Fans get it right with Wells

Angels outfielder Vernon Wells waves to the Rogers Centre crowd after Blue Jays fans gave him a...

Angels outfielder Vernon Wells waves to the Rogers Centre crowd after Blue Jays fans gave him a rousing ovation on Friday night. (Reuters)

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:20 AM ET

TORONTO - Parting is such sweet sorrow, the no-hit, good-write, William Shakespeare used to say while hanging around the batting cage.

It’s the returning part that players are uncertain about.

We remember ...

-- Andre Dawson, making his first visit to Olympic Stadium after 11 years in a Montreal Expos uniform and being booed every at-bat. Dawson went 7-for-15 (.467) with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs for the Chicago Cubs. He homered in his final at-bat of the series finale and was given a standing ovation.

-- Larry Walker, an Expos stalwart for six years, returned to louder boos in April of 1997 with the Colorado Rockies. Walker went 4-for-5, with three homers and told manager Don Baylor to let John Vander Wal have his at-bat in the eighth.

-- Lefty David Wells returned to the Skydome after complaining that fans threw garbage on him as he walked the streets of Toronto. Wells was booed in the bullpen, gave up a pair and then argued a safe call with two out covering first as Raul Mondesi scored from second.

And Vernon Wells?

Should he have been cheered and applauded Friday?

Yes.

Devon White and Wells were the best Jays centre fielders we’ve seen. Wells had more at-bats than any Jay, was second in hits (behind Tony Fernandez) and second in RBIs (behind Carlos Delgado).

Were we 100% sure the ovation would unfold as such? No way.

But Jays fans got it right.

So, did Wells and was no surprise he was hacking at the first pitch.

The Brett one

After Brett Lawrie’s debut Tuesday the Blue Jays were complaining that the media was putting too much pressure on the youngster.

Now, after a grand slam Wednesday, Lawrie has been inserted into TV advertisements and he’s in print ads, as well.

The Lawrie debut was shown on Sportsnet One (bumped from Sportsnet by tennis) and 552,500 viewers, 34% more than the previous highest number for any show.

After hitting the slam, Lawrie went the length of the dugout like a University of Texas Longhorns middle linebacker being introduced on seniors day.

The reviews from inside the gauntlet:

J.P. Arencibia: “I’ve never played with anyone as intense. He went by me and he was screaming. I don’t know what he was saying ... I don’t think he knows what he was saying.”

Jose Bautista: “He’s a breath of fresh air, we don’t want to tame him. He shows great athleticism. The only place we have to calm him down is on routine ground balls.”

Ricky Romero: “As I said to (third base coach) Brian Butterfield the next half inning, the people of Toronto should be excited to have a young player like this come to the team.”

Eric Thames: “He was amped-up, he was tweaking when he went by me. I was prepared, I was with him in Vegas.”

Said another: “If he had given me a double high-five, he may have broken my back.”

One long-time observer compared Lawrie to Todd Stottlemyre on the intensity level.

Signs, signs

Sign stealing accusations of those sneaky Blue Jays led to another sign story.

“The Baltimore Orioles used the same sign for years. If either (catchers) Elrod Hendricks or Andy Etchebarren caught the sign, it was the first after they put down two fingers,” said one coach. “We couldn’t hit Orioles pitching, even when we knew what was coming, and they won a few pennants”

The 1970 Orioles had three 20-game winners in Jim Palmer (20-10), Mike Cuellar (24-8) and Dave McNally (24-9).

Some hitters want help, some don’t.

George Bell, former MVP, didn’t want to know what was coming after being hit in the head by a pitch that was relayed by a teammate. Expecting a curve ball, he leaned in and was plunked by a fastball.

Named two of the best at reading pitchers were former Jays hitting coach and manager Cito Gaston and long-time Expo Rusty Staub, who had 2,716 career hits.

Visiting teams should know that something is up when the Jays book the Redneck Comedy Tour’s Bill Engvall if he announces from a crowd microphone “Here’s your sign.”

Hello officer

Asked to describe Hall of Famer Pat Gillick’s sense of humour, the Jays longest serving uniformed employee, minor-league manager Dennis Holmberg, had a story.

At instructional league in the fall of 1989, Gillick rolled through a stop sign a few blocks from the minor-league complex on Solon Ave., at 8 a.m.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Dept. officer parked on a side street pulled over Gillick, who was driving with scout Al LaMacchia.

“Driver’s licence and insurance please,” said the officer.

The officer, David Holmberg, Dennis’ brother, recognized the name and returned to the car.

“Here’s your licence and registration. Have a nice day,” said the officer, allowing Gillick to go without issuing a ticket.

Dennis Holmberg was sipping his morning coffee when Gillick arrived at the complex. Gillick told Holmberg that his brother had given him a ticket.

“Now, I think I’m in trouble with my boss. I couldn’t find a pay phone,” Holmberg said. “This was before cell phones, I called dispatch, my brother phones back, I ask: ‘Did you give my boss a ticket?’”

Officer Holmberg: “No, I recognized the name. He had a Canadian licence.”

Coach Holmberg: ‘Are you sure?”

Officer Holmberg: “I gave him a warning. I’m no dummy.”

Coach Holmberg: “That’s when I knew Pat was pulling my chain. The laugh was on me.”


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