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Happy Birthday Rick Leach

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants
Rick didn’t rate a picture in a Jays jersey.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Rick Leach turns 65 today. Time to apply for all those senior benefits, Rick.

Rick was a first-round draft pick for the Tigers, 13th overall, in 1979. He made it to the majors during the strike-shortened 1981 season, hitting a big .193/.320/.289 in 83 at-bats, primarily pinch-hitting and playing a bit of first and right field. Rick played three seasons in Detroit. He never hit much, and the Tigers released him.

The Blue Jays signed him before the 1984 season. He played five seasons for the Jays, playing DH, first, right, left, and occasionally center field. He even pitched an inning in 1984, but it didn’t go well. Rick walked 2, and gave up two hits, including a home run. In 1986 he had a .308/.335/.435 line. In 1987 he hit .282/.371/.405, not bad, but not he didn’t have the power you’d want from a corner outfield spot nor the speed. But for a 4th outfielder, he was pretty good.

During the 1986 season, Leach tested positive for some ‘nonperformance enhancing drug’ (so come recreational drug) and was suspended for 60 days and ordered to take drug treatment.

In 5 years with the Jays, Rick hit .283/.340/.391 with 8 home runs, 95 RBI in 763 at-bats. After leaving the Jays, Leach played a season each with the Giants and the Rangers before leaving baseball at 33. He seemed likable, a fan favourite in the way that 4th outfielders are often fan favourites, but since the Jays had Bell, Barfield, and Moesby in the outfield, there was no way he did was going to get a full-time role. But a useful lefty batter on the bench.

He was a favourite of mine because, back in the day, I played Statis Pro Baseball and Strat-O-Matic Baseball, and Rick had good numbers in 1986 and 1987, giving him a valuable card in those games.

Leach had been a pretty good football player, too, playing quarterback in College. The Denver Broncos drafted him in the 5th round of the 1979 draft. He finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 1978 and

...shattered all Michigan’s career passing, total offense and touchdown records. He set an NCAA record for most touchdowns accounted for (82) and broke Big Ten records for total offense (6,460 yards), total plays (1,034), and touchdown passes (48).

Happy birthday Rick. I hope it is a good one.

Also having birthdays:

  • Butch Alberts turns 72 today. Butch played in 6 games for the Jays in the 1978 season, our second. He DHed and pinch-hit. I don’t remember anything about him.
  • Miguel Cairo turns 48 today. Miguel came up through the Dodgers farm system, was traded to the Mariners and then came to the Jays in trade from Seattle in 1995. He came with Bill Risley for Edwin Hurtado and Paul Menhart. Risley was a very good reliever for the Mariners, but, like most players coming to us in one of Gord Ash’s trades, didn’t do much for us.

Cairo played the first 9 games of his MLB career with the Jays, in 1996. After the season he was traded to the Cubs for someone named Jason Stevenson (who never made it to the majors).

Cairo ended up playing 17 seasons in the MLB, playing for 9 different teams. In 1490 games, he hit .264/.314/.361 with 41 home runs, and 139 steals. What surprises me, with that hitting line, he pinch-hit 313 times in his career. As a pinch-hitter, he hit .268/.321/.362.

Happy birthday to both Butch and Miguel.