By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Elliott Wahle, the Toronto Blue Jays’ first administrator of player personnel, passed away on Friday at the age of 69 after a courageous battle with cancer.
You can read his official obituary here.
A New York native, Wahle began his professional baseball career as the New York Yankees assistant director of minor league operations in 1974. Pat Gillick was also working for the Yankees as coordinator of player development and scouting at that time before he was hired to be the Blue Jays’ vice-president of player personnel in August 1976.
Gillick brought Wahle with him from the Yankees and named him the Blue Jays’ first administrator of player personnel. The two worked together to identify talent and make selections in the 1976 American League expansion draft. The Blue Jays would land Jim Clancy, Ernie Whitt and Garth Iorg among others in that draft.
From the beginning, Gillick and Wahle emphasized establishing a strong farm system, drafting well and developing talent within the organization.
“The philosophy we started out with looks like the correct one — to find kids with talent and build with them,” Wahle told the Ottawa Journal in May 1977. “We won’t be in any hurry to change that thinking.”
And their philosophy worked.
In Wahle’s six years in the player personnel department, the club’s draft picks included Jesse Barfield, Dave Stieb and Lloyd Moseby. In 1982, in Wahle’s final full year with the Blue Jays, the club had a particularly strong draft, selecting David Wells (second round), Jimmy Key (third round) and Pat Borders (sixth round).
Wahle and Gillick also became adept at identifying talent in the Rule 5 draft. While Wahle was with the club, the Blue Jays snatched players like Willie Upshaw (1977) and George Bell (1980) in that often overlooked December draft.
Wahle was also often one of the first people Blue Jays players met after they signed with the club. Boomer Wells, a 6-foot-5 first baseman who signed with the Blue Jays out of a tryout camp in Utica, N.Y. in 1977, spoke glowingly of Wahle in a December interview. Wahle was the one who told him he was going to be signed by the Blue Jays.
“I still have warm feelings towards the Blue Jays because they gave me the opportunity to play,” said Wells. “I will always be grateful to Elliott Wahle and the Toronto Blue Jays.”
In January 1983, Wahle resigned from his position with the Blue Jays to pursue an opportunity with a private business.
“I have been privileged to have spent the last six years with the Toronto Blue Jays,” Wahle said. “And, the treatment I have received was never less than first class. My resignation was not motivated by any lack of interest or love of the game, but rather my desire to devote more time to my family and outside interests.”
In his second career, Wahle became a successful business executive. Among the top posts he held were president and CEO of Dylex Ltd., president of Toys ‘R’ Us Canada, and operating partner of Tri-Artisan Capital Partners.
Though he never worked in professional baseball after 1983, he settled in Toronto and never lost his passion for the game. In recent years, he was a regular at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction weekend in St. Marys, Ont.
“His love of baseball was only second to the love that he had for his family,” reads a sentence in his obituary.
He is survived by his wife, Helene; daughters Melissa (Aaron) and Elyse, and grandkids, Ryan and Leora.
According to his official obituary, there will be a family graveside service on Sunday followed by a private family Shiva.
You can share your memories of Wahle and leave your condolences for his family here.