In 1976, American League baseball expanded north of the border with the introduction of the Toronto Blue Jays. While not the first Canadian franchise (that’d be the Montreal Expos, who were established in 1969), the Jays have still been able to make the most of their time in the limelight.
The Toronto teams of the ‘70s were fueled primarily by their enthusiastic supporters, as the club drew more than four million fans in their first three seasons combined. For the 1982 campaign, future Hall of Fame skipper Bobby Cox was tapped to lead the team. Years before he’d make the Atlanta Braves into a dynasty, Cox molded the Jays into a competitive franchise. Under his watch, Toronto enjoyed their first winning season in 1983 and, two years later, captured the American League East for the first time. While the Cox Administration would end after the division-winning year, the club continued to turn heads.
Another AL East banner would be raised after the 1989 season, but it was evident that the organization had greater aspirations. In December of 1990, the franchise made a landmark trade for two players who would end up becoming essential parts of Blue Jays history. Those new acquisitions, second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter, would yield immediate dividends as Toronto won 91 games in ‘91, but it’s what happened in the two following seasons that’s remembered most fondly in the minds of Toronto fans.
Behind the excellent pitching of David Cone, the ‘92 club not only won the AL East for a second straight season, but made it all the way to the World Series. The first-ever Canadian team to play in the Fall Classic, the Jays downed the Braves in six games to win the world championship. In 1993, Toronto played on the international stage once again, and thanks to the ninth-inning heroics of Carter, became the first MLB team in 15 years to repeat as World Series champs.
By this point, the SkyDome (now known as Rogers Centre) had become a beacon of excitement as fans were packing in to watch one of the strongest teams in baseball. Playing under a retractable roof years before anyone else would, the Jays seemed to be ahead of the curve in just about every way imaginable. To ensure that future generations would come to love the game, Toronto even orchestrated a catchy song, “OK Blue Jays,” which combines easy-to-remember lyrics and dance moves into a tune that is still a big hit at the ballpark.
An always-competitive AL East has meant tough sledding for Toronto teams following in the shadow of the world champions of ‘92 and ‘93, but that hasn’t kept the Blue Jays from striving to reach new levels of excellence. All-Stars such as Carlos Delgado and Roy Halladay have come and gone, but for 162 games every season, nine Blue Jays take the field and give it their all. The proof, as they say, is in the poutine.