Original Blue Jay Jesse Jefferson dies

Jesse Jefferson, a right-handed pitcher on the Toronto Blue Jays 1977 squad, has passed away at the age of 62.

He died of prostate cancer in his hometown of Midlothian, Va., on Thursday.

Selected by the Jays in the 1976 expansion draft, Jefferson was a mainstay on the club’s pitching staff from 1977 to 1980.

Despite an ugly 9-17 record, Jefferson posted a respectable 4.31 ERA and tossed 217 innings for the Jays in 1977. He followed that up by pitching 211-2/3 innings in 1978.

On May 23, 1978, Jefferson would set a team record by pitching a 12-inning complete game against the Boston Red Sox. The hard-throwing righty would stifle the bats of Hall of Famers Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski and Carlton Fisk to lead the Jays to a 2-1 victory.

Jefferson would struggle to hold his spot in the rotation in 1979 and 1980, but he would hurl an impressive 11-inning shutout against the Oakland A’s on May 16, 1980, defeating Mike Norris, who would win 22 games that season.

Dave McKay, who toiled alongside Jefferson in Toronto for parts of three seasons, remembers his late teammate as a good person and a quiet man who just wanted to pitch.

“Just give him the ball and he would give whatever he had,” recalled McKay.

The Jays would release Jefferson in September 1980 and he was picked up by the Pirates to finish out the season. In all, Jefferson pitched in nine big league seasons from 1973 to 1981. He also suited up for the Orioles, White Sox and Angels.

He attempted a comeback with the Angels’ Triple-A club in Edmonton in 1983, but he would retire after just three appearances.

After he hung up his spikes, Jefferson returned to his hometown of Midlothian, Va., where he would drive a garbage truck and hunt in his spare time. Reports indicate that he has three children.

Jefferson is the third member of the 1977 Blue Jays to pass away. Opening Day hero Doug Ault died in 2004, while manager Roy Hartsfield passed away in January.

Funeral plans for Jefferson are incomplete, but arrangements are being taken care of by Mimms Funeral Services in Richmond, Va.

Online condolences can be left here: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/timesdispatch/obituary.aspx?n=jesse-jefferson&pid=153539631&fhid=3610

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