For Fans, By Fans

Jays Listed: Blue Jays Book List

Looking for something to do during the long wait until opening day? How about picking up a book? Throughout their history there have been many books written about the Blue Jays by players, journalists and from the organization itself. Whether you want to learn about the history of the franchise or the history of some of the team’s finest players there’s a book for you. If you want some help in finding a spring read here’s a quick fire list for you that includes some of the Jays books I’ve read and a longer list of books I want to read.

Blue Jays Books I’ve Read:

Kelly at Home on Third
By Kelly Gruber with Kevin Boland

I got this book for my 10th birthday in 1991. I remember reading it cover-to-cover and immediately declaring it as my new favorite book. Written by Gruber and Kevin Boland (a name that will come up again later) the book was written at the height of Gruber’s time in Toronto following his career-best 1990 season.

It tells Gruber’s life story up to that point starting with his up-bringing in Texas, his tough early days in baseball with the Cleveland Indians organization and eventually finding his way to Toronto via the Rule-5 draft. Gruber continued to struggle in the minors with the Jays until he was moved from shortstop (where his playing style just didn’t fit the position) to third base, where the book title appropriately states he was finally at home.

Re-reading the book now it’s kind of sad that Gruber’s career would come to an abrupt halt not long after due to injuries breaking down his body.

The Last Out: The Toronto Blue Jays in 1986
By Buck Martinez

This was Buck’s second book as he also wrote one about the 1985 season as well. I found The Last Out at a used book store a few years ago, but haven’t been able to put my hands on the 1985 book yet. 1986 was, to put it mildly, a disappointing season in Toronto. Coming off their first division title in 1985 Toronto was expected to compete for the top spot in the division again. Instead they stumbled out of the gate and ended up finishing fourth, 9 ½ game back of the Red Sox.

Buck’s book reads more like a diary describing the ups and downs of the ’86 season, which included career numbers from Jesse Barfield and a season-long struggle for Dave Stieb. It also in a away eulogizes the end of Buck’s career as a player.

Buck also includes candid interviews with George Bell, Jesse Barfield and Tony Fernandez as well as an interesting chapter on some of the great rookies of 1986. It’s makes you laugh a little inside to hear Buck talking about great rookie talents like Pete Incavliglia, Wally Joyner, Danny Tartabull and some young kid named Jose Canseco.

Road to Glory
By Tom Cheek with Howard Berger

Before doing some research for this piece I didn’t even know this book existed. How did I miss it back in 1992 when it was written and published? Luckily for me one of the branches of our local library still has an old copy and I was able to pick it up a few weeks ago and read it.

Written by the late Tom Cheek and his Fan radio colleague Howard Berger the book not only tells the story of the Blue Jays from creation to winning their first World Series in 1992, but it also tells Cheek’s story. More specifically how he started in radio and became the first voice of the Blue Jays in 1977.

Cheek’s story is an interesting one because it truly is his own. Up to that point he had seen every Jays game played and he’d also been behind the scenes with players and Blue Jays personnel. The best parts of the book are probably the stories about the early Jays teams, as it gives interesting insights to the difficult years at Exhibition Stadium and the awful conditions the team endured during their first seasons of Spring Training in Dunedin. Apparently when the team decided to use Dunedin for spring training it was a total dump. Too bad Cheek didn’t wait one more season before writing the book after the 1993 season and he could have included and spoken about his famous “touch’em all Joe” call.

Second to None: The Roberto Alomar Story
Roberto Alomar with Stephen Brunt

If you want to read about the life of a Hall of Famer then a take a look at this book. The book was published in 1993 when Alomar could have legitimately been called King of Toronto. It tells his life story starting in Puerto Rico and it also tells the story of a baseball family. Some of the more interesting parts of the book are Alomar’s life around the game before he became a big leaguer and was growing up in the game along with his brother as the son of a Major League player, his father Sandy Sr.

It’s cool to read stories about Alomar playing catch with Nolan Ryan as a child and later on he would face him in the batter’s box with San Diego and Toronto. Remember, Alomar made the final out (a strikeout of course) when Ryan recorded his seventh career no-hitter against the Jays.

Toronto Blue Jays Official 25th Anniversary Commemorative Book

This is basically a coffee table book, but it’s got some great pictures and great stories from the Blue Jays first 25 years. If you want to see the history of the Blue Jays in pictures with a look at the highs and lows throughout the team’s history you should definitely pick this one up if you can find it.

It also has a complete list of every player that had played on the Jays up to that point with stats and mug shots for each player. Hopefully when the Jays turn the big 5-0 in 2027 they’ll release another edition with 25 more years of players and stories.

Diamond Dreams
By Stephen Brunt

This for my money is the best book I’ve ever read on the Toronto Blue Jays. Since it’s by Stephen Brunt (arguably the best living sports writer in the country) you know it’s going to be well-written and very well researched. The book was released in 1996 and tells the story of first 20 years of the Blue Jays.

No matter how big a Blue Jays fan you are there’s a good chance you’re going to learn something about the franchise you didn’t know. Some of the things I learned about that standout are how extremely close Toronto came to bringing the Giants to Canada before the Jays franchise was granted, the inner-workings of the early Toronto club and how they built a competitive ball club from the ground up, general tidbits on certain players like Dave Stieb, George Bell, Tony Fernandez and a story behind why Derek Bell was shipped out of town.

The only thing missing from this book is what happened next. I would love for Brunt to do a second edition or sequel with the story behind the last 16 years of the Jays. Maybe one day someone will take up the challenge.

Blue Jays Books I want to read:

Tomorrow I’ll Be Perfect
By Dave Stieb with Kevin Bolland

I should have to turn in my Jays fan card for not having read this book. I remember taking it out from the library when I was a kid but I never got around to reading it. Since it was published in 1986 it doesn’t mention Stieb’s eventual no-hitter during the 1990 season. The title would have seemed appropriate at that time as Stieb had lost no-hitters in the ninth inning twice and he also lost a perfect game with two outs in the ninth. One thing I find weird though is the book came out in 1986 but those near-miss no-hitters and perfect game took place in 1988 and 1989. Maybe a prophetic title for what was to come.

Stieb was known for his fiery personality on the mound and was known to be not to appreciative or understanding to any of his fielders that committed an error behind him. I wonder if this is touched on in the book at all? Anyone who has read the book can provide their own brief review or talk about the book feel free to do so in the comments section.

From Worst to First: The Toronto Blue Jays in 1985
By Buck Martinez

This was Buck’s first book, released a year before the one I have on the 1986 season. I wasn’t able to find any reviews online, but I imagine it’s written the same way or at least very similar to the 1986 sequel.

Since it’s about the 1985 season you know it’s going to have some good stories since that was the first time the Jays won the AL East and went to the playoffs. From the author’s standpoint 1985 was also memorable because it was the season Buck broke his leg blocking the plate, an injury many believed would end his baseball career.

Chasing Steinbrenner: Pursuing the Pennant in Boston and Toronto
By Rob Bradford

This is another book I stumbled upon while researching this list. I’d never heard of it before or its author Rob Bradford. The book follows the 2003 season in Toronto and Boston as both clubs try to compete with the Yankees juggernaut in the AL East.

I don’t know where I’m going to get it but I really want to find a copy of this book. According to a review it actually paints J.P. Riccardi in a better light than Theo Epstein. The reviewer said the book was similar to Moneyball, but more about baseball the game than baseball the business.

Has anyone out there read it and can agree or disagree with this statement? The Jays finished 78-84 in 2002 and Eric Hinke won the Rookie of the Year. A look behind the scenes during the season would be an interesting read indeed.

The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness at 95mph
Shawn Green with Gordon McAlpine

I read a few different reviews for Shawn Green’s book last year when it was released and it sounds like an interesting read for Jays fans since there aren’t as many books about those years in Toronto (Green played in Toronto from ’93-99) like there are for the 80′s and early 90′s. The reviews mention that Green specifically touches on his relationship with Cito Gaston (spoilers: he’s not a fan), playing with Carlos Delgado both in the minors and the Majors and some very kind words for Tony Fernandez who was a veteran in Toronto during Green’s years there.

There’s also apparently large sections on zen and focus, which is where the subtitle, “Finding Stillness at 95mph” comes from. I’m not the most spiritual person so this part of the book may not be for me, but I’ll press through it to get the on and off the field from Green’s days in Toronto and Los Angeles.

Your Toronto Blue Jays 25th Anniversary Collection: A Year-By-Year-History
Jefferson Davis

I haven’t read this one, but I was able to flip through it for a few minutes in the reference section of the library last week. The title basically explains this book exactly. It’s not really a narrative like Brunt or Martinez’s books.

It’s a year-by-year rundown with a brief outline of highs and lows from each season from 1977 to 2002. If you’re looking for interesting tidbits and stats from each season or a few fun lists, like most home runs and best average by a Jay in a season you’ll find it here. If you want the full story from each season with in depth personalities and stories you’ll have to try one of the other books I’ve mentioned.

Are there any other great books about the Blue Jays or Blue Jays players that I’ve left out? Got a good or bad review of one of the books I’ve mentioned. Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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10 thoughts on “Jays Listed: Blue Jays Book List

  1. Nick Hansen Reply

    Great listed again Dave, haven’t been able to dive into many of these books but they are intriguing, I would love to get into them

    • David Harrison Reply

      Yeah I hope to catch up on a few of them too Nick. There need to be more Blue Jays books on tape – or CD I guess it is now (I’m old). The Last Out – read by Buck Martinez – that would hilariously awesome!

  2. Ian Jefferson Reply

    Hello,
    I ran across this site trying to locate photos of my father Jesse Jefferson. He was an original Blue Jay during the ’77 season and was a pitcher with the Jays until ’80. Would there be any photos of him in these books? Since he passed I’ve been searching for photos of my father to add to my collection. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  3. David Harrison Reply

    Hi Ian,

    I don’t have copies of all of the books listed here, but I will take a look through the ones I do have and let you know if I find anything. Good luck with your search.

  4. Ian Jefferson Reply

    I really appreciate that. Thank you.

  5. Andrew Hendriks Reply

    Ian, your father was a hell of a ball player. One of the first stars of those early Blue Jays squads. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to come across some scrapbooks that feature newspaper clippings regarding your father. Since reading your comments,I’ve made some scans of these clippings. I can email them to you if you would like.

    Regards,

    Drew.

  6. Ian Jefferson Reply

    That would be awesome and I really appreciate those kind words. I wasn’t born till ’81 so I wasn’t fortunate to see him play with the jays. That would be great. My email is… jeffersons38n2@gmail.com..thanks again and God Bless you.

  7. Ian Jefferson Reply

    If anyone has the 1979 Toronto Blue Jays Yearbook that features Rico Carty on the cover. Could you please email me the pictures of my father Jesse Jefferson on pages…5…..13….34-35. I was told he was on those pages. Thank You.

  8. Ian Jefferson Reply

    Would anyone have the 1980 Toronto Blue Jays Photo Album? Looking to see what type of photos that may be in there of my father Jesse Jefferson#34.

  9. Seth Allen Reply

    I’ve read the chasing Stienbrenner book, found it at the local Library, I think after last winter and the new Books that came out, Jeff Blair`s book and the 100 things to know and do before you die were solid reads.

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