Three years ago today, Tony Fernandez passed away. He was just 57.
We had reactions here and here and here.
I wish we could see into a universe where Fernandez wasn’t part of the Carter/Alomar trade (can you imagine a middle of the infield with Alomar and Fernandez). It would have been great to have had Fernandez as a lifetime Blue Jay. I want to think he would be in the Hall of Fame if he had been.
There were few players I tried to imitate more. That sidearm flip throw, which always seemed on target, no matter what angle his body was at, was beautiful. And he had that batting stance. He had such a light grip on the bat. I could never make that work.
He was the smoothest shortstop I have ever watched.
My favourite memories of him were the rare moments he would allow himself a little smile after making a fantastic play.
With the bat, he could slap the ball all over the field. And he could turn on an inside pitch.
He is still our all-time leader in hits, and his record is safe for the foreseeable future. Vlad Guerrero is our active leader, but he is 1036 hits short of Tony’s total.
In some ways, he was like Devon White. He ran so smoothly that you didn’t realize how fast he was. And defensively, he was smooth and had more range than any Jays shortstop we have had since.
One of the worst moments of my baseball fandom was when Bill Madlock took him out with a rolling block in 1987. That Blue Jays team may have been the best we had before that moment.
When he passed, we heard his teammates tell stories about him. Here is Buck Martinez on him:
If I made a list of people to whom I owe my baseball fandom, Tony would be near the top.