Junior Felix knew how to make a great first impression. The Cat made his major league debut for Toronto on May 4th, 1989 and promptly swatted the first pitch he saw from Kirk McCaskill into the seats for a home run, becoming the 27th AL player to homer on his first at-bat, and only the 10th to do it on the first pitch. He made news later that season by belting an inside-the-park grand slam at Fenway Park, leading the Jays to victory. Yes, the Cat was taking Toronto by storm, and was even featured in one of the greatest films ever produced – Sky High: The Story of the 1989 Toronto Blue Jays.
When he made his debut in May of 1989, the Blue Jays were in the midst of a dismal start to the season, sitting 10-18 in 6th place in the AL East. While many people point the finger at the hiring of Cito Gaston to replace Jimy Williams at the reason for the turnaround that season, don’t underestimate Mr. Felix. His speed and versatility allowed Toronto to bat him lead-off or ninth, giving Cito numerous lineup options. Sure the Jays had Whitt, McGriff, Fernandez, Gruber, Moseby, and Bell, but Junior Felix became the sparkplug that made the team run. After his call-up to the bigs, the Jays finished the season on a 79-55 run to claim the division.
After a disappointing five game ALCS loss to Oakland, Felix was back in 1990. He hit .263 with 15 HR, 65 RBI, and 13 SB and wrote his name further into Blue Jay folk lore by catching the final out of Dave Stieb’s no-hitter in September. Felix the Cat t-shirts were selling like hot cakes in Toronto. I was only 11 years old so my memory is foggy, but I’m sure that women were throwing themselves at him wherever he went. It looked like there was a real chance that Junior might become a mainstay in the Blue Jay lineup for years to come. Continue reading Blast From the Past – Junior Felix