Thursday, September 2, 2010

Greatish Jays: The Shaker

As we're about to leave on a much-needed, much-deserved and far-too-short vacation tomorrow, it struck us that we'd better leave things on a much more happy and positive vibe. Somehow, leaving the angry, accusatory post with our absurdly confrontational, Bissinger-esque comments seemed unwise. Uncouth, even.

And so, we've reached backwards into our memory hole and picked up some of our happiest memories about the Toronto Blue Jays. And somehow, so many of them seem to involve the inimitable Lloyd Moseby, better known to you and I as The Shaker.

Moseby's numbers with the Jays don't always astound, in part because of his early years in which he was pressed into the lineup to gain much-needed experience at the Major League level. (Imagine this: Lloyd Moseby had 361 big league games under his belt before he turned 23. What a concept!) In his prime years (1983-1987), Moseby was a 117 OPS+, .811 OPS, 101 homer, 174 stolen base guy who played premium defense, and did it all with a smile and fun swagger.

Three other things we love about The Shaker in retrospect:

1) The hair/cap/helmet confluence: Moseby somehow managed to pull a cap over his sweet afro day in and day out, and would wear his batting helmet over top of his cap. (Not unusual in those days, but Moseby's combo was especially cool to see.)

2) The Power cleats: No one else that we know of wore what was then Bata's athletic shoe brand. But given Power's Canadian connection (Bata's headquarters were still in Canada at that time), we used to see Moseby's Power posters in sporting goods shops all the time.

3) The Shoestring Catch? Somehow, in our mind, we had built this into a seminal moment for the Blue Jays: Moseby comes on and makes an outstanding shoestring catch in the 1985 ALCS, only to get robbed of the call, causing the whole series' complexion to change. Except that the play actually happened in Game 2, in a game the Jays would go on to win in extra innings. The fact that we still hold onto that moment is probably a tribute to two things: The frustrating and spirit-crushing years after the 1985 ALCS but before the World Series wins, and the strict early bedtime to which I was compelled to adhere.

Obviously, there were better players in the Jays' history. But we're not sure that there is a player who we think of more fondly than Lloyd Moseby. There have been several centrefielders who you might prefer to play for your All-Time Jays roster, but if we were to sit in the stands to see such a team play, we'd be happiest to see the Shaker leading off and marshalling the middle of the outfield.


RonNasty said...

I'll always remember Moseby as being the first Jay to be hyped as a future star. Some scribe even compared him to Dave Parker.

The Ack said...

Right or wrong (but mostly right), Moseby centering Barfield & Bell will always be the trio by which Blue Jay outfields are measured.

What a group.

500 Level Fan said...

Agreed. Barfield, Bell, and Moseby was the best ever. My favourite memory of the Shaker was a few years ago after a Jays game. The Jays put on a slowpitch game with celebrities, athletes, and alumni. The Shaker struck out. Twice. Once by Cassie Campbell, once by Marnie McBean. And he got mad.
He still has that swagger...

Tao of Stieb said...

Actually - and this is my sad old man moment of the day - I worry that Bell-Barfield-Moseby meme is slowly but surely dying out.

Maybe in 30 years, we older fans will be making reference to them like people mentioning Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, but I'm not sure if some of the kids who were brought up in the WS years and after get what a big deal that outfield was.

It was actually all of baseball that talked about the Jays' young outfield, and how they were the gold standard.

(And suddenly, I realize that I have a new book chapter. Wahoo!)

The Ack said...

That early-to-mid 80's team was my first baseball love. Not sure what coverage was like in the GTA around that time, but it wasa big deal to get a televised game in rural MB - those dudes (with all-timer Tony Fernandez) were my baseball heroes.

...and that's my sad old man moment.

(and for you Expos fans out there, I also loved me some big looping swings from Timmy Wallach and the all-around brilliance of Raines, but I digress...)

Anonymous said...

That shoestring catch game...wasn't Moseby a big part of the bottom of the inning rally that won the game?

Tao of Stieb said...

Moseby was a big part of every game he played in, baby.

That's why he's the Shaker.

Peter D said...

If my memory remembers me correctly, back in the 80's Jays games in Ontario were only broadcast on Wednesdays, Saturdays and sometimes Sundays. It was a treat to watch a game.

Mosbey was one of my favourites as well, however the first thing that comes to mind whenever he is mentioned is that he was the cover-boy on Sports Illustrated that cursed the Jays in 1987.

Tim in London said...

If I recall, I'm sure many men struck out with Marnie McBean...just sayin'

Scrappy (until I get a better name) said...

Great post, The Shaker was the man. Who else could trash talk Ricky Henderson in the mid-80s. I guess his arm in centre wasn't great, but when you have his range (and style) and Jesse Barfield in right, I don't care. Bill James had him ranked as maybe the #2 CF in the AL for a couple of years.

1984 was an interesting year because Dave Collins was in the mix and Bobby Cox would flip Bell between LF and RF depending on if Collins or Barfield was in the line-up. I loved when it was a lefty pitching because Barfield and Cliff Johnson would destroy lefties. Cox also understands how to work a platoon.

Collins wasn't too bad as an awkward fast white guy with big glasses. And he helped get us Bill Caudill!

jabalong said...

Glad to see the love for good old Moseby. And I'd echo other comments here that the greatest Jays outfield ever was Bell-Moseby-Barfield. Man, I loved those guys. And I loved those late 1980s teams. Sure the early 1990s and the World Series were great, but to me the Jays team circa 1987 will always be first in my heart. Damn those demoralising September injuries to Fernandez and Whitt. If we could have just held off Detroit, we'd have beaten the Twins and Cardinals. Oh well, I still love that team.

Anonymous said...

Collins came from the Yankees with a tall first base prospect for Dale Murray and Tom Dodd. I forget his name, he must not have amounted to much.