Prior to the first game played by each of the new teams, a draft was held the year before for the new teams to attempt to put together a roster of players for the next season. The rules for the availability of players changed slightly from 1962 to 1998, but what was common was the opportunity for the new teams to decide which players they could use from the existing teams in MLB. Over a series of 14 posts, I will review the expansion drafts of each of these newer 14 teams. Included are trades made following the draft and which players were taken first overall. Without further due, here is a recap of the 1976 expansion draft and ensuing moves made by what would become the 1977 Toronto Blue Jays.
The 1976 expansion draft was set up for the Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. Different that the later expansion drafts, each team would select 30 total players over five rounds. They were only able to select unprotected players from American League teams. Five rounds consisted of 12 picks each round meant that a player from each AL team would be taken each round for a total of 5 players lost per team.
I have to be honest, after going over the hideous draft of the Seattle Mariners, I had some concern over whether the rest of this series was worth doing. It amazes me how bad a team could be in scouting talent. More players than not never even played in a major league game. I felt a little better about the Blue Jays and the major league talent they drafted. During the 1976 season, the Blue Jays made a trade with the Chicago White Sox for catcher Phil Roof. Obviously, it had to be for a player to be named later, as the Blue Jays had no players to trade. After the 1976 season, it was determined that Roy Hartsfield would be the team's first manager. He came out of the San Diego Padres organization and had a keen sense of their minor league system. He brought in players such as Dave Roberts, Dave Hilton, Hector Torres, John Scott and Chuck Hartenstein (guest on the Passed Ball Show), all out of the San Diego system. Former 1969 Mets OF Rod Gaspar found out later that he could have come along from the San Diego system to join Hartsfield as well.
Opening up the draft, the Mariners took Ruppert Jones from the Kansas City Royals. The Jays first selection was OF Bob Bailor from the Baltimore Orioles. They followed that up with Jerry Garvin (4th) from the Minnesota Twins, then took RHP Jim Clancy (6th) from the Texas Rangers. Gary Woods (8th), an OF from the Oakland Athletics, was taken next, followed by veteran DH Rico Carty (10th) from the Indians and RHP Butch Edge (12th) from the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Jays opened up the 2nd round by taking veteran RHP Al Fitzmorris (13th) from the Kansas City Royals. OF Al Woods, who was a guest on my Passed Ball Show, was selected next (15th) from the Minnesota Twins. Other notable selections were RHP Pete Vuckovich (19th) from the White Sox and OF Steve Bowling (23rd) from the Brewers. After selecting LHP Dennis DeBarr from the Tigers with their 1st pick of the third round (26th), they selected RHP Bill Singer from the Twins. Singer would be the Blue Jays opening day starter in their first ever game. With the 30th pick, the Jays took New York Yankees SS Jim Mason. Mason's name was part of a potential new baseball term to describe poor hitting: the Mason-Dixon line; a mark which his career batting average of .204. 1B Doug Ault, taken with the 32nd pick from the Rangers, would be the team's opening day 1B in 1977. Catcher Ernie Whitt, taken with the 34th pick from the Indians, would be the best catcher in the history of the franchise.
After opening up the 4th round by taking 2B Steve Staggs (37th) from the Mariners, the Jays would take 3B Garth Iorg from the Yankees with the 39th pick. Their next pick (41st), Dave Lemanczyk, would be the team's opening day starter in 1978. He was taken from the Tigers. Toronto opened up the 5th round by taking 3B Dave McKay from the Minnesota Twins (49th). With the 53rd pick, the Jays selected OF Otto Velez from the Yankees. Their last selection (59th) was RHP Leroy Hooten from the Athletics.
The following was the entire Toronto Blue Jays expansion draft:
RoundPickPlayerPositionSelected fromSelected by
(1)2Bob BailorOutfielderBaltimore OriolesToronto Blue Jays
(1)4Jerry GarvinPitcherMinnesota TwinsToronto Blue Jays
(1)6Jim ClancyPitcherTexas RangersToronto Blue Jays
(1)8Gary WoodsOutfielderOakland AthleticsToronto Blue Jays
(1)10Rico CartyDesignated hitterCleveland IndiansToronto Blue Jays
(1)12Butch EdgePitcherMilwaukee BrewersToronto Blue Jays(2)13Al FitzmorrisPitcherKansas City RoyalsToronto Blue Jays
(2)15Alvis WoodsOutfielderMinnesota TwinsToronto Blue Jays
(2)17Mike DarrPitcherBaltimore OriolesToronto Blue Jays
(2)19Pete VuckovichPitcherChicago White SoxToronto Blue Jays
(2)21Jeff ByrdPitcherTexas RangersToronto Blue Jays
(2)23Steve BowlingOutfielderMilwaukee BrewersToronto Blue Jays
(3)26Dennis DeBarrPitcherDetroit TigersToronto Blue Jays
(3)28Bill SingerPitcherMinnesota TwinsToronto Blue Jays
(3)30Jim MasonShortstopNew York YankeesToronto Blue Jays
(3)32Doug AultFirst basemanTexas RangersToronto Blue Jays
(3)34Ernie WhittCatcherBoston Red SoxToronto Blue Jays
(3)36Mike WeathersInfielderOakland AthleticsToronto Blue Jays
(4)37Steve StaggsSecond basemanKansas City RoyalsToronto Blue Jays
(4)39Steve HarganPitcherTexas RangersToronto Blue Jays
(4)41Garth IorgThird basemanNew York YankeesToronto Blue Jays
(4)43Dave LemanczykPitcherDetroit TigersToronto Blue Jays
(4)45Larry AndersonPitcherMilwaukee BrewersToronto Blue Jays
(4)47Jesse JeffersonPitcherChicago White SoxToronto Blue Jays
(5)49Dave McKayInfielderMinnesota TwinsToronto Blue Jays
(5)51Tom BrunoPitcherKansas City RoyalsToronto Blue Jays
(5)53Otto VelezOutfielderNew York YankeesToronto Blue Jays
(5)55Mike WillisPitcherBaltimore OriolesToronto Blue Jays
(5)57Sam EwingOutfielderChicago White SoxToronto Blue Jays
(5)59Leon HootenPitcherOakland AthleticsToronto Blue Jays
After the draft, Carty was traded to Cleveland for catcher Rick Cerone and RHP John Lowenstein. Fitzmorris was trade to the Indians as well, for catcher Alan Ashby and 1B Doug Howard. During spring training, Dave Roberts was traded back to San Diego for RHP Jerry Johnson and Mike Weathers was traded to the Athletics for infielder and former LA Dodgers WS Champion Ron Fairly. At the end of March of 1977, Lowenstein was traded to Cleveland for 2B Hector Torres. Pedro Garcia was signed as a free agent (most recently with the Detroit Tigers).
John Scott would be the first batter in the history of the franchise. RHP Bill Singer started the first game, but rumor has it that ownership vetoed a trade that would have sent Singer to the Yankees for LHP Ron Guidry. The following was the Blue Jays starting lineup in their first ever game.
John Scott LF
Hector Velez SS
Doug Ault 1B
Otto Velez DH
Gary Woods CF
Steve Bowling RF
Pedro Garcia 2B
Dave McKay 3B
Rick Cerone C
Bill Singer SP
Other notables to play in the game included Mason and Al Woods, who both pinch and Pete Vuckovich, who picked up the save in the win for the Jays over the White Sox.
As expected, the Blue Jays struggled in their first season. Toronto finished last place in the AL East with a record of 54-107. That was good enough to be 45 1/2 games behind the first place Yankees. That must have been tough to see for Velez, Iorg and Mason, who all were taken in the expansion draft by from the Yankees. Hartsfield had his work cut out for him, as with most expansion franchises, it was a long road to the top.