By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The Toronto Blue Jays today announced on Monday that they will pay tribute to team legend and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tony Fernandez with a special No. 1 commemorative uniform patch that will be worn during the 2020 regular season.
“There are few players in the game who can impact a team and a fan base the way Tony did in Toronto,” said Mark Shapiro, President & CEO, Toronto Blue Jays in a statement.
“Beyond his impressive career numbers, achievements, and accolades, Tony resonated with baseball fans because of how he played the game and conducted himself as a teammate. To wear a patch in his memory is to honour his exceptional life on behalf of Blue Jays fans across the country.”
Fernandez, who passed away from kidney disease on February 16, 2020, is the club’s franchise leader in games (1,450), hits (1,583), and triples (72).
Signed by the Blue Jays in 1979, Fernandez played 12 memorable seasons in Toronto, winning the hearts of fans with his patented submarine-style throws, unparalleled range and clutch hitting.
The popular Dominican shortstop suited up for 15 games with the Blue Jays in 1983, before being named the club’s top rookie in 1984. In his first year as an everyday shortstop, Fernandez hit .289 to help propel the Blue Jays to their first American League East title.
Over the next five seasons, Fernandez established himself as one of baseball’s best all-around shortstops, leading the Blue Jays in batting average twice (1986, 1987), hits three times (1986, 1988, 1990) and triples four times (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990). He was also a three-time All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner during that stretch.
After two seasons in the National League with the San Diego Padres and New York Mets, Fernandez was dealt back to the Jays in June 1993. He proceeded to hit .306 in 94 games and play an integral role on the World Series-winning squad. In the six-game Fall Classic that year, Fernandez hit .333 and drove in a series-best nine runs.
Following one-year stints with the Reds, Yankees and Indians, Fernandez returned to Toronto to hit .321 and drive in 72 runs in 1998. He followed that up with a .328 batting average in 1999, the fifth best single-season average in Jays history, and was named an All-Star for the fifth time in his career. In his final tenure in Toronto in 2001, Fernandez set a club record with 16 pinch hits.
For his efforts, his name was added to the Blue Jays Level of Excellence in 2001 and he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.