TORONTO - The Blue Jays can milk nostalgia from their World Series-winning teams the way Joey Chestnut can choke back hot dogs.
In an effort to out-do the Toronto Maple Leafs and how they treat members of their 1967 team — their last Stanley Cup winner in case you didn’t know — the Jays, prior to Tuesday’s game against the Seattle Mariners, announced that they were retiring Roberto Alomar’s No. 12, the first number to be retired by the Jays to honour one of their players in the organization’s 34-year history.
Alomar, who was elected into the Jays Level of Excellence on April 5, 2008, last January was elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame and will be at the induction ceremonies at Cooperstown, N.Y., this Sunday.
The Jays will then officially retire Alomar’s No. 12 on July 31 in a game against the Texas Rangers, which at Rogers Centre will also be Roberto Alomar Hall of Fame bobblehead day.
Alomar, who played five seasons with the Jays, from 1991 through 1995, was touched and moved by the Jays’ decision.
“This is a special day for me today and I never expected this,” Alomar said. “I received a phone call from Paul Beeston and he told me they were going to retire No. 12. I was speechless, I didn’t know what to say.
“When I came to play for this organization, all I wanted to do was win games. When I received the news, I really had no answers. I was happy, I was honoured and like I always say, this is my second home.
“I want to thank the whole organization, Paul Beeston, Cito Gaston and especially the fans for embracing me since day one.”
No. 12 wasn’t Alomar’s first choice when he arrived in the major leagues back in 1988 with the San Diego Padres. He had a cute story about how he came to wear it.
“The first spring training with the San Diego Padres I was No. 69 so I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the big leagues for sure,” he said with a laugh. “I always wore No. 1 when I played winter ball (in Puerto Rico). But my favourite number was always No. 2 because that was the uniform that my father (Sandy) used to wear. I always wanted to be just like my dad and No. 2 was my favourite number.
“When it came to the point when I had to decide to pick a number (1988 with the Padres) I couldn’t have No. 2 because my father was the coach. Then I asked for No. 1 but I couldn’t have it because Gary Templeton was No. 1. So I said: ‘What about No. 12?’ From that point on that’s the number I’ve been wearing.”
And it’s the number no other Blue Jay will wear again.