April 6, 1992: Blue Jays newcomers deliver on Opening Day

This article was written by Brian Frank

The Blue Jays finished the 1991 season by losing in the American League Championship Series to the Minnesota Twins four games to one. Falling just shy of the World Series was becoming an all-too-familiar feeling for the team and its fans. The Blue Jays had winning records in nine consecutive seasons, but it was the third time in seven years that the team had lost in the ALCS.

Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick went to work in the offseason to try to push the team over the top. He signed World Series hero Jack Morris to lead Toronto’s rotation. Morris seemed like a prime candidate to help lead the team to playoff success. Not only had he beaten the Jays twice in the 1991 ALCS, but he was also the hero of the most recent World Series, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in three starts – including an epic Game Seven, in which he pitched a 10-inning shutout in the Twins’ 1-0 win over the Braves.

Also coming to Toronto was free agent Dave Winfield. The 40-year-old was signed to help strengthen the Blue Jays at the designated-hitter position. Toronto’s designated hitters had finished dead last in both home runs (5) and RBIs (57) in 1991. Winfield, who banged out 28 home runs and had 86 RBIs for the Angels in 1991, seemed all but certain to improve Toronto’s run production, as well as provide veteran leadership.

When Morris took the mound on Opening Day in Detroit, he broke a tie with Robin Roberts and Tom Seaver, starting his 13th consecutive Opening Day – 11 of which had come while pitching for the Tigers.

Morris faced Bill Gullickson, who was making his first Opening Day start in his 11-season major-league career. Gullickson was coming off a tremendous season for the Tigers, having gone 20-9 with a 3.90 ERA in 1991.

Tigers fans – many of whom were still in a sour mood because longtime radio announcer Ernie Harwell was let go by the organization in the offseason – did not give Morris a warm welcome. The former Tigers ace was booed loudly during player introductions. Many fans were still upset that the Minnesota native had spurned the Tigers as a member of the 1990 free-agent class to sign with his hometown Twins, only to leave after a season in Minneapolis to sign with Toronto.

There had been some question as to whether Winfield would be in the Blue Jays lineup after he missed the last 10 games of spring training with a sore left hamstring. Not only was Toronto’s new slugger in the lineup, but he made his presence felt early.

Toronto scored a run in the first inning. Roberto Alomar doubled with one out and moved to second on Joe Carter’s fly to center field. That brought Winfield to the plate for his first at-bat as a Blue Jay. He poked the ball into right field to bring Alomar home with the first run of the season.

Morris worked himself into a jam in the second inning when he walked Cecil Fielder and gave up a single to Mickey Tettleton. He struck out Tony Phillips and Rob Deer before allowing an infield single to Travis Fryman to load the bases for Milt Cuyler. The last time Morris faced Cuyler – in a game at Tiger Stadium when Morris was on the Twins – the Tigers outfielder hit a grand slam. This time, Morris got the upper hand, by striking out Cuyler to end the inning.

“I was more comfortable than last year,” Morris explained. “I was pressing too much last year. It’s different now. I’m with a new team. I came over here to just do my best every time out and whatever happens, happens.”1

The game got a little bizarre in the fourth inning while Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders was batting with two outs and the bases empty. An exotic dancer from Windsor, Ontario, ran onto the field and tried to kiss the startled Borders.

“It scared me,” Borders said. “I was concentrating on the pitch. She came up from the backside, and I didn’t see her. I was scared to death. … I turned with the bat and almost hit her. She’s lucky she didn’t get hit. I really jerked the bat around.”2

Borders was able to fend off her advances before the security crew caught her as she scampered toward center field.3 Despite his shock, or maybe because of it, four pitches later Borders lined a pitch deep over the right-field wall to give Toronto a 2-0 lead.

“I don’t know,” Borders said. “It really got my adrenaline going after that. She might have helped me actually.”4

After striking out the side in the fourth inning, Morris walked Fryman to lead off the fifth. The next batter, Cuyler, ripped a ball up the middle that second baseman Alomar made a diving stop on and fired to first to nail the speedy Tigers outfielder. With Fryman at second base, Dan Gladden blooped a sinking liner into shallow left-center field that looked as though it would bring home the Tigers’ first run, but center fielder Devon White made a diving catch for the inning’s second out. Lou Whitaker ended the inning by flying out to White for the first routine out of the inning.

“That wasn’t bad, the defense today, was it?” Morris said after the game.5

Toronto added to its lead in the sixth inning when John Olerud stroked a solo home run off Gullickson into the upper deck in right field. The Blue Jays scored another in the eighth on an RBI single by Derek Bell off reliever Mark Leiter.

Morris took a 4-0 lead into the ninth inning, looking to provide his new team with something he’d become known for – throwing a complete game. He’d allowed only three hits through the first eight innings, two of which were of the infield variety.

However, Fielder led off the bottom of the ninth with a deep drive into the upper deck in right-center field to ruin Morris’s bid for a shutout.

“Cecil got what people came to see,” Morris said. “I could have pitched him smarter. So what, I had some runs to play with.”6

Fielder’s blast brought manager Cito Gaston out to the mound for a visit with Morris, with both Tom Henke and Duane Ward ready in the bullpen.

“If I get to the ninth, then there’s only one job to do, and that’s finish the ballgame,” Morris declared after the game. “If you’re going to bail, bail in the fifth.”7

“He’s the only guy on this team that would have stayed in,” Gaston said. “I just wanted to see if he was tired and let him know he’d thrown 120 pitches.”8

After Gaston’s mound visit, Morris retired the next two batters. However, Deer, who’d struck out looking in his three previous at-bats, deposited a ball into the upper deck in left field to cut Toronto’s lead to 4-2.

Morris finally induced Fryman to ground out to third to finish the game on his 144th pitch of the afternoon. The win gave Morris a victory over every existing American League team.

“No extra incentive because of the Tigers,” he said. “It feels like a long time ago and, I suppose, that helped me. There’s a lot of new faces over there.”9

Winfield finished the game 3-for-4 with an RBI. His third single of the day was the 2,700th hit of his career.

“Yeah, 3-for-4, I’m real happy about that,” he said. “I’ve played so well against Toronto all my career, I’m just glad I started out doing something for ’em.”10

“They’re not weak in that (the DH) spot anymore,” the slugger added.11

Winfield was also impressed with his new team’s other new acquisition: “That was something to watch. I know Jack’s not going to go 145 pitches all the time, because that takes it out of you, but he was pumped and I think he wanted to put a few things in our guys’ minds. That this is what he’s all about.”12

The Blue Jays and their fans had high hopes heading into the season. The Opening Day performance of their two big free-agent signings only heightened expectations.

“Winning the whole thing, that’s the motivation for me, and coming here … well this team’s close,” Winfield said. “I got a gut feeling.”13



In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.



1 Dave Perkins, “Jack Morris Gets Out of Trouble with the Fortitude of a Champion,” Toronto Star, April 7, 1992: B3.

2 Curt Sylvester, “Devine Intervention Precedes Borders’ HR,” Detroit Free Press, April 7, 1992: 6C.

3 Sylvester.

4 Sylvester.

5 Neil A. Campbell, “Morris Goes Distance in Grand Opener,” Globe and Mail (Toronto), April 7, 1992: E12.

6 Perkins.

7 Campbell.

8 Charlie Vincent, “Fans Can Boo Morris, But It’s Time to Cheer a Great Career,” Detroit Free Press, April 7, 1992: 7C.

9 Allan Ryan, “Jack-Pot,” Toronto Star, April 7, 1992: B3.

10 Allan Ryan, “Ailing Winfield Picture of Health on Opening Day,” Toronto Star, April 7, 1992: B3.

11 Campbell.

12 Ryan, “Jack-Pot”: B1.

13 Allan Ryan, “Ailing Winfield Picture of Health on Opening Day.”

Additional Stats

Toronto Blue Jays 4
Detroit Tigers 2

Tiger Stadium
Detroit, MI


Box Score + PBP:

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