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!


Ballplayers like Lonnie Smith, Don Baylor, or David Justice found themselves perpetually in the postseason mix with various teams throughout their careers, playing in innumerable playoff and World Series games and turning up in the middle of the action year after year. Juan Beniquez seemed to be, almost comically, the opposite.


Wetting his feet as an unremarkable utility man with the Red Sox in 1971, then again in 1972, Beniquez nevertheless found himself named the starting centre fielder for Boston in 1974. That season proved to be an underwhelming one for him, and he was forced to the bench in 1975 with the arrival of rookies Fred Lynn and Jim Rice supplementing Dwight Evans in the outfield (this trio would become one of baseball’s greatest outfields). Well wouldn’t you know it, the Red Sox won the American League East and squared off against the Oakland Athletics in the American League Championship Series. Rice was injured for the series, so Beniquez slotted into the lineup, batted .250 for the series, and the Sox swept the reigning World Series champs three games to nothing.


However, Beniquez was the odd man out during the World Series, as the 1975 Series was played entirely without a designated hitter. He didn’t make it into games 1, 2, or 3, but in a surprise move, Beniquez was inserted into the lineup for games 4 and 5, collecting one hit and one walk in eight plate appearances. Well, that was enough for manager Darrell Johnson to put Beniquez right back on the bench for game 6. THE Game 6. Beniquez did not make his way into any of the twelve innings that comprised the greatest World Series game ever played. Baseball fans will surely remember every twist and turn of this Beniquez-less Shakespearean drama, which resulted in a Red Sox victory and a deciding seventh game the following night.


Beniquez did not play in the spectacular game seven denouement until a pinch hit chance to lead off the bottom of the 9th inning with the Sox down a run. He flew out to right field, and two batters later, the Reds were champs.


That offseason, Beniquez, Steve Barr, and Craig Skok were sent to the Texas Rangers in exchange for Ferguson Jenkins. In Texas, Beniquez became the regular centre fielder, hitting poorly but winning a Gold Glove in 1977. Before the 1979 season, he was part of a mega trade with the Yankees and returned to a part-time role in the Bronx, having missed the Yankees second consecutive World Series championship by one year. He was traded to Seattle the following season, again playing part-time for the Mariners. In 1981, Beniquez signed as a free agent with the Angels. Over five seasons with California, his playing time improved, as did his hitting, bringing has average over .300 in 1983, 1984, and 1985, and even garnering some down-ballot MVP votes in 1984. Before the 1986 season, he signed as a free agent with Baltimore. Of course, with Beniquez gone, the Angels won the American League West and played the Red Sox in a classic seven game ALCS. He was traded to Kansas City ahead of the 1987 season, then traded mid-campaign to the Blue Jays for Luis Aquino. Beniquez arrived in Toronto just in time to be party to the greatest late-season collapse in Blue Jays history, as the Jays lost the division race to Detroit in the final week of the season.


He authored one shining moment in the late-September sunshine at Exhibition Stadium that season, hitting a walk-off, three-run triple to topple the Tigers 10-9 and increase the Jays’ lead over Detroit to 3.5 games with one week left to play. And then, as we all relive in our nightmares from time to time, Toronto would go on to lose their final seven games and finish the year two back of the Tigers. He re-signed with Toronto for 1988, was released mid-season, and was out of Major League Baseball just in time for the Blue Jays’ run to the American League East title in 1989. Over his two half-seasons with the Blue Jays, Beniquez slashed .288/.348/.482 with an .830 OPS, good for a 122 OPS+. Not at all bad for the sixteenth and seventeenth seasons of a journeyman’s career.


Largely by happenstance, Juan Beniquez just missed out on several postseason appearances. He was always just one season, or half-season, or World Series game away from inking his name more indelibly in the baseball history books. Maybe he wouldn’t have done anything significant but we’re regularly reminded that it’s every ballplayer’s dream to just be afforded the chance to make a playoff contribution.


A seemingly forgettable player whose career is just a footnote in the history of the game, Beniquez played for seventeen seasons, which is far more than most ballplayers can claim. (I have a particular soft-spot for nondescript players who hung around far longer than one might expect.) I love learning about these wandering baseball figures and their interactions with the Blue Jays, thus I am very glad to be remembering Juan Beniquez: major league veteran, star-crossed baseball vagabond, Toronto Blue Jay.