2023 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Spotlight: Jesse Barfield


June 15, 2023

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will hold its 2023 induction ceremony this Saturday in St. Marys, Ont.

Four 2023 inductees will be honoured: Rich Harden, Denis Boucher, Jesse Barfield and Joe Wiwchar.

In the days leading up to the event, I will be profiling each of the inductees. Last week, I profiled Harden and Boucher and on Tuesday I highlighted Wiwchar. Today I’m shining the spotlight on Barfield:

Hall of Fame Bio:

After being selected in the ninth round of the major league draft by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1977, Jesse Barfield would spend parts of five seasons in the minors before making his major league debut on September 3, 1981. Just three days later, he’d belt his first big league home run – a two-run shot off Chicago White Sox left-hander Britt Burns in the fifth inning of a Blue Jays’ 3-2 win at Comiskey Park.

Starting in 1982, Barfield became the club’s regular right fielder and he not only showcased power at the plate, but one of the greatest throwing arms in big league history from right field. On April 24, 1982, he became the first Blue Jay to hit a pinch-hit grand slam when he did so in the bottom of the eighth inning at Exhibition Stadium off Boston Red Sox left-hander Tom Burgmeier. It was one of his 18 home runs that season, which helped him earn Blue Jays Rookie of the Year honours.

For an encore, Barfield clubbed 27 home runs in 1983, his first of six 20-home run seasons. Two years later, the right-handed hitting slugger helped lead the Blue Jays to their first American League East title when he had 27 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 22 outfield assists. This made him just the second player (Willie Mays was the first in 1955) in big league history to have at least 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 20 outfield assists in the same campaign. His 22 outfield assists remain a Blue Jays’ single-season record. For his efforts, he was voted Blue Jays Player of the Year.

Barfield followed that up by setting a then-franchise-record with 40 home runs in 1986. That season, he also became the first Blue Jay to lead the American League in home runs. He also finished second in slugging percentage (.559) and extra-base hits (77) and third in OPS (.927). His performance earned him his first All-Star selection and a Silver Slugger Award. For his outstanding defence in right field, he also received his first of two consecutive Gold Glove awards and for the second straight year, he was voted Blue Jays Player of the Year.

As mentioned, Barfield’s throwing arm is widely recognized as one of the greatest in major league history. In his nine seasons with the Blue Jays, he topped American League outfielders in assists four times (1985 to 1987, 1989) and right fielders in putouts three times (1985 to 1987).

In total, in his parts of nine seasons with the Blue Jays, Barfield played 1,032 games and ranks in the club’s all-time top 10 in several statistical categories, including fourth in WAR (29.5), seventh in home runs (179) and ninth in total bases (1,672) and RBIs (527).

On April 30, 1989, Barfield was traded to the New York Yankees for left-hander Al Leiter. He’d play parts of four more seasons with the Bronx Bombers and again lead AL outfielders in assists in 1990. He completed his big league career with 241 home runs, an .802 OPS, a 39.4 WAR and 162 outfield assists.

Barfield continues to represent the Blue Jays at youth camps and JaysCare Foundation functions across Canada.

Barfield on his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction:

“I’m still in disbelief with the news of being voted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Being drafted by and then playing for the Blue Jays has always meant so much to me and my family. I’m truly honoured, humbled and speechless right now.”

Barfield firsts:

First MLB Game: September 3, 1981 against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. Batting seventh and playing right field, he went 1-for-4 with an RBI in the Blue Jays’ 4-3 loss. That game also marked the first time that George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Barfield played in the Blue Jays outfield together.

First MLB Hit: September 3, 1981 against the White Sox at Comiskey Park. His first hit was an RBI single to centre field off White Sox lefty Steve Trout that scored Bell to tie the game 1-1.

First MLB Home Run: September 6, 1981 against the White Sox at Comiskey Park. Batting eighth and playing right field, he belted a two-run home run off White Sox lefty Britt Burns in the fifth inning to give the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead. They would hold on for a 3-2 win.

First MLB Home Run in Canada: September 10, 1981 against the Seattle Mariners at Exhibition Stadium. Batting sixth and playing right field, he hit a solo home run off Mariners right-hander Ken Clay in the seventh inning to propel the Blue Jays to a 2-0 win. Luis Leal and Joey McLaughlin combined to pitch a shutout for the Blue Jays.

First Multi-Hit Game: September 7, 1981 against the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium. Batting eighth and playing right field, he had two singles in four at bats in a Blue Jays’ 4-0 loss.

First Multi-Home Run Game: June 14, 1983 against the Oakland A’s at Exhibition Stadium. Batting fifth and playing right field, he went deep off left-hander Tom Underwood twice. He socked a three-run home run in the first and a two-run shot in the third to lead the Blue Jays to a 13-7 win. That was his first of 15, two-home run games for the Blue Jays.

Career Bests

Most Hits in a Game: He had four hits in a game 12 times during his MLB career. He had three hits in a game 50 times.

Most Home Runs in a Game: He had two home runs in a game 20 times in his career.

Most Doubles in a Game: Three for the Blue Jays in a game against the Detroit Tigers on September 26, 1987 at Exhibition Stadium. He also had a triple in the game. The Blue Jays won 10-9.

Most RBIs in a Game: Six for the Blue Jays in game against Cleveland on May 17, 1986 at Exhibition Stadium. He had an RBI single in the first, a two-run double in the fifth and a three-run homer in the sixth to lead the Blue Jays to an 11-5 win.

Blue Jays Records:

-Most outfield assists in a season: 22 in 1985

-Most outfield assists career: 119

Fun Facts:

-In 1986, Barfield led the American League in home runs (40) and outfield assists (20). In the 37 seasons since, no player has led the American League or National League in those two categories in the same season.

-In 1986, he became the first Blue Jays outfielder to win a Gold Glove Award.

– His 7.6 WAR in 1986 is the third best by a position player in franchise history behind only Jose Bautista (8.3 WAR in 2011) and John Olerud (7.8 WAR in 1993). His 6.9 WAR in 1985 is tied for the 10th best in a season in Blue Jays history.

– Thanks to his strong throwing arm, he helped turn 45 double plays in his MLB career, that’s the seventh most by a right fielder in MLB history. It’s interesting to note that the only MLB right fielder who has been part of 40 or more double plays since 1990 is Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) who helped turn 40 double plays.

-According to FanGraphs, Barfield had 138 defensive runs in the 1980s, which is 20 more than any other major league outfielder (Rickey Henderson was second). Note: Defensive runs is an advanced statistic that is calculated by using a comprehensive formula that incorporates all aspects of a player’s defence. It was created to indicate the number of runs a player saved or cost their team on defence compared to an average player.

-Barfield ranks third all-time among right fielders in Baseball Reference’s Total Zone Total Fielding Runs Above Avg (Rtot) statistic. Baseball Reference uses a detailed formula to compute this stat, but it is designed to show “the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made.” Barfield has a 149 Rtot for his career. The only two right fielders with a higher Rtot are Roberto Clemente (204) and Al Kaline (155).

-According to Baseball Reference, the most similar major league batter to Barfield (when comparing the entirety of their MLB careers) is fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.).

Photo: Baseball Reference

2 thoughts on “2023 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Spotlight: Jesse Barfield

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    1. 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.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Scott.

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