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Today in Jays History: First game played at Skydome

SkyDome Blue Jays

The Blue Jays played their first game at Skydome is 32 years ago today.

It opened a couple of days before, with a gala. Oscar Peterson played, and comedian Andrea Martin performed. On June 8th, Rod Stewart rasped out the first concert there. I wonder if he does the same songs in concert now?

I have a story about the first game. Thirty-two years ago, I was a much younger Blue Jays fan. Jays’ games, well, some of the games, were on CTV and the first game played at Skydome on that channel. But, locally, they decided to join the game in progress after the supper hour news. Now, you can imagine, I wasn’t happy. Anyway, finally the news ends, and they switch to the game ‘in progress .’ But, instead of changing to the game ‘in progress,’ they have to show us a half-hour feature on the building of Skydome and a walk around the park, showing the many features of the modern ballpark (both hot and cold running water, vintage popcorn leftover from the first game played at Exhibition stadium, stuff like that).

By the time we joined the game, they were an hour and a half into it. I was less than pleased.

The Jays lost 5-3 to the Brewers. Jimmy Key threw a complete game, giving up 9 hits, throwing 141 pitches. Yep, 141 pitches in a game they lost. Cito wasn’t one for pitch counts. In Key’s next start, he only went 3 innings and allowed 5 earned. Our bullpen had 19 innings of work in 3 games in Boston before this game, so Key took one for the team.

To be fair to Cito, throwing 140+ pitches wasn’t very unusual back then, and this was the only game that a Blue Jays starter threw 140+ that season. In 1989 there were 39 games where a pitcher went 140 or more pitches. Seven of those games were Nolan Ryan’s. Roger Clemens had four, and Bobby Witt had two. No other pitcher had more than one. Our old friend John Farrell threw 159 pitches against us in a game where we beat Cleveland. In what I’m sure is not a coincidence, 1989 was the last season he would throw more than 100 innings. The most pitches thrown in a game that year? Nolin Ryan had 164 pitches on September 12 in a game against the Royals. It wasn’t a complete game.

Gary Sheffield drove in the first run in the first inning, scoring Paul Molitor (who had the first hit) on a ground out.

The first home run and first Jays runs driven in came on a Fred McGriff two-run home run, bringing George Bell home. Our batting order was:

Junior Felix RF

Tony Fernandez SS

Kelly Gruber 3B

George Bell LF

Fred McGriff 1B

Lloyd Moseby CF

Ernie Whitt C

Rance Mulliniks DH

Nelson Liriano 2B

Bell and McGriff hit homers. Kelly Gruber went 2 for 4 with a double.

After the game, we were 23-32, in 6th place in the AL East, 9 games back of the Orioles. But we’d go on a 76-41 run and win the division. That was the season where Cito Gaston replaced Jimy Williams after 36 games and a 12-14 record. The team went 77-49 under Cito. We made a deadline trade for Mookie Wilson, and he injected some energy into the team.

The new ballpark gave the team a massive jump in revenues, with luxury suites going for $150,000 and up. And ‘SkyClub seats running people $2000 to $4000.

It opened to great reviews from players and fans alike. Ernie Whitt called it the eighth wonder of the world.

Anne Murray singing the national anthems, as she had for the first Jays game at Exhibition Stadium. Here is some video, with pretty crappy sound.

Please share your memories about Skydome/Rogers Centre.