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Today in Blue Jays History: Kelly Gruber Hits for Cycle

The first Blue Jay to hit for the cycle.

Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty Images

31 Years Ago Today

Kelly Gruber hits for the cycle, the first one in Blue Jays history.

We were playing the Royals, and won big 15-8.

Gruber hit:

  • A home run in the first inning off Royals starter Alan Bannister.
  • A double in the second inning, again off Bannister.
  • In the fourth inning he struck out.
  • In the fifth inning he lined out.
  • A triple in the seventh off Tom Gordon.
  • A single in the eighth off Jerry Don Gleaton.

Kelly went 4 for 6 with 6 RBI.

He had a great start to the 1989 season. Coming into the game he was hitting .385/.457/.538. The game bumped his line up to .422/.481/.689.

Kelly would finish the season .290/.328/.448 with 18 home runs. Baseball Reference has him at a 5.0 WAR (in 1990 he would hit .274/.330/.512 with 31 home runs and hit bWAR was 4.2). FanGraphs has him at a 3.9 WAR in 1989 and a 4.3 WAR in 1990.

The lineups that day:


Lloyd Moseby, CF Willie Wilson, CF
Kelly Gruber, 3B Kevin Seiter, 3B
Pat Borders, C George Brett, 1B
George Bell, LF Danny Tartabull, RF
Fred McGriff, 1B Bill Buckner, DH
Jesse Barfield, RF Bo Jackson, LF
Bob Brenly, DH Bob Boone, C
Manuel Lee, SS Bill Pecota, 2B
Tom Lawless, 2B Brad Wellmam SS

Dave Stieb got the start. He would only last 8 batters and only got 1 out. He gave up 4 hits, 3 walks and 6 earned. His start before that was a complete game 1 hitter and his start after was 8 innings, 4 hits. I don’t know what went wrong this day.

David Wells came in. He gave up a 2-run single to add to Stieb’s count. He would go 4 innings, allow 6 hits, 2 earned, 1 walk with 3 strikeouts. Tony Castillo pitched the last 4.2 innings, allowing 2 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts with no earned runs. Wells got the win, Castillo got a 4.2 inning save, his first and only save of the season. He would pitch 17 games for the Jays that year and have a 6.11 ERA before being traded to the Braves in August. We hot Jim Acker in return.

Some other Jays hitters had good days:

  • Pat Borders went 2 for 6, both doubles, with 2 RBI.
  • George Bell went 3 for 5, with 2 doubles, a walk, and 2 RBI.
  • Fred McGriff went 2 for 4, with a home run, 2 walks, and 2 RBI.
  • Jesse Barfield went 2 for 5, with a home run and 3 RBI.

On the KC side:

  • Floyd Bannister got the start. He went 1.2, gave up 9 hits, including the Gruber home run, 6 earned with 1 strikeout.
  • Bret Saberhagen pitched the net 2.1 with 3 hits, 3 earned, 2 walks and 2 strikeouts. He gave up Barfield’s home run. He got the loss.
  • Jeff Montgomery went 2 innings, allowed 3 walks with 2 strikeouts and no runs.
  • Tom Gordon pitched 1 inning, gave up 2 hits, 3 earned, 3 walks with 2 strikeouts.
  • Jerry Don Gleaton pitched the 8th. He gave up 3 hits, 3 earned, 1 walk.

On offense:

The Royals scored 8 runs without hitting a home run.

George Brett went 3 for 5. The Hall of Fame third baseman played first base most of that season. He was 34 by then.

Brad Wellman went 3 for 3 before coming out of the game for a pinch-hit appearance by Pat Tabler (he struck out).

Two sport star, Bo Jackson, went 1 for 3, with 2 walks. Jackson hit .256/.310/.495 with 32 home runs. He led the league in strikeouts with 172. He had a 2.7 bWAR. He had a very good 1990 season too, but then in 1991 he hurt his hip playing football. The injury ended his football career. He did play baseball for a couple more seasons but he wasn’t the same player.

Not that it matters, but Tom Lawless is one of those players that Minor Leaguer would have in a Sporcle quiz and I would never come up with the name.

Lawless had a 8 year MLB career, the last two with the Blue Jays. He was a utliity player who played every position except for SS and C in his career. Career he hit .207/.263/.258 in 343 games. I do remember having his baseball card.