He’s the most important person in Toronto Blue Jays history.
Without Pat Gillick, there wouldn’t be five division title banners and two World Series banners hanging in the Rogers Centre. In fact, without this intelligent, personable California native, there wouldn’t be a Rogers Centre.
The former Blue Jays general manager is one of 12 candidates being considered by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Expansion-Era committee for induction. The 16-member committee – consisting of former players, executives and baseball writers – will vote on December 5, with the results being announced the following day. A candidate must receive 12 votes to be enshrined.
George Steinbrenner is the only other executive being contemplated, while former Toronto Blue Jay and Montreal Expo Al Oliver and ex-Expo Rusty Staub are also on the ballot.
Born in Chico, Calif., in 1937, Gillick was a left-handed pitcher on the 1958 NCAA champion, University of Southern California (USC) squad. He would spend five years in the Baltimore Orioles system – including stints in Edmonton and Vancouver – before arm troubles forced him into a scouting position with the Houston Colt .45’s when he was just 26.
After evaluating talent for Houston for more than a decade, he was hired by the New York Yankees to be their coordinator of player development in 1974. He would hold that post until he became the Jays’ vice-president of player personnel on August 16, 1976. He was named the club’s general manager in 1978. In 18 years in Toronto, Gillick transformed an expansion club into World Champions. Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key, George Bell, Fred McGriff, Tom Henke, Joe Carter and Roberto Alomar are among the cornerstone players he drafted or traded for during his reign as general manager.
With Gillick as GM, the Jays recorded 11 consecutive winning seasons (1983 to 1993), captured five division titles (1985, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993) and won two World Championships (1992, 1993). For his efforts, he was voted Canada’s Baseball Man of the Year twice (1983, 1991), UPI’s American League Executive of the Year three times (1985, 1992, 1993) and The Sporting News’ Co-Sportsman of the Year (along with Cito Gaston) in 1993. He became the sixth member of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2002.
After leaving the Jays in 1994, Gillick guided three more franchises to post-season berths: Baltimore (1996, 1997), Seattle (2000, 2001) and Philadelphia (2007, 2008). He’s the only GM in major league history to guide four different clubs to the playoffs. When the Philadelphia Phillies won the Fall Classic in 2008, Gillick added a third championship to his resume. In all, in 27 seasons as a GM, his teams advanced to the post-season 11 times.
Now a senior advisor with the Phillies, Gillick has maintained close ties with Canada. He became a dual citizen while working in Toronto and owned a home in the city. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 and into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. On December 6, Gillick should wake up to find himself a member of another Hall of Fame – this one in Cooperstown.
Hands down. He’s been a winner everywhere he’s gone.
There’s no denying Pat Gillick’s accomplishments. But sometimes I wonder if the Hall of Fame has spread itself too thinly. And if it hasn’t, where exactly is the line? The original Hall had only former players. Now it includes managers, executives, announcers, pioneers, and umpires. If the concept of the Hall of Fame has evolved (and obviously it has), is there a natural boundary of some kind? Or will it eventually include ushers, hot dog vendors, and even fans?
I’m not trying to be rude or disrespectful toward any of these people. The sport has become what it is through the efforts of many people who never played a single inning, and they should be recognized. I just wonder if the Hall has lost some of its significance, and if you’ve given this any thought.
Thanks again, Kevin, for all of your research, writing, and thoughtful insights.