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Pair of Blue Jays get call to Canadian Hall

Olerud, Ward will be joined by Canadians Morneau, Doucet in country's HOF
@baseballexis
February 4, 2020

TORONTO -- With Canada set to celebrate its second Hall of Famer entering Cooperstown this summer, this season will also see the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame honour two Canucks and two former Blue Jays in its 2020 election class. Just before Larry Walker joins Ferguson Jenkins as the only

TORONTO -- With Canada set to celebrate its second Hall of Famer entering Cooperstown this summer, this season will also see the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame honour two Canucks and two former Blue Jays in its 2020 election class.

Just before Larry Walker joins Ferguson Jenkins as the only Canadians with a plaque in Cooperstown, St. Marys, Ontario, will welcome former Blue Jays first baseman John Olerud and reliever Duane Ward into its esteemed halls on June 20, along with Canadian slugger Justin Morneau and longtime Montreal Expos broadcaster Jacques Doucet.

“Other than my parents, there were two major influences on my baseball career: Larry Walker and the Toronto Blue Jays, especially in 1992 and ’93,” said Morneau, a four-time All-Star and 2006 American League MVP Award winner. “If John and Duane hadn’t done what they did, I’m not sure I would have leaned toward baseball and away from hockey. I had the Blue Jays and Larry Walker coming along at the same time, so these guys have had as much impact on Canadian baseball as anybody.

“I’m glad to be able to go in with them, obviously Jacques as well, but … without the Blue Jays, I’m not sure I would have been a baseball player -- without John and Duane, especially their impact they had on [the sport].”

Olerud headed straight to the big leagues after being selected by the Blue Jays in the third round of the 1989 Draft, becoming Toronto’s second Draft pick to make his organizational debut in the Majors, following catcher Brian Milner in '78. He became the squad’s regular first baseman in '91 and was an integral part of three consecutive AL East titles and two World Series championship rosters.

The Seattle native finished the 1993 season with a .363 batting average, becoming the first and only Toronto player to win an AL batting title. During that season, Olerud also led the Majors with 54 doubles, a .473 on-base percentage and a 1.072 OPS, finishing third in AL MVP Award voting.

“It was a pleasure,” Ward said of watching Olerud during the 1993 season. “We all sat there and marveled at his swing. … We knew that John was going to put the ball in play, whether it was a double in the gap, a single down the line or a home run. You knew that John was going to get on base, and if there were guys out there on the bases, he was going to drive them in. That year, I know it was really special to John, but to be able to sit back and watch it was nothing but awe-inspiring.”

Olerud spent eight of his 17 big league seasons with the Blue Jays, tallying a .293/.395/.471 slash line with 109 home runs, 213 doubles and 471 RBIs in 920 games. His .395 on-base percentage is the best in franchise history, and his .363 average, .473 OBP and 33 intentional walks in 1993 remain single-season records for Toronto.

“Being honoured in this way is amazing and I’m very grateful for it,” Olerud said.

Ward joined the Blue Jays in 1986, and he proceeded to never have fewer than 64 appearances or 101 innings in his peak of five seasons as primarily the setup man. In '91, the right-hander topped all MLB hurlers with 81 appearances and struck out a career-best 132 hitters over 107 1/3 frames -- marks that helped him finish ninth in AL Cy Young Award voting. The following season, he helped Toronto to its first World Series championship with a career-best 1.95 ERA over 79 outings.

In 1993, Ward took over as the team’s closer and bested the AL with a franchise-record 45 saves, finishing 70 games and allowing just 49 hits while striking out 97 over 71 2/3 innings. He was named an All-Star and finished fifth in Cy Young Award voting, helping the Blue Jays to another World Series triumph along the way. During Toronto’s two championships, Ward made eight World Series appearances, going 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA. He struck out 13 batters over eight innings and recorded two saves.

“He was just dominant,” Olerud said. “With Wardo coming, you knew you were going to have an easy inning. There rarely was a rough inning when Wardo took the field. He just had great stuff, and the ball didn’t get put in play a whole lot.”

Ward spent all but 10 games of his nine-year big league career with the Blue Jays, racking up 650 2/3 innings, 121 saves and 671 strikeouts with Toronto. Ward appeared in 452 games, the second most by a pitcher in franchise history.

“When I was informed about my induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the only thing I felt at the time was completely overwhelmed -- a flood of feelings and emotions came after a few minutes of reflection and thought,” Ward said. “I can’t state enough how deeply honoured I am to be a part of the 2020 class of inductees.”

Doucet began doing play-by-play broadcasting for the Expos’ French-language radio broadcasts in 1972 and continued for 33 seasons. After calling games for the independent Can-Am League’s Quebec Capitales from '06-11, in August '11, he returned to the big leagues to broadcast select Blue Jays games in French for TVA Sports, and he continues to broadcast Toronto games today.

Alexis Brudnicki is a Canada-based Baseball Development and Special Projects reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.