There are a handful of former Blue Jays who have birthdays today.
Former Jay first baseman Willie Upshaw turns 66 today.
Willie was a successful Rule 5 draft pick-up from the Yankees in 1978. The Yankees drafted him in the 5th round in 1975. He quickly moved up the minor league system, but the Yankees had Chris Chambliss. Chambliss left the Yankees after the 1979 season, signing with the Braves. The Yankees went through a few players at the position before Don Mattingly took over in 1983.
Willie played nine seasons with the Jays. His best was in 1983 when he hit .306/.373/.515 with 27 homers and 104 RBI. However, he dropped to 19 home runs the following season, with a .278/.345/.464 line and his career went downhill from there. After 1987 he signed as a free agent with Cleveland.
He finished his career with 123 home runs, 528 RBI, and a .262/.335/.419 line. For several years, he managed an independent league team, the Bridgeport Bluefish. I don’t know what he is doing now.
I often thought Upshaw was the start of a very good run of Jays' first basemen. After Upshaw, we had Fred McGriff, John Olerud, and Carlos Delgado. There was a little gap, and then we had Edwin Encarnacion (at least part-time at first) and now Vladimir Guerrero.
Frank Catalanotto turns 49 today.
Frank was a 10th-round draft pick for the Tigers. He played three seasons for the Tigers and then was part of a big trade between the Tigers and the Texas Rangers. Frank, Alan Webb, Francisco Cordero, Bill Haselman, Gabe Kapler, and Justin Thompson went to the Rangers for Juan Gonzalez, Danny Patterson, and Gregg Zaun. After three seasons with the Rangers, he signed with the Jays as a free agent.
For us, he platooned with Reed Johnson in the outfield. They were a great pairing. In 4 seasons with the Jays, Frank hit .299/.361/.445, with 29 home runs and 200 RBI, mainly playing against right-handed pitchers. Both he and Johnson were fan favourites. After the 2007 season, Frank signed with the Rangers and then spent time as a Brewer and a Met. He also played for Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
- Chris Carpenter (48) pitched six seasons for the Blue Jays, going 49-50 with a 4.83 ERA in 152 games (135 starts) before blowing out his shoulder. The Jays wanted to take him off the 40-man roster, but Chris found the Cardinals were willing to pay him as a major leaguer while he rehabbed. It worked out well for St. Louis. He won the Cy Young in 2005 and had 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the voting. The last time he played in the majors was in 2012. He only made three regular-season starts and pitched twice in the playoffs, taking losses in both games. He finished his career with a 144-94 record and a 3.76 ERA. Chris gave a lovely eulogy for Roy Halladay at his funeral.
- Bob MacDonald (58). MacDonald was a lefty reliever for the Jays back in 1991 and 1992. He had a good season in 1991, with a 2.85 ERA in 45 appearances. After earning a World Series ring in 92, Bob signed as a free agent with the Astros and bounced around to the Mariners, White Sox, Yankees, and Mets over the next few years. He was relieved in 197 major league games, finishing with a 4.34 ERA.
- Pat Lennon (55). Pat was a first-round draft pick by the Mariners in 1986. He played for our Triple-A team in 1998 and 1999 and had a couple of cups of coffee with the major league team. Pat played in the majors for bits of six seasons but only has 189 total at-bats. I wanted Pat to get a chance in the majors. He had good minor league numbers, .291/.374/.480, with 187 home runs. Pat played here in Calgary for one season, hitting .329/.400/.531 for the Calgary Cannons. At the time, I had season tickets. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Mariners had Ken Griffey and Jay Buhner in the outfield. Unfortunately, a lot of life is timing.
Happy birthday all. I hope it is a great day.