Dave Stieb turns 66 today.
Stieb is our franchise leader in wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, games started, complete games, and many other pitching categories. No one will ever come close to him in complete games unless there is a significant shift in the game. He finished 103 of his 408 starts with the Blue Jays. I don’t think we’ll ever see a pitcher complete a quarter of his starts again.
He and Roy Halladay are 1 and 1A at the top of the list for the greatest Jays’ pitcher ever. Of course, my opinion changes by the day, but generally, I go with Stieb, figuring all those complete games and innings pitched have value. I think Stieb was the best American League pitcher of the 1980s.
Stieb was also the nice way to put it, a competitor. He liked to win and didn’t always take it well when a teammate made a mistake behind him. I remember watching him glare at fielders from the mound. I’m sure all his teammates didn’t love him.
A few years ago, I asked Pat Hentgen a few questions about Stieb:
From the outside, it always seemed like Stieb wasn’t the greatest person?
For some reason, he took a liking to me when I played there, so we were able to get pretty close for the first year I played with him, and we stayed in touch through the 90s until he made his comeback in 98. We shared the same agent. There’s always been a connection there. He’s always helped me. He’s always been a guy I could call while playing. Call him and talk about the mental focus, things he did, and tools to get back on track. It was nice to have a guy who was 10 years out in front of me in age, experience and life in general. It’s been a great relationship.
He was a hero of mine as a kid, I guess, because he was the best player on the team at the time.
He was very good. I mean it was way before satellite TV and all that crap. My agent used to tell me he’d go months without a ball hit hard off him. You try to make it through one game without a ball hit hard. I remember Bob, my agent, telling me that Dave in his prime going months without a ball hit hard. Give up singles and balls that bloop in, but no one would hit a ball hard. He was big time dominant. He was so dominant.
He didn’t always seem to enjoy his teammates.
No kidding. I am sure he has said to me that he regrets some of the things he did early in his career as far as some of that stuff on the field. A very fierce competitor, you got to his place to play darts, it is ‘look out, game on’ you know. Whatever you play, that is just the way he is. I don’t know if it is that he had an older brother. He was trying to keep up with him or what, but he is one hell of a competitor.
Happy Birthday, Dave. I hope it is a good one.
Cliff Johnson turns 76 today.
Cliff Johnson was a designated hitter. He played with the Jays from 1983 to 1986, with a half-season for the Texas Rangers mixed into the middle. I always thought Cliff was the first good DH we had. He was a veteran when he came to us. Cliff was 35 in 1983 and had already played 11 seasons in the majors. He was with the Jays when we started changing from a crappy expansion team to a perennial playoff contender. Bobby Cox platooned him with Al Oliver in 1985, the first year we made the playoffs.
As a Blue Jay, he hit .273/.372/.466 with 54 home runs and 202 RBI in his four seasons. Careerwise, over 15 seasons, he hit .258/.355/.459 with 196 home runs and 568 RBI. He was always a good hitter, never much of a gloveman. Though he spent time as a catcher, first baseman, and outfielder, the DH spot was made for him.
I remember commentators calling him Heathcliff, but he’s listed as Clifford on his Baseball Reference page. I thought Heathcliff was a cool name back then.
Happy Birthday, Cliff, have a good one.
Tim Johnson turns 74 today.
Tim played for us in 1978 and 1979, at the end of a 7 season MLB career. He played 111 games, hitting .212/.284/.248 with 1 home run for us.
And you will likely remember that he was our manager in 1998. The team went 88-74 that season. We were pretty happy with him since we were 76-86 the season before.
Tim motivated his players by telling them war stories of his time in Vietnam. Unfortunately, it came out that Tim was lying. He had never been to Vietnam and was a Marine reserve while playing in the Dodgers’ minor league system. Padding your resume is one thing, but lying about your military service is not something you should be doing. He also lied about getting a basketball scholarship to UCLA.
Gord Ash ended up firing him. Ash didn’t have much luck with picking managers.
Happy Birthday, Tim.