June 15, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its first in-person induction ceremony since 2019 this Saturday in St. Marys, Ont.
Four inductees will be honoured: Jeff Francis (2022), Justin Morneau (2020), Duane Ward (2020) and Pedro Martinez (2018).
In the days leading up to the event, I will be profiling each of the inductees.
I profiled Francis on Monday.
Yesterday, I shone the spotlight on Morneau.
Today, it’s former Toronto Blue Jays reliever Duane Ward’s turn.
Duane Ward Hall of Fame bio
Selected in the first round (ninth overall) of the 1982 MLB draft by the Atlanta Braves, Ward was dealt to the Blue Jays for Doyle Alexander on July 6, 1986. From 1988 to 1992, the hard-throwing right-hander established himself as one of the best shutdown set-up men in the game, combining with closer and 2011 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tom Henke to form the most overpowering and beloved bullpen tandem in franchise history.
In his five seasons serving primarily in a set-up role, Ward never made less than 64 appearances or pitched less than 101 innings. In 1991, the workhorse righty topped American League pitchers with 81 appearances and struck out a career-best 132 batters in 107-1/3 innings and finished ninth in the American League Cy Young voting. He followed that up by registering a career-best 1.95 ERA in 79 appearances in 1992 to help the Blue Jays to their first World Series title.
After Henke departed via free agency following the 1992 season, Ward assumed the closer’s role and excelled, topping the American League with 45 saves and 70 games finished in 1993, while allowing just 49 hits and striking out 97 batters in 71 2/3 innings. For his efforts, he was selected to the American League All-Star team and finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting. His 45 saves and 70 games finished remain single-season franchise records. His performance helped propel the Blue Jays to their second consecutive World Series title.
In 1992 and 1993, Ward was at his best in the Fall Classic. In a combined eight World Series appearances, he posted a 3-0 record with a 1.13 ERA while striking out 13 batters in eight innings, and also registering two saves.
In total, in nine seasons with the Blue Jays, Ward appeared in 452 games, the second-most by a pitcher in franchise history. He is also second in saves (121) and games finished (266).
Since his retirement as a player, Ward has been an active member of the club’s alumni in many charitable efforts. In recent years, he has been one of the lead instructors at baseball clinics for the Toronto Blue Jays Academy and the Jays Care Foundation.
Ward on being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame:
“When I was informed about my induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the only thing I felt at the time was completely overwhelmed, a flood of feelings and emotions came after a few minutes of reflection and thought,” said Ward. “I can’t state enough how deeply honoured I am to be a part of the 2020 class of inductees to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I want to thank all of my teammates, coaches, and everyone who helped me through the years. And to my family and friends who supported me unconditionally, saying thank you will never be enough. To my fellow inductees, ‘Congratulations.’”
First MLB game: April 12, 1986, pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Braves against the Houston Astros in their 4-3 loss at the Astrodome. Nolan Ryan started for the Astros.
First MLB strikeout: April 12, 1986. He struck out the first MLB batter he faced when he fanned Astros catcher Mark Bailey.
First (and only) MLB at bat: May 24, 1986. After entering the game for Braves starter David Palmer, Ward batted against St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Ray Burris in the top of the fifth inning and popped out to catcher Mike Heath.
First game as a Blue Jay: September 17, 1986, pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the Blue Jays’ 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers at Exhibition Stadium. The first two batters he faced were Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell. Whitaker grounded out, while Trammell doubled.
First strikeout as a Blue Jay: September 28, 1986. In his only start as a Blue Jay, Ward lasted only one inning, allowing four runs (three earned) to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. He did, however, strike out Hall of Famer Jim Rice for his fist K as a Blue Jay.
First MLB save: April 9, 1988. After Jimmy Key started and tossed six scoreless innings, Ward took over in the seventh and didn’t allow a run over the final three frames in the Blue Jays’ 10-0 win over the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome.
First relief outing of four or more innings: August 5, 1988. Eight times Ward pitched four or more innings in relief for the Blue Jays. The first was August 5, 1988 when he relieved Key in the fourth inning after the left-handed starter allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Kansas City Royals at Exhibition Stadium. Ward proceeded to throw 4 2/3 scoreless innings and did not allow a hit, while striking out five. The Blue Jays won 7-6.
As noted earlier, Ward was selected ninth overall in the 1982 MLB draft by the Braves. Seven picks earlier the Blue Jays chose shortstop Augie Schmidt. Others taken ahead of Ward in that draft include Shawon Dunston (first overall, Cubs), Dwight Gooden (fifth overall, Mets) and Spike Owen (sixth overall, Mariners).