This week by special request 500 Level Fan takes a look back at a classic Blue Jay. He was scrappy, energetic, and full of hustle, and somehow turned his limited ability into two World Series rings – despite never appearing in the post-season as a Jay.
This week’s Blast From the Past features Turner Ward.
After being drafted by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 1986 draft, Turner was dealt to Cleveland in 1989, and then finally made his way to Toronto with Tom Candiotti in 1991. Two classic Jays went the other way in that trade – Glenallen Hill and Hard Hittin’ Mark Whiten. Did he make an immediate impact with his new club? No, he went straight to the minors – but did make it up as a September call up where he mashed the ball to the tune of a .308 average in 13 AB, with one start.
In 1992, he made the opening day roster, made it into 6 games by May, then was promptly demoted to Syracuse, unable to take away a starting OF job from Carter, White, or Maldonado. But he made a much anticipated return in September, ended up hitting .345 in 29 AB, and made the postseason roster as a member of the Trenches with Derek Bell and Ed Sprague. However – unlike those trench guys, Ward didn’t make a single appearance in the Series.
But he got a ring anyways.
1993 – same story. A terrible regular season (.192 in 167 AB), but a spot on the postseason roster and a second World Series ring despite zero playing time. Even Willie Canate got into a game. Ward is likely the most undeserving recipient of two World Series rings this side of Eric Hinske, and likely only Mike Maksudian did less to win a championship.
Finally, Toronto let go of Turner in the offseason, allowing Milwaukee to claim him on waivers. The Brewers, likely citing his championship rings, badly misused Ward in 1994 by actually allowing him to play. His clubhouse persona, his sunflower seed spitting potential, and his proficiency at sitting down all went to waste. He made 427 plate appearances – something he clearly wasn’t used to (.232 average, .685 OPS).
But give him credit. He actually turned in a lengthy major league career, and produced a decent season in 1997 with the Pirates (1.007 OPS in 191 PA). His career highlight came in ’98 in Pittsburgh, when he crashed through the right field wall at Three Rivers Stadiium while making a spectacular catch. The highlight gave him national exposure and loads of TV time.
Despite his lifetime .251 batting average, Turner Ward is currently employed as the batting coach for the Mobile BayBears, a double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Who knows – we might see him back in the bigs sometime soon. Stranger things have happened.
Turner Ward: Career Major League Statistics
12 seasons (1990 – 2001)
6 teams (CLE, TOR, MIL, PIT, ARI, PHI)
.251 average, 39 HR, 219 RBI, 210 R, 33 SB, .721 OPS
*Blast From the Past is a feature dedicated to bringing back the memory of classic Jays from days past – the lesser known the better. If you have any suggestions please contact 500 Level Fan.