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The Return of Former Blue Jays Managers

Bobby Cox earlier this season at Turner Field
Bobby Cox earlier this season at Turner Field
Kevin C. Cox

It's not like you weren't aware already, but tonight marks the return to Toronto of former Blue Jays manager John Farrell, now wearing the colours of the Boston Red Sox. Until today, the Blue Jays have only had two former skippers return as the bench boss of an opposing team, and they are 1-1 in the first game of their return.

Bobby Cox

Managerial Record:

Bobby Cox was the Blue Jays' third manager in franchise history, replacing Bobby Mattick. He came over to the Blue Jays after being fired by owner Ted Turner for finishing below .500 for all but one season. He was replaced by Joe Torre, who promptly took the Braves to a division title in 1982. With Toronto, he took the young franchise above .500 for the first time in 1983, and led them to a division title in 1985, when the team finished with a still franchise-best record of 99-62 (.615). Days after his team lost a heartbreaking ALCS to the Kansas City Royals, the Braves asked to interview Cox for their general manager position, and he accepted it on October 21, 1985.

The next day, Pat Gillick came out to accuse the Braves of not giving the Blue Jays a chance to retain Cox or to give consider a competitive bid. In a situation that was eerily similar to what happened this past offseason, Gillick was quoted in the front page of the October 23, 1985 edition of the Toronto Star:

"[The Braves] betrayed our confidence by leaking the story to the Atlanta media, which reported the Braves' interest in Cox [during final week of the regular season]. That left us with no choice but to lie--to deny the story--for the good of our team. Even so, it became an unnecessary distraction for the club, and Bobby."

The Return [Braves 2 Blue Jays 3]

Cox hired himself to be the field manager of the Braves in 1990 and made his first return to Toronto on October 20, 1992 in game 3 of the 1992 World Series.In that game the Blue Jays started Juan Guzman against the Braves' Steve Avery. Both pitchers went 8 innings, with Guzman allowing 2 R (just 1 ER) on 8 H with 7 K and 1 BB and Avery 3 R, 5 H, 9 K, 1 BB.

The Blue Jays got an early lead on a Joe Carter solo shot in the 4th. David Justice lined an RBI-single in the 6th against Guzman to make it 1-1, then the Braves took a 2-1 lead when Lonnie Smith singled to score Otis Nixon in the top of the 8th. Kelly Gruber tied the game 2-2 with a lead-off solo homer against Avery in the bottom of the 8th. Duane Ward held the Braves scoreless in the top of the 9th before Candy Maldonado hit a walk-off single to the RF gap scoring Roberto Alomar, giving Ward a second win in as many games and Braves reliever Jeff Reardon the loss. The Blue Jays went up 2-1 in the Series, and we all know what happened five days later.

Jimy Williams

Managerial Record:
  • Toronto Blue Jays (1986-1989): 281-241 (.538)
  • Boston Red Sox (1997-2001): 414-352 (.540)
  • Houston Astros (2002-2004): 215-197 (.522)

Jimy Williams was the players' and the media's (and perhaps fans') first choice as manager after Cox's resignation. Williams was hired as the Blue Jays' third base coach in 1980 and served under both Bobby Mattick and Bobby Cox and was liked among the players. Williams was hired on October 26, 1985, just five days after Cox left. Reliever Bill Caudill, who had a rocky relationship with Cox, was quoted in the Star saying that Williams was a "breath of fresh air." That breath led the Jaysa disappointing fourth place finish in 1986, but the team rebounded to a second place finish in 1987 on a 96-66 (.593) record and a tight down to the wire pennant race.

Despite finishing above .500 for all three full seasons at the helm, Williams was fired after a 12-24 (.333) start to the 1989 season. He was replaced by Cito Gaston, who turned the team around and went 77-49 (.611) the rest of the way towards another division championship. The Toronto Star announced Williams' firing the following day, saying that:

"Blue Jay coaches--including a somber Gaston--started arriving at the two-storey Mississauga townhouse where Williams lives about two hours after [the game when Gaston took over]. They stayed there well into the night, drinking beer and eating."

Eating what? Fried chicken??? Interestingly, Gillick said that a full-time manager would be named within 10 days and that Gaston wasn't on the short list.

The Return [Red Sox 7 Blue Jays 6]

Williams' old boss Bobby Cox hired him to be the Braves' third base coach in 1991, and he remained there until 1996. He was hired as the Boston Red Sox' manager in 1997 after Kevin Kennedy's dismissal. The first regular season game between the Red Sox and the Blue Jays was on June 23 at the Skydome.

Williams sent out Aaron Sele against his successor, who called upon Woody Williams to take the mound. Woody didn't pitch well, giving up a couple of runs in the 5th and then four in the 7th, including three homers to make the score 7-3 Boston. The Blue Jays scored three runs in the bottom of the 7th to tighten it to 7-6 Red Sox, but that was it for scoring for both teams.Williams pitched 6.2 innings, giving up 7 runs on 12 hits for the loss while Sele gave up 8 hits and 4 runs through 6 plus for the win. Paul Quantrill finished the game for the Jays with a one-hit effort in 2.1 innings while Heathcliff Slocumb got the save for the Red Sox.