The Blue Jays amazingly enough almost whiffed on drafting Stieb. Toronto scouted the righty at a varsity game as an outfield prospect. It was not until Stieb came into the game as a reliever that the Blue Jays were impressed and drafted him.
Stieb debuted for the Blue Jays in 1979, in hopes of helping bring the third-year franchise into relevance. In ‘77 and ‘78, Toronto won 54 and 59 games respectively. Stieb finished his rookie 8-8, a respectable start to his career. To show how tough times were in Toronto, Stieb’s eight wins tied for second on the starting staff.
As the calendar turned to 1980, Stieb began his 11-year run of excellence. From 1980-1990, the righty won 158 games while pitching to a 3.33 ERA. Six out of those 11 years Stieb won 16+ games. Stieb was selected to the All-Star team seven out of those 11 years, twice being named the American League’s starting pitcher in ‘83 and ‘84.
Despite all the victories, Stieb’s multiple near misses at baseball immortality are most eye-popping. Between 1985-89, Stieb had three no-hitters and a perfect game broken up in the ninth inning. Two of the lost no-hitters came in back-to-back starts against the Indians and Orioles on September 24 and 30, 1988. Both attempts were broken up with Stieb one strike away from becoming the first Blue Jay to toss a no-no.
Less than a year later on August 4, 1989, Stieb nearly became the 13th pitcher to pitch a perfect game. One out away from pitching himself into baseball lore, Stieb gave up a double to Yankees’ center fielder Roberto Kelly.
After coming close so many times, Stieb finally finished the deal on September 2, 1990. Facing the Indians once again, Stieb in his fifth attempt became the first Blue Jay to pitch a no-hitter in a 3-0 Toronto win at Cleveland Stadium. His no-hitter is still the only one in franchise history to date.
Every franchise at one time or another had “the guy” that put his team on the map. Tom Seaver was “the guy” for the Mets, Tony Gwynn was “the guy” for the Padres, and Dave Stieb was “the guy” for the Blue Jays. Don’t get me wrong Stieb is no Seaver, but his ability to help bring the Blue Jays out of the black hole of irrelevance should be cherished in Toronto for years to come.