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!


I came across a fun factoid back on September 1st, the 84th birthday of longtime Major League slugger Rico Carty: he is the oldest living former Blue Jay.


Carty, an excellent hitter, poor defender, and seemingly dreadful teammate throughout his 16-year career, came through Toronto on three separate occasions in his final three seasons in the bigs. Carty spent the bulk of his career playing for the Milwaukee/Atlanta organization where he was teammates with Henry Aaron, Eddie Mathews, and Warren Spahn. It’s almost impossible to fathom: a man who played with these three post-war titans also played at Exhibition Stadium. The lineage of baseball is extraordinary.


Though Carty made three separate stops in Toronto at the end of his career, he also made a stop in Toronto at the very beginning of his career. In 1963, he played part of a season with Milwaukee’s Triple-A affiliate, the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Carty is one of two players, along with Phil Roof, to have played for the Minor League Maple Leafs and the Blue Jays).


Once in the majors for good in 1964, Carty had to battle through several seasons of injuries, position changes, and a backlogged Milwaukee/Atlanta outfield. But when he played, boy howdy, did he hit. From 1964 to 1972, he hit a cumulative .315, never logged an OPS+ below 110, and posted double-digit home run totals in all but one of those seasons. He was the runner-up to Dick Allen for the 1964 National League Rookie Of The Year Award, and had his best season in 1970, appearing in his only All-Star Game (becoming the first “write-in” All-Star in history), and garnering MVP votes. That year, he slashed .366/.454/.584, with an OPS of 1.037, leading the Majors in batting average and on-base percentage. Elbow tendinitis cut his 1972 season short, which would be his final season in Atlanta.


A great hitter throughout his tenure with the organization, his time there would also be remembered for his various feuds with managers Bobby Bragan and Eddie Mathews, and teammates Hank Aaron, Clete Boyer, and Ron Reed. The following year he bopped around to the Rangers (where he fought with manager Whitey Herzog), Cubs (where he called out teammate Ron Santo), and Athletics, playing not particularly well at any of those stops. In 1974, his contract was purchased by Cleveland and he resurrected his career, hitting over .300 and lifting his OPS+ over 140 for three consecutive years. In keeping with a theme, a spat with manager Frank Robinson eventually culminated in Robinson’s firing. In 1976, the Blue Jays selected Carty in that year’s expansion draft, but they promptly returned him in exchange for Rick Cerone and John Lowenstein. Cleveland then traded Carty back to the Blue Jays before the 1978 season, and Carty had a great stay in Toronto.


Over 430 plate appearances, he slashed .284/.340/.481 with an .821 OPS and 20 home runs; these numbers were good enough to coax a trade with the Athletics in August for Phil Huffman and our old pal Willie Horton. Carty wasn’t gone for long. Toronto reaquired him for the 1979 season, which would be his seventeenth and final Major League season. Though clearly a diminished version of himself, Carty still had enough in his bat for a .256 average, 12 homers, and 46 walks against 45 strikeouts over 512 plate appearances. Though Rico Carty proved himself to be a tremendously valuable batsman over large portions of his seventeen years in the Major Leagues, the nomadic and inconsistent back half of his career has obscured his rightful place as one of the game’s more talented and fearsome hitters.


Toronto is also a key player in Carty’s story. Having played Triple-A ball here in the early 60s, then finishing his Major League career after several stints with the Blue Jays, Carty’s story is entwined in the DNA of Toronto baseball history. So, happy belated birthday to the oldest living former Toronto Blue Jay.