To this day, Jim Acker remains my second favourite middle reliever in Blue Jays history. Behind the beautiful and outstanding Mark Eichhorn, Acker holds a small piece of my heart all to himself. Maybe it’s the beard, maybe it’s the ferocious stare, or maybe it’s just because I pity him for the way his career unfolded. Either way, the Ack played an integral part in both the Blue Jay glory era, and my childhood.
Acker actually enjoyed two different tours of duty with Toronto. After being selected in the first round of the draft by Atlanta, the Jays stole him in the Rule 5 draft in 1982. From 1983 – 1986 he was a key member of the Blue Jay bullpen, helping them capture their first ever AL East division title in 1985. He didn’t really have a set role on that club, but contributed in so many ways – 7-2 record, 3.23 ERA, 10 saves, best facial hair, and worst control (43 walks to 42 strikeouts).
But despite all that, Toronto broke a piece of my heart by dealing Acker back to Atlanta midway through ’86. While my heart eventually healed (helped a lot by Mr. Eichhorn), it didn’t come fully back until the trade deadline of 1989 when Acker was re-acquired for Tony Castillo and Francisco Cabrera. He dominated down the stretch (1.59 ERA, 24 K in 28.1 IP), and propelled Toronto to their second playoff appearance.
It was all downhill from there however. He regressed in 1990, and regressed further in 1991 to the point where he was only a spare part in the bullpen. The Jays only trusted him to pitch 0.2 IP in the ’91 ALCS, a five game loss to Minnesota, and then boom…just like that he was gone, never again to don the powder blue.
Acker finished his career in 1992 with Seattle – a fact that gives me great sadness. Despite having average or below-average career numbers as a Blue Jay, he served Toronto proudly for seven seasons and helped them capture three division titles – but never tasted playoff success. While he was going up in flames in Seattle, Toronto was busy winning the World Series without him.
Sometimes I close my eyes and try to picture what Acker would have looked like jumping up and down on the Fulton County Stadium field with Joe Carter. I try to imagine him on stage at the Dome giving a speech in the victory celebration, maybe standing beside Dave Winfield and asking for more noise from the fans. Sometimes I even watch the 1992 World Series video and feel sad that it was Mike Timlin, and not the Ack, who made the final play…
Instead Acker is just one of the unfortunate Jays who missed out on a championship by a single season. Maybe being recognized by 500 Level Fan’s Blast From the Past will help ease his pain. Godspeed Jim Acker, godspeed.
Jim Acker: Career Major League Statistics
10 seasons (1983 – 1992)
3 teams (TOR, ATL, SEA)
33-49 record, 30 saves, 3.97 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 482 K:329 BB
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