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Today in Blue Jay History

35 Years Ago Today: Jays play first game.

The Blue Jays played their first ever game April 7, 1977 at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. If you are old enough to remember Exhibition Stadium, you'll remember it was a terrible place to watch a baseball game. The Argonauts played their CFL games there so seats didn't face the diamond, you had to turn your head to watch the play. They made some improvements there, as time went on, but Skydome, when it opened in 1989, was/is a much better place to watch ball.

It was cold, for the first Jay MLB game. The official game temperature was 0 C, but there was wind, a little snow. It would have seemed colder sitting in those stands. The Jays won the game 9-5 over the White Sox. Jay's starting pitcher, Bill Signer, didn't have a good start, 4.1 innings, 10 hits, 3 walks, 5 k but surprisingly only 4 runs against, 3 earned. He was near the end of a pretty good career, playing for 14 seasons. He won 20 games for the Dodgers in 1969, but would finish with a 6.79 ERA in 1977, his last season. Jerry Johnson pitched 2.2 in relief and got the win. Pete Vuckovich pitched the last two innings, for the saves, allowing one hit and one walk, with 3 strike outs. Vuckovich would go on to win the Cy Young award in 1982 as a Brewer.

On offense, Doug Ault hit two home runs and drove in 4, a pretty good performance for a guy that only had 17 career homers in 256 major league games. Al Woods had a pinch hit, 2 run homer. Woods played 7 years with the Jays, he had a pretty good season in 1980, hitting .300/.364/.480 with 15 home runs, but, other than that year, he was pretty forgettable.

The Jays had 16 hits, on the day, 3 each for Ault and second baseman Pedro Garcia. Two each for Dave McKay (the Canadian in the lineup), Otto Velez and Rick Cerone. Velez and Cerone were two best players in the lineup. Cerone played for 18 years, and made it to the World Series, with the Yankees, in 1981. Velez played 11 seasons, mostly at DH, and hit 20 home runs, for the Jays, in 1980.

The Jays would only win 53 more game that year. They did have a couple of other decent players that season. Ron Fairly led the team with 19 home runs and tied for the lead in RBI, with Ault, at 64. Alan Ashby caught 124 games. Roy Howell was a rookie and played 96 games, mostly at 3B.

Dave Lemanczyk led the staff with 13 wins (throwing 252 innings). Jerry Garvin, won would become a pretty good lefty reliever, won 10 games (losing 18) with a 4.19 ERA. Vuckovich led the team with 8 saves.