Blue Jays celebrate top moments in history

Blue Jays celebrate top moments in history

TORONTO -- There have been many celebratory moments throughout the Blue Jays' history, and fans at Rogers Centre had the opportunity to relive those good times prior to Sunday's 6-1 win against the Tigers.

The Blue Jays hosted their second of three home games this season celebrating the team's 40th anniversary season, and brought back several familiar faces. A pregame ceremony looked back at the best moments in franchise history, introducing a handful of Blue Jays alumni, while also playing each moment during a video tribute on the big screen in center field.

The alumni on hand for Sunday's festivities included Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, George Bell, Devon White, Ed Sprague, Kelly Gruber, Otto Velez, John McDonald and former manager Cito Gaston.

Gaston won 894 games in two stints as manager of the Blue Jays, and was at the helm for both World Series championships in 1992 and '93. The charismatic former skipper looked back at his first run with the ballclub, and also had praise for the current edition's chances to add more banners.

"The biggest thing in my mind that stood out happened when we were going back to the team bus after the second World Series," Gaston said. "That's when it really hit me that we were going to be part of another parade. We switched out quite a few players between the two World Series seasons as well, and that even made it tougher. It's a tough task to remain focused, give up the family life and just work your tail off that deep into the season for two straight years, and that's what we did.

"This team over here, they've got a shot to do something special as well. You look at the whole roster top to bottom, and they're a good team with a lot of very solid pieces."

Fans who came early to Sunday's game received a replica Alomar or Carter vintage Blue Jays jersey, with many of the alumni signing the jerseys, autographs and memorabilia for fans prior to the ceremony

Among those members was Carter, who played seven of his 17 Major League seasons with the Blue Jays, and hit a walk-off, series-clinching home run in Game 6 of the '93 World Series against the Phillies. Now 56 years old, Carter fondly remembers the feeling of hitting the biggest home run in franchise history, as well as the emotions of winning in consecutive seasons.

Great WS Moments: No. 4

"I remember every single thing about it," Carter said. "First of all, to be put up on a pedestal like that is truly an honor. There's 40 years of history here. Winning back-to-back World Series is special, and hitting the home run is something I will never forget. No matter where I go, people talk about it every single day. I've always told people I've milked that home run for 23 years, and will continue to do so. It was a great honor, and I'm happy to oblige.

"Looking back, it definitely hits you more now. When you're going through the journey, you don't really have time to sit back and reflect upon it because of all the emotions. When you get home, you get a chance to sit down and reflect. I just thought, 'Wow, we did it.' It's a very tough thing to do, and the whole organization is very proud of it."

McDonald was among the youngest Blue Jays alumni to make the trip, and was given a hearty ovation when introduced to the sold-out crowd. Known for his defensive prowess, McDonald's biggest moment with the team came on Father's Day in 2010, when the light-hitting middle infielder entered a blowout loss against the Giants as a late-game replacement, just days after the passing of his father, Jack. McDonald -- who was activated that same day from the bereavement list -- launched a two-run home run off Jeremy Affeldt. The 15-year Major League veteran made an emotional trip around the bases and into the dugout.

McDonald's two-run blast

"I remember walking into the dugout and Lyle Overbay telling me to calm down and relax," McDonald said about entering the game. "I told him, 'Hey, I'm relaxed man. I'm just going to go out there and hit a homer.' And then to walk up, get an at-bat and hit a home run -- I mean, I didn't hit many home runs anyway -- I was so positive in the box. I thought, 'I'm going to get a good pitch to hit and drive the heck out of it.'"

After the conclusion of Sunday's game, select Blue Jays fans had the opportunity to meet the alumni and attend an autograph session in the centre bay of the WestJet Flight Deck at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays will host their final 40th season celebratory home game on Aug. 14 against the Astros, recognizing the greatest pitchers in franchise history.

Alykhan Ravjiani is a reporter for MLB.com based in Toronto. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.