As a member of the rival Oakland Athletics, Dave Stewart was quite familiar with the Blue Jays before he joined the club prior to the 1993 season. Not only did he throw a no-hitter against Toronto, he also faced the Jays in the playoffs on two separate occasions (1989 & 1992).
However, Blue Jays fans welcomed Stewart — and his notorious stare — with open arms in 1993, and on October 23 of that season, the veteran right-hander took the mound in the biggest game of the year — Game 6 of the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
I recently caught up with Stewart, who was more than happy to reminisce about his experiences with the Toronto Blue Jays. Here’s what he had to say …
Q: On June 29, 1990, you tossed the first — and still only — no-hitter against the Blue Jays in Toronto. Was that the best game of your career? If not, what was?
Stewart: Without a doubt that was the best game of my career. It’s tough to top a no-hitter. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings you experience after throwing a no-hitter, but I can tell you that you are dead tired when it’s over. I was absolutely wiped out.
Q: With the rivalry between the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays in the late 80’s/early 90’s, it was very intriguing when you joined Toronto from Oakland. What was it that made you decide to sign with the Blue Jays during the 1992 offseason?
Stewart: I felt they were the closest to winning the World Series of all the teams that were pursuing me. I had the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers pursuing me, but I liked everything about Toronto and I felt they were in the best shape to win the World Series.
Q: Often, players late in their careers sign with a team that they think can win a championship. Things couldn’t have worked out better for you in that respect in 1993, as you played a big role (ALCS MVP) in bringing Toronto its second straight World Series title that season. Could you sum up your performance that season and how you feel you contributed to that ’93 team?
Stewart: The worst thing that could have happened to me was to start the season on the disabled list. That was really difficult. When I did come back I believe I was able to win 12 or 13 games and I pitched well in the playoffs so in the end I was able to do what they signed me to do. The down point was definitely starting the season on the DL and not knowing if I was going to be able to help. The best part was making the playoffs and pitching well throughout the postseason and of course winning the World Series.
Q: You left Game 6 of the World Series with a 5-4 lead in the seventh inning, but quickly watched that turn into a 6-5 deficit. With the game now out of your hands, describe your thoughts as you watched the remainder of the game from the bench.
Stewart: The best I can remember is that I pitched into the seventh and then gave up a home run to Lenny Dykstra that made it 5-4. Danny Cox came in and he had done a good job all year. Had I done my job Danny would not have been in the game and I could have just turned it over to Duane Ward. I was disappointed that I didn’t finish the game or at least didn’t go deep enough into the game so that we wouldn’t have to worry about giving up the lead.
Q: What was the first thing you did when Joe Carter cleared the fence for the World Series-winning homer? Who did you hug first?
Stewart: When we won it the first person I hugged was Moli, Paul Molitor. Moli was a great teammate, I mean a great teammate and he had never won a World Series before. We came in the same year and I was just really happy for him.
Q: Could you describe overall how your experience was as a Toronto Blue Jay?
Stewart: Toronto is a great city, just an outstanding city to play in. I had a great time playing for Cito Gaston and that ownership and management team was great. It was a great place to play. I don’t think I had that kind of experience in any other place.
Q: One thing that I’ve always wanted to know more about was your involvement in helping the homeless in Toronto. It was reported that on the night before you took the mound in Game 6 of the ALCS — a series in which you won the MVP award — that you were at a homeless shelter helping serve dinners. Is that true? Could you elaborate on the work you did for the homeless in Toronto? Are you still involved in that?
Stewart: That is a true story. I was there serving Thanksgiving dinner the night before our game. It was something I had scheduled to do and the Blue Jays understood that and allowed me to do it. I have been committed to working with the homeless and underprivileged children since my playing days and I continue to work in those areas.