March 22, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
In 1992, sports betting wasn’t as prominent as it is today.
But if prior to the Fall Classic that year, you had wagered that Pat Borders would be voted World Series MVP, you probably would’ve won a lot of money.
Yes, the hardnosed catcher was an important contributor, but he was content with his background role on a Toronto Blue Jays team that included superstars like Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Dave Winfield, Jack Morris and David Cone.
Even in the photos of Borders holding the MVP trophy, the gritty catcher looks like can hardly believe what has transpired.
But when you go 9-for-20 (.450 batting average) and catch every inning of a six-game Fall Classic, you deserve to be recognized. And those images of him with the World Series MVP trophy are how many Canadian baseball fans fondly remember him.
“He would run through a wall to help you win,” Cito Gaston once said of Borders.
Borders was a blue collar, team-first player on a roster full of stars. He was known for his toughness, his ball-blocking abilities, his clutch postseason hits and for the ever-present plug of tobacco in his cheek.
A sixth-round pick of the Blue Jays in 1982, Borders spent six long seasons in the club’s minors, reinventing himself multiple times, before becoming a World Series-winning catcher.
He made his major league debut in 1988 and would play 747 games for the Blue Jays, which is the second-most by a catcher in franchise history to Ernie Whitt’s 1,218.
His finest big league campaign at the plate was 1990 when he hit .286 with 15 home runs in 125 games, but he was better known for his defence. In 1988, he led American League catchers by gunning down 47.2 per cent of baserunners attempting to steal off him and he topped AL catchers in games and assists in 1992 and 1993.
And for an encore, after winning the World Series MVP award and helping his club to their first Fall Classic triumph, he was the Blue Jays’ starting catcher again on their 1993 championship squad.
“If you’re going to win, let alone a World Series, you need a catcher who sees the entire field and works diligently and unselfishly with his entire pitching staff,” Jerry Howarth told CBC about Borders in a 2022 interview. “Pat was so unselfish. With all the marquee and Hall of Fame players [on that ’92 squad], they continued to do what they were doing. It was never about any individual. It was the team, and Pat was greatly responsible for that behind the plate.”
Following the 1994 season, Borders signed with the Kansas City Royals as a free agent.
In total, he played parts of 17 major league seasons with nine different teams and batted .253 with 69 home runs in 1,099 big league games.
He finally hung up his playing spikes when he was 43.
From 2015 to 2019, he returned to manage the Philadelphia Phillies’ class-A Short-Season Willamsport Crosscutters.
While with the Blue Jays, Borders wore No. 10, so here are 10 things you might not know about him:
- He was born in Columbus, Ohio. His parents were school teachers and they moved to central Florida when Borders was young. He attended Lake Wales High School.
- Borders was a multisport star in high school and he turned down a football scholarship (He was a quarterback and defensive end) to Mississippi State University to sign with the Blue Jays.
- The Blue Jays selected Borders in the sixth round of the 1982 MLB draft as a third baseman. He was used exclusively at the hot corner in his first two seasons in the Blue Jays organization, before splitting his third campaign between first base, third base and the outfield. In 1985, he played the entire season for class-A Kinston at first base. Feeling his spot in the organization was in peril, Borders approached Bobby Mattick the following spring about becoming a catcher. Borders had never played the position before. In the first inning of his first minor league game as a catcher, Borders was hit in the throat by a foul ball and had one of his finger nails torn off by a pitch in the dirt.
- Borders played his first professional season in Medicine Hat, Alta., for the Blue Jays’ Rookie ball club. He starred offensively, batting .304 with five home runs and 33 RBIs in 61 games, but struggled defensively. He made 25 errors in 49 games at third base and his fielding percentage was .826.
- He is the only Toronto Blue Jays player to triple in their first major league at bat. Borders made his major league debut with the Blue Jays on April 6, 1988 against Charlie Leibrandt and the Kansas City Royals at Royals Stadium. In the first inning, he tripled to right centre on the first pitch he saw and drove in two runs.
- Borders had five RBIs in his first major league game. He’d never eclipse that number for the rest of his major league career, although he did have another five-RBI game on July 31, 1992 against the New York Yankees at Skydome.
- He is one of just four players to have been part of a World Series-winning team and a gold medal-winning Olympic squad (when baseball was an official Olympic sport from 1992 to 2008). He was part of the U.S. gold medal winning team in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia. The other three players to earn a World Series ring and an Olympic gold medal are Doug Mientkiewicz, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez. Borders is the only player to have won an Olympic gold medal and a World Series MVP Award.
- During his professional career, Borders played with 13 different major league organizations. He had big league stops with the Blue Jays, Royals, Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Guardians, Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins. He also had minor league stops in the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers (spring training 2002), Milwaukee Brewers (spring training 2005) and Los Angeles Angels organizations.
- On July 27, 2005, a 42-year-old Borders caught 42-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer for the Seattle Mariners against the Detroit Tigers at Safeco Field. That made them the oldest battery in major league history. It was also Borders’ final major league game. The Mariners won 9-3.
- Borders and his wife, Kathy, have nine children. All of their children’s first names begin with the letter “L”: Lindsay, Levi, Luke, Laura-Beth, Leah, Lance, Lily, Livia and Landry.
*I dedicate this column to my aunt Ruth, who I miss so much. She used to go to Toronto Blue Jays games with me and my family. Her favourite player was Pat Borders.
More Blue Jays columns:
Five things you might not know about Willie Upshaw
Nine things you might not know about Jimmy Key
Five things you should know about John Mayberry
Nice. That is some great info on Pat. Now I know a lot more.
Thank you for reading this and your support, Scott.
Interesting info. Nine kids–wow! I hope your Aunt Ruth’s daughter gets to read this. Nice work as always.
Thanks very much for reading it. I think Kim did see it.
Thanks for the great run down on Pat. Now I know a lot more about Pat.
Thanks for reading this and your support.
Interesting read on Pat Borders.
Thank you very much for reading and for your continued support, Bob.