All-Stars | bluejays.com: History
- Johnson, Lloyd, and Wolff, Miles, ed., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 2nd and 3rd editions. Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 1997 and 2007