Blue Jays honor top arms in club history

Blue Jays honor top arms in club history

TORONTO -- The backbone of every good team can be found on the pitching staff, and on Sunday afternoon, the Blue Jays celebrated their 40th anniversary by welcoming back some of their all-time greats.

Roy Halladay, Dave Stieb, Pat Hentgen and Juan Guzman were the former starters on hand, while Tom Henke, Duane Ward and Mike Timlin represented the bullpen. It was the third and final ceremony to celebrate the anniversary after the club previously honored the top players and moments in franchise history.

"I had a lot of great memories here," said Halladay, who pitched for Toronto from 1998-2009. "A lot of exciting games. I loved playing Boston and New York, whether we were there or they were here. I loved certain teammates -- Carlos Delgado, A.J. Burnett, Pat Hengten, Vernon Wells, Adam Lind, B.J. Ryan -- just so many good teammates that I connected with over the years.

"Those are friendships that are built for life. I absolutely loved being here and I'm just thankful to be back. It hasn't been a consistent trip for me to get back, so I'm very excited to be here."

The pitchers came from different eras and represented some of the club's top highlights over the years. Stieb made his debut in 1979 and was here for the club's first pennant in 1985. Henke joined the team that season and stuck around until the World Series title in 1992.

Guzman, Timlin and Ward were all members of the 92-93 back-to-back World Series champions. Hentgen was part of that '93 team as well, and he bridged the gap the next era in Toronto baseball throughout the late '90s and the eventual arrival of Halladay in '98.

Timlin's top memory in a Blue Jays'uniform is easy to guess. He was the one who closed out Toronto's 4-3 victory over Atlanta to clinch the first World Series banner north of the border. He fielded a bunt from Otis Nixon and then threw over to Joe Carter at first base to seal the deal.

"I remember every single part of it," Timlin said. "[Mark] Eichhorn and I were warming up and [manager Cito Gaston] waved his right hand. It could have been for either one of us, but I dropped my ball and ran toward him.

"Otis came up and I was told to be aware of the bunt. I fielded it and threw it to Joe, and I was just standing there watching Joe jump around thinking, 'What are we doing?' Because the season's over. I was just disappointed because the season was over. I didn't want it to end, because we were playing so great."

The '92 World Series will always be a top highlight for Henke as well, but there was another memory that stuck out about his time in Toronto.

"It's hard to beat the World Series, but my first game in 1985 really comes to mind in the old Exhibition Stadium," Henke said. "The fans knew what I had done in [Triple-A] Syracuse, and I came up for [manager] Bobby Cox and was an instant success. They gave me an ovation for five minutes and they wouldn't let me pitch, they just kept cheering and cheering. It was amazing and something I'll remember as long as I live."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.