Toronto Blue Jays legend Tony Fernandez, who was a member of their 1993 World Series-winning team, has passed away at the age of 57.
The Blue Jays confirmed the news Sunday morning, calling Fernandez “one of our club’s most celebrated and respected players.”
We will miss you, Tony 💙 pic.twitter.com/3FfCgXaM7y— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) February 16, 2020
Earlier this year, Fernandez was hospitalized due to complications from kidney disease, which led to him being placed in a medically induced coma. According to MLB Insider Hector Gomez, Fernandez suffered a stroke and was reportedly taken off life support.
A native of San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Fernandez was one of the crown jewels of the team’s Latin American scouting efforts, led by Epy Guerrero. Fernandez is joined by the likes of Carlos Delgado, George Bell, Damaso Garcia, and Alfredo Griffin, as Latin American prospects that helped the budding young franchise make the leap to a contender.
Six-foot-two with just a 165-pound frame, Fernandez was first scouted by Guerrero as an 11-year-old. He would climb a fence to get into the stadium to field ground balls with a glove “made out of a cardboard milk container” and needed knee surgery before becoming a teenager, according to a 1986 story in the Washington Post.
Originally signed as a 17-year-old in 1979, Fernandez went on to lead the franchise in all-time hits, singles, triples and games played. A gifted defensive shortstop, his remarkable lateral range and signature sidearm flip throw across the diamond helped him win four straight Gold Glove Awards from 1986-89 and five all-star selections. His 213 hits in 1986 were a major league single season record for a shortstop at the time. His fingerprints are not only all over the team’s record books but also intertwined with the franchise’s greatest moments.
He was a big piece of the team’s first two playoff seasons in 1985 and 1989, before being included in a landmark, franchise-altering trade in 1990 with the San Diego Padres to bring future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar and World Series hero Joe Carter to Toronto. He would return to the Jays for the 1993 stretch run, and put together a shimmering performance in the World Series with a .804 OPS and a team-high nine RBI to finish off the Philadelphia Phillies in six games.
Fernandez played for seven different teams in his 17-year MLB career, but he always found his way back to Toronto. He returned for a third time ahead of the 1998 season, fitting right back in to his old home without missing a beat. At 36 years old, he hit .321, and followed it up a year later by flirting with .400 for part of the year, finishing with a .328 average and his fifth all-star team selection. After being released by the Milwaukee Brewers in 2001, Fernandez signed one last time with the Blue Jays, handling some light pinch hitting duties before having his name enshrined on the level of excellence late in the season.
Upon his retirement, Fernandez was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
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