The Blue Jays played their first game at Skydome 33 years ago today.
It opened a couple of days before, with a gala. Oscar Peterson played, and comedian Andrea Martin performed. Then, on June 8, Rod Stewart rasped out the first concert there. I wonder if he has changed his setlist since?
I have a story about the first game. Thirty-two years ago, I was a much younger Blue Jays fan. Some of the Jays’ games were on CTV. 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. So naturally, 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, 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. And 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 Jays runs driven in came on a Fred McGriff two-run home run, bringing George Bell home. It just so happens that MLB Daily Dingers tweeted video of his home run this morning:
Our batting order was (what a terrific lineup):
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 revenue jump, with luxury suites costing $150,000 and up. And ‘SkyClub seats run 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 sang the national anthems, as she had for the first Jays game at Exhibition Stadium.
Share your memories of SkyDome/Rogers Centre.