Remembering the last game at Exhibition Stadium 32 years ago today

The scene after George Bell clubbed a walk-off home run for the Toronto Blue Jays in their final game at Exhibition Stadium 32 years ago today. Photo: YouTube

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

It was a dramatic and fitting end for the Toronto Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium.

Thirty-two years ago today, on an 0-and-1 count in the bottom of the 10th inning, George Bell belted a fastball from Chicago White Sox closer Bobby Thigpen into the left field bleachers for a two-run home run to give the Blue Jays a 7-5 walk-off victory.

Bell, the only Blue Jay to have won the American League MVP Award, raised his arms triumphantly on the way to first base as the baseball faithful roared one last time at Exhibition Stadium, although if you watch the video below the crowd is somewhat subdued.

They must have been feeling sentimental that day. Yes, the stadium was known for its blustery winds, bone-chilling temperatures, baffling seating configuration and countless seagulls, but it was also the home of their beloved Blue Jays for more than 12 seasons.

Many of the 46,120 in an attendance had watched the Blue Jays evolve from a hapless, young 100-loss club into perennial contenders. So, yes, the stadium may have been the “Mistake by the Lake” but it was their “Mistake by the Lake.” And even with its drawbacks, it would be comfier than what was to come — the state-of-the-art SkyDome the Blue Jays would be moving into in a week’s time.

And Hollywood couldn’t have written a better script for that final game at Exhibition Stadium. The Blue Jays were pitted against the Chicago White Sox — the same team they battled in the snow in their very first game at the stadium on April 7, 1977.

The last game was a Sunday afternoon match-up and the weather was sunny and pleasant. It seems Mother Nature saved her final Exhibition Stadium fury for the previous game when winds rose to 65 kilometres an hour in a 5-3 White Sox win.

It seems perfect that Dave Stieb, the Blue Jays best pitcher from that era, got the start and went seven innings before handing the ball to fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Duane Ward. Left-hander David Wells followed, but it was another Blue Jays legend and Canadian ball hall inductee Tom Henke that would record the final four outs to pick up the win.

And fittingly the Blue Jays lineup was chock full of players the club’s longtime fans associate with Exhibition Stadium. On top of Bell hitting cleanup, Tony Fernandez batted second, Kelly Gruber, who went 4-for-4, hit third, Fred McGriff fifth, Pat Borders (as DH) sixth and Lloyd Moseby seventh.

Moseby, a 1978 first-round pick in his final season with the Blue Jays, clubbed a two-run home run off White Sox lefty Jerry Reuss in the sixth inning.

And it was clear that the significance of the game was not lost on then Blue Jays interim manager Cito Gaston. He sent Rance Mulliniks, a Blue Jay since 1982, in to pinch-hit for Borders in the eighth and Ernie Whitt, the only player left from the 1977 expansion draft, in to pinch hit for catcher Bob Brenly in the ninth. Whitt was greeted with a standing ovation.

“It was nice getting an ovation,” Whitt told reporters after the game. “I have a lot of memories here nobody can take away from me.”

Fun Facts About the Last Game at Exhibition Stadium:

Starting pitcher: Dave Stieb

Starting opposing pitcher: Steve Rosenberg

Winning pitcher: Tom Henke

Losing pitcher: Bobby Thigpen

Last hit: George Bell, with the walk-off home run in the 10th

Last pitch thrown: Bobby Thigpen fastball that Bell hit over the fence in the 10th

Last opposition hit: Steve Lyons, single over Tom Henke in the 10th

Last strikeout by a Blue Jays pitcher: Tom Henke struck out Dan Pasqua in the 10th

Canadian on Blue Jays roster: Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.). You can see him the celebration photo above.

Attendance: 46,220 – Seventh largest crowd in Exhibition Stadium history

Published by cooperstownersincanada

Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.

8 thoughts on “Remembering the last game at Exhibition Stadium 32 years ago today

  1. You are giving all the Fun Facts of the Last Game. May i add another. On the pitch before George Bell’s Homer he hit a foul ball line drive into the first base stands that hit my then 18yr old daughter on the Left Arm. While i was attending to her injury (nothing serious fortunately-no netting in those days) I missed seeing the Home Run. However as I’ve told her and subsequently in later years her three baseball fan sons -my grandsons-many time since in trivia.-Name the last person hit by a baseball in the old Exhibition Stadium -of course the answer my daughter, their mother Wendy

  2. Great memories. I know I wasn’t there, but I like to think I would have watched the game. Thanks Kevin

  3. Thank for the article, Kevin. It brought back lots of great memories of Exhibition Stadium. What a bizarre place to play baseball. One note – when you say, “Bell, the only Blue Jay to have won the American League MVP Award,” I assume you’re meaning at the time, since Josh Donaldson was later named MVP in 2015. Cheers.

    1. Hi Eric. Thanks for your kind words and support. Yes, I did mean that Bell was only Jay to have won the MVP at that time. I pondered that wording before I hit publish. I probably should’ve been more clear. Thanks again.

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