He was a Blue Jay? Danny Ainge Edition

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Ok Blue Jays fever is craaaaaaazy right now in T Dot. This is actually bigger than “We The North” Raptors frenzy of the past 2 years. I know that because the talk of the town is NOT the Maple Leafs nor is it the ‘reigning best team in the city of Toronto’ Raptors. No it’s the Blue Jays and I haven’t heard 92 & 93 being mentioned so much since my last 90’s Hip Hop jam. So, there’s gonna be a slew of Blue Jays posts coming in the next 2 months.

Now I know I’m in the middle of writing like 5 other posts (Raw: Brooklyn, Toy Tokyo visit, Fan Expo 2015 and of course the Hip Hop and Comic Book editions of the 2015 n8itude Awards) but those require lost of research and planning. In the meanwhile tumbleweeds run amuck here, so I figured it’s time to teach da yoof and surprise some supposed “hardcore” Jays fans with some names you might not have even had a clue were part of the powder blue legacy.

Who better to start with than former Boston Celtic great now enjoying a successful run as the GM of the storied franchise: Danny Ainge!

Jays 79 Kodak Ainge WaisteYeah I knew he was a former Jay since I was in High School, that’s when I got obsessed with baseball and it’s history. It kept coming up again and again in sports clips after Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders came around “2 sport star” became a common phrase. Everyone was baited by cheeseball sports newsbytes or lazy writers who had the same gimmick of teasing you with a Bo or Deion article and then the big “swerve” that it’s actually about the Celtics guard’s 3 seasons as a Toronto Blue Jay pro baseball player.

It’s not really an uncommon post amongst Toronto sports bloggers as Ian of Blue Jay Hunter wrote a pretty awesome piece in 2013.

Ainge was originally drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 15th round of the 1977 amateur draft as just a fresh-faced 18 year old senior from North HS in Eugene Oregon.

Not unlike many professional athletes, Danny Ainge didn’t limit himself to just one sport; he was an all-American baseball, football, and basketball player. He was the 70’s version of A.C. Slater; any sport Ainge played turned to gold.

Since Danny Ainge was a multi-faceted and multi-talented athlete, obviously he was pulled in many different directions throughout high school and college. Although the Toronto Blue Jays initially drafted him, Ainge pursued basketball at Brigham Young University.

It’s hard to fathom, but he actually juggled both a professional baseball and college basketball career at the same time.

Ainge made his Major League debut with the Blue Jays on May 21st 1979. Danny was just barely 20 years old and he was already playing in professional baseball. Mind you, he was playing professional baseball while still in college. Talk about multi-tasking.

Blue Jay Hunter

Haha Ainge was on TWIB! Nice. His powder blue days were also resurrected during this years March Madness as ESPN relived his 2 sport career in this TBT piece:

On March 19, 1981, Danny Ainge provided one of the most memorable moments in NCAA tournament history, driving the length of the court to score a layup with two seconds remaining and give BYU a upset win over seventh-ranked Notre Dame in the East Region semifinals. It was one of those iconic plays of the tournament in the early ’80s that helped it grow in popularity.

Ainge wasn’t a typical college basketball player. He already had played parts of two seasons in the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays, and after BYU lost in the regional final two days later to Ralph Sampson and Virginia, he flew directly to Florida to join the Blue Jays for the rest of spring training. While we know Ainge eventually had a fruitful, 14-year NBA career that featured an All-Star appearance and two NBA titles with the Boston Celtics, in spring 1981, it wasn’t so obvious that his future was in basketball.

Before the Notre Dame game, Celtics president and general manager Red Auerbach told John Feinstein of the Washington Post: “How can the kid play baseball? He’s in the wrong sport. He can make a million dollars playing basketball and he’s going to play baseball. What a waste. What a waste . . . “

ESPN

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It was in college – BYU where he excelled at both sports, he managed to get drafted in one sport and actually sign to be a professional while still maintaining his college student citizenship and ability to be drafted in entire other sport 2 years later!

Ainge was selected in baseball’s 1977 amateur draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. He made it to the major leagues with the Blue Jays in 1979 while still in college. Mostly a second baseman, he played third base and outfield positions as well, hitting .220 in his baseball career with 2 home runs and 146 hits in 211 games. He is the youngest player in Blue Jays history to hit a home run, at 20 years and 77 days. Ainge played 3rd base in Len Barker’s 1981 perfect game, going 0-for-2.

After three years with the Blue Jays, Ainge decided to pursue a career in basketball and was chosen in the 1981 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, who had to buy out Ainge’s contract from the Blue Jays after a legal battle.

Wikipedia

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It wasn’t a nice short legal battle either. But guess who won? The Jays of course.

Published: October 3, 1981
The Toronto Blue Jays defeated the Boston Celtics in a Federal courtroom yesterday in a contest for the services of Danny Ainge. As a result of the decision, which ended the trial of a lawsuit between the teams, Ainge still has a valid baseball contract with the Blue Jays, preventing him from negotiating a contract to play basketball for Boston.

Afterward, Ainge made clear that he still wanted to play for the Celtics, who have just opened their training camp for the coming season. But the court decision means that he cannot join them unless they reach an agreement to compensate the Blue Jays.

Afterward, Ainge said there was ”no way” that he would play for the Blue Jays again, adding that ”I’m still hopeful that I’ll be with the Celtics. That’s been my hope all along.”

The trial concerned a contract that Ainge signed with the Blue Jays last year, which included a provision that he would not play basketball for the duration of the baseball contract, which runs through 1983. Ainge, who received a $300,000 bonus for signing it, testified that Blue Jay officials had orally agreed to release him from the contract when he talked to them last June about wanting to play basketball.

Peter Bavasi, the president of the Blue Jays, testified that the Blue Jays had never agreed to release Ainge, and, with its finding yesterday, the jury sided with this account.

NY Times

A story where Boston cheats, loses and the Blue Jays win in the end? Sounds good to me.

Don’t worry eventually they Jays got another 2nd basemen, he was moderately efficient.

I’m probably going to hunt all of Ainge’s Jays cards and add them to my already ample collection within collections.



Hmmmm…. who’s next??? Doesn’t matter GO JAYS GO!!! #comeTOgether