Archive for April 27th, 2007

Out with a bang

Friday, April 27, 2007

Though the Texas Rangers used the long ball to claim victory over the Blue Jays on Friday night, it was the other way around 22 years ago today.

Playing at Arlington Stadium that April 27, 1985, the Jays found themselvesAikens trailing 8-6 heading into the final inning. After an Ernie Whitt groundout to open the ninth, Jesse Barfield singled, bringing up shortstop Tony Fernandez. However, manager Bobby Cox opted to use pinch-hitter Willie Aikens, an eight-year veteran — in his second season with Toronto — and former first-round pick (1975), whose skills were on the decline. Not on this day, though. Facing Rangers reliever Tommy Boggs, Willie Mays Aikens — named after the Giants’ Hall of Famer — belted a dramatic two-run homer to pull the Jays even and send the game into extra innings, where Toronto would go on to win, 9-8.

Three days later, Aikens was ‘designated for assignment’ and subsequently sent down to the minor leagues, where he toiled for the next several seasons.

Little did Aikens know, his home run on April 27, 1985 would turn out to be not only his last homer, but also his last at-bat in a Major League uniform. He certainly went out with a bang.

Unfortunately, Aikens — who had previously been suspended and imprisoned on drug charges prior to joining the Blue Jays — fell into trouble after retiring from the game. In 1994 he was convicted of drug charges again and sentenced to 20 years in prison, where he remains today despite several written letters by outsiders — Dusty Baker, Hal McRae, Jim Fregosi, to name a few — in an attempt to lessen his sentence.

Click here for an interesting article on Aikens by’s Mike Fish …

Click here for another piece, written by SI’s Frank Deford …

Blue Jays pitchers shut out the Rangers — save for the third inning, of course. The five runs Texas puts up in that frame turn out to be enough on Friday night, as they down the Jays by a 5-3 count … Josh Towers surrenders all five runs on three long balls to take the loss … Lyle Overbay and Adam Lind (his first of the season) go deep for Toronto, which now own a record of 11-11 on the ’07 campaign … Until tomorrow …