Jays Miscellanea looks back at a bunch of people you may or may not recall who played for the Toronto Blue Jays. Let’s remember some guys!


Pete Vuckovich– best known for his Cy Young Award-winning season in 1982, leading his Milwaukee Brewers to that year’s World Series (an eventual 7 game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals), his goofy sense of humour, his uncompromising facial hair, and his role as villainous Yankees slugger Clu Haywood in the movie Major League– played for one year with the expansion Blue Jays in 1977.


Before landing for good in Milwaukee, Vuckovich bounced from the White Sox to the Jays to the Cardinals. Over a combined 120.2 innings pitched mostly from the bullpen, his two years in Chicago were not great. In November of 1976, the brand new Toronto Blue Jays selected Vuckovich 19th in the expansion draft, likely viewing him as a competent major league pitcher to work out of the bullpen and chomp up innings in what was sure to be an exciting but terrible season of baseball in Toronto. That season, Vuckovich logged several Blue Jays franchise firsts. He was the first player to report to the Jays’ inaugural spring training. He recorded the first save in Jays history during their snow-ravaged 1977 opening day. He also nabbed Toronto’s first shutout, outduelling Hall of Famer Jim Palmer and the Orioles on June 26th. After his one year with the Jays, Toronto dealt him and John Scott to St. Louis for pitchers Tom Underwood and Victor Cruz.


Vuckovich transitioned into a starter and blossomed during his three seasons with St. Louis. In 1980, he was part of a trade package with future Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Ted Simmons sent by the Cardinals to the Brewers in what is quite likely the best and most important trade in Brewers history. By the numbers, 1977 looks to be the season that established Vuckovich as a very good, if at times dominant, major league pitcher. In 53 appearances, 8 of which were starts (including 3 complete games and 1 shutout), Vuke threw 148 innings, with 123 strikeouts and 59 walks, earning a respectable 3.47 ERA with a 3.52 FIP and 1.365 WHIP, good for a 121 ERA+ and 2.9 fWAR. Vuckovich won the Cy Young in 1982 (one of the writers’ first snubs of Dave Stieb), and placed 4th in the voting in his excellent 1981 season (losing out to teammate Rollie Fingers, who also won the MVP that year, not the last time a reliever would win the Cy Young and MVP in the same season. 1980s awards voting was…not cool).


Comparing his one season in Toronto with his two best seasons in Milwaukee is quite illuminating. Though he had converted to a starter after he left Toronto, he posted a better FIP and WHIP in 1977 than he did as a Cy Young winner. His K:BB ratio in Toronto was better than either of his 1981 or 1982 seasons, as was his K/9 rate. His ERA+ was significantly better in 1977 than it was during his entire tenure with Milwaukee, and is the second-best mark of his 11-year career. Whenever I think of the 1977 Blue Jays, I think of a very bad ball club going through the usual fledgling of a nascent expansion franchise. It’s nice to be reminded that amidst all that scuffling the Jays had a future Brewers staff ace and Cy Young winner in the mix, and nicer still to dig into his numbers and see that Toronto is where he establshed himself as a legitimately good major league pitcher.


Thank you Pete Vuckovich, and you’re welcome Milwaukee.