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Happy Birthday Dave Stieb, Cliff Johnson

Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Dave Stieb turns 63 today.

Stieb is our franchise leader in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, games started, complete games, and many other pitching categories. No one will ever come close to him in complete games, unless there is a significant shift in how the game is played. He finished 103 of his 408 starts with the Blue Jays. I don’t think we’ll ever see a pitcher complete a quarter of his starts again.

He and Roy Halladay are 1 and 1A at the top of the list for greatest Blue Jays pitcher ever. My opinion changes by the day, but generally I go with Stieb, figuring all those complete games and innings pitched have a value. Stieb was the best American League pitcher of the 1980’s.

Stieb was also, well the nice way to put it, a competitor. He liked to win, and he didn’t always take it well when a teammate would make a mistake behind him. I remember watching him glare at fielders from the mound. I’m sure all his teammates didn’t love him.

A few years ago, I asked Pat Hentgen a few questions about Stieb:

From the outside it always seemed like Stieb wasn’t the greatest person?

For some reason he took a liking to me when I played there, so we were able to get pretty close for the first year I played with him and we stayed in tough through the 90’s until he made his comeback in 98. We shared the same agent. There’s always been a connection there, he’s always helped me, he’s always been a guy I could call while playing. Call him and just talk about the mental focus and things that he did and tools he did to get back on track. It was nice to have a guy that was 10 years out in front of me in age, experience and life in general. It’s been a great relationship.

He was a hero of mine as a kid, I guess because he was the best player on the team at the time.

He was very good. I mean it was way before satellite TV and all that crap. My agent used to tell me he’d go months without a ball hit hard off him. You try to make it through one game without a ball hit hard. I remember Bob, my agent, telling me that Dave in his prime going months without a ball hit hard. Give up singles and balls that bloop in, but no one would hit a ball hard. He was big time dominant. He was so dominant.

It is too bad he didn’t have good teams to pitch for in his prime.

Well in 85, 87, 88, 89 team, those teams were pretty good. The 79-84 teams, that was a rough go.

He didn’t always seem to enjoy his teammates.

No kidding. I am sure, and he has said this to me that, he regrets some of the things he did early in his career as far as some of that kind of stuff on the field. A very fierce competitor, you got to his place to play darts, it is ‘look out, game on’ you know. Whatever you play that is just the way he is. I don’t know if it is that he had an older brother, he was trying to keep up with him or what but he is one hell of a competitor.

Happy Birthday, Dave. I hope it is a good one.

Cliff Johnson turns 73 today.

Cliff Johnson was a designated hitter. He played with the Jays from 1983 to 1986, with a half-season for the Texas Rangers mixed into the middle. I always thought Cliff was the first good DH we had. He was a veteran when he came to us, he was 35 in 1983 and had already played 11 seasons in the majors. He was with the Blue Jays when we started changing from a crappy expansion team to a perennial playoff contender (those were the days). Bobby Cox platooned him with Al Oliver, in 1985, the first year we made it to the playoffs.

In his four seasons as a Blue Jay, he hit .273/.372/.466 with 54 home runs and 202 RBI. Careerwise, over 15 seasons, he hit .258/.355/.459 with 196 home runs and 568 RBI. He was always a good hitter, never much of a gloveman. The DH spot was made for him, though he spent time at catcher, first base and the outfield.

I remember commentators calling him Heathcliff, but on his Baseball Reference page he’s listed as Clifford. I though Heathcliff was a cool name back then.

Happy Birthday, Cliff, have a good one.

Tim Johnson turns 71 today.

Tim played for us in 1978 and 1979, at the end of a 7 season MLB career. He played a total of 111 games, hitting .212/.284/.248 with 1 home run for us.

And you will likely remember that he was our manager in 1998. The team went 88-74 that season. Since we were 76-86, the season before, we were pretty happy with him.

Tim motivated his players by telling them war stories of his time in Vietnam. Unfortunately, it came out that Tim was lying. That he had never been to Vietnam, he had been a reserve in the Marines while playing in the Dodgers’ minor league system. Padding your resume is all well and good, but lying about your military service is not something you should be doing. He also lied about getting a basketball scholarship to UCLA.

Gord Ash ended up firing him. Ash didn’t have much luck with picking managers.

Happy Birthday Tim.