While today's Blue Jays fans dream of World Series glory, in 1980 they could only hope to lose fewer than 100 games.
Six weeks from today, Rogers Centre will be packed with fans eager to see if the Blue Jays will live up to their off-season hype during an opening day match with the Cleveland Indians. But back in 1980, fans could only hope that things wouldn’t get any worse. The previous year, the Jays had set a still-standing team record of 109 losses.
With the thrill of being an expansion team gone, the Jays looked to the future. New manager Bobby Mattick’s mission was to teach the first batch of prospects developed through the team’s farm system how to play in the big time. Mattick, a veteran scout known for his eye for talent, knew he was a caretaker manager who would guide the team until it was ready for contention.
The 1980 season began in Seattle, where the Blue Jays dropped three out of four games against the Mariners. The umbrella-wielding fan shown in today’s ad was well-prepared for the team’s home opener, as it was rained out. Only 7,000 fans braved 40-kilometre-per-hour winds and near-zero temperatures when the Jays finally took the field on April 16. They were rewarded for their misery with an 11–2 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers. The Jays immediately jumped into the lead thanks to a two-run homer by third baseman Roy Howell in the first inning. Starter Dave Stieb pitched a complete game, giving up only six hits.
While the team continued to occupy the American League East basement, it lost fewer than 100 games for the first time in franchise history. Names like Garcia, Moseby, Stieb, Upshaw, and Whitt began appearing regularly in the box scores. The Blue Jays had a long way to go, but there were glimmers of many future big innings.
Additional material from the April 17, 1980 editions of the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star.