April 11, 2023
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Former Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff, who was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in December, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Toronto Blue Jays’ home opener against the Detroit Tigers at Rogers Centre on Tuesday night.
“I’m excited to join all you guys in Toronto tomorrow to throw out the first pitch,” McGriff said in a video posted on Blue Jays’ social media. “I mean, Toronto is where it all started for me back in 1986.”
McGriff was unanimously elected (receiving 16 of a possible 16 votes) to the Cooperstown shrine by the Contemporary Baseball Era Players Committee in December.
Born in Tampa, Fla., on October 31, 1963, McGriff wasn’t exactly a blue-chip prospect out of high school. The New York Yankees selected him in the ninth round of the 1981 draft.
On December 9, 1982, in one of legendary Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick’s most astute trades, he managed to pry McGriff, along with outfielder Dave Collins, right-hander Mike Morgan and cash away from the New York Yankees for reliever Dale Murray and third baseman Tom Dodd.
McGriff then rose through the ranks in the Blue Jays’ organization and made his big league debut in 1986. He had his first 20-home run season the following year and his first 30-homer campaign in 1988 before topping the American League with 36 round-trippers in 1989.
In all, in parts of five seasons with the Blue Jays, McGriff belted 125 home runs and batted .278 with a .389 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .530 slugging percentage, good for .919 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). Those final three stats are the best he had with any of the six clubs he played with during his 19-year big league career.
His three straight 30-homer seasons with the Blue Jays were part of a stretch of seven consecutive 30-home run seasons he had from 1988 to 1994.
From there, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound first baseman continued to be a power threat for the Padres, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers. In his 19 major league seasons, he had 10, 30-home runs campaigns, but never clubbed more than 37 in a season. He also registered 90 or more RBIs in 12 seasons. He finished his career with 493 home runs, which ranks 29th all-time.
Despite his success with the Blue Jays to start his career and a World Series ring with the Atlanta Braves in 1995, McGriff has opted for a blank cap on his National Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.
McGriff will deliver his induction speech at a ceremony in Cooperstown on July 23.
McGriff Milestones as a Blue Jay:
First hit – May 18, 1986 – He singled to left off Cleveland right-hander Don Schulze in the third inning in a Blue Jays’ 10-2 win
First Home Run – Apr. 17, 1987 – A three-run home run in the fifth inning off Red Sox righty Bob Stanley in a Blue Jays’ 10-5 win.
50th Home Run – Aug. 24, 1988 – A two-run homer off White Sox righty Barry Jones in the ninth in a Blue Jays’ 6-4 loss.
First Home Run in SkyDome history – June 5, 1989 – He belted a two-run home run off Brewers righty Don August in the second inning for the first home run in SkyDome history. The Brewers won 5-3.
100th Home Run – June 7, 1990 – A two-run home run off Twins righty Tim Drummond in the fifth inning of a Blue Jays’ 10-3 win.