Blast From the Past – Turner Ward

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.

2 thoughts on “Blast From the Past – Turner Ward”

  1. something you might not know about turner… the last day of spring training1989 he was told that he made the major league club, he was playing right field for the indians, a high fly ball was hit and he lost it in the sun, he spotted the ball just as it was gonna hit the ground and made a quick move to catch it, his cleat stuck in the grass, his body went one way and his ankle the opposite, the sudden move broke both balls of his ankle and the two bones that go down into the ankle, after a sixteen hour operation and two screws all the way through his leg he woke up and the first words out of his mouth were… ” when can i play again?” the doctor told him that he was sorry but he would never play again, he needed to concentrate on being able to walk again without a limp. turner was supposed to be back in cleveland in six weeks, so they could take his cast off and start rehab. two weeks later turner cut his cast off and started walking, a week later he started jogging around the block, two weeks later he was jogging to his old high school, running bleachers and 100 yard sprints and back home (3 miles one way). when he arrived in cleveland six weeks later, the doctor called him in and couldn’t believe what he was saw. after all that, the doctor still would not release him to play. two weeks later he left home and went to the indians rookie club and started playing, he played a couple of weeks before the front office found out he was down there playing. that’s right, not even the front office knew he was down there, he left on his own, told them that he was there to rehab and the rest is history. (not to be published, i’m writing a book)
    thank you,
    wade ward (brother)

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