29 Years Ago Today
Blue Jays starter Dave Stieb had taken no-hitters into the 9th inning 3 times, so I would imagine that when Stieb walked to the mound in the ninth, on September 2, 1990, in Cleveland, he was wondering ‘what will happen this time’. The first three times:
- On September 24, 1988, in Cleveland, Julio Franco hit a grounder that took a surprisingly high hope and went over second baseman Manny Lee’s head.
- In Stieb’s next start, in Toronto against the Orioles, Jim Traber hit a 2-out soft fly that landed between the infielders and outfielders.
- On August 4, 1989, in the first season of SkyDome, with 2-outs in the ninth innin,g of could have been a perfect game, Roberto Kelly lines a double up the gap.
But the fourth time was the charm.
In the ninth, Stieb:
- Got pinch-hitter Chris James to fly out (a pretty deep fly out).
- Pinch-hitter Candy Maldonada to strikeout.
- Walked Alex Cole (Stieb walked 4, unusual for him).
- And got Jerry Browne to fly/line out to right fielder Junior Felix.
Here is the final out:
Cleveland didn’t exactly had a ‘murderer’s row’ back in 1990. Their clean up hitter was Ken Phelps (likely more famous for a mention in Seinfeld than his baseball career) was hitting .155/.288/.198 at the time. 5 of their starters had OPS numbers lower than .700.
Stieb didn’t feel he was at his best that day. From the Toronto Star game story:
I didn’t have great control. I couldn’t find my release point in the early innings. I hung pitches but got away with them. They helped me out a few times by swinging at bad pitches. They hit balls right at people.
The win was Stieb’s 17th of the season, against 5 losses. He finished the game with a 2.91 ERA. He would finish the season 18-6 with a 2.93 ERA, his most wins in a season, which set a new team high.
I was a huge fan of Stieb. He was competitive. He would have been a good match for Jose Bautista, but, unlike Jose, he would stare down teammates that make mistakes. It is too bad that we didn’t have a better team when he was at the top of his game. I’m not sure if he was a bad teammate in other ways but I’d imagine that behavior wouldn’t endear himself to the others on his team.
But I wasn’t on the team and I just saw him as the best player on my team and the best pitcher in baseball at the time. I admired his drive to win. And, for most of his career, there weren’t many other Jays worth cheering.