TORONTO — Even 30 years later, the 1985 Toronto Blue Jays’ playoff loss still stings.
"I need some therapy because of that," right-fielder Jesse Barfield said. "I do. That bothers me."
The Blue Jays had finally gotten over the hump to capture the American League East with 99 wins. Barfield thought it was one of the era’s best teams.
With an outfield of George Bell, Lloyd Moseby and Barfield, more power from catcher Ernie Whitt and a pitching staff led by ace Dave Stieb and a young Jimmy Key, there was reason to believe it was. But in the year baseball changed the League Championship Series from best-of-five to best-of-seven, the Blue Jays blew a 3-1 series lead to the Kansas City Royals to see their title dreams dashed.
The franchise’s first division-championship was honoured Sunday at Rogers Centre on "Turn Back the Dial Day.”
"The Drive of ’85" got the full pre-game ceremony treatment Sunday afternoon before the Blue Jays faced the New York Yankees. Bell, Moseby, Barfield, ace Dave Stieb, reliever Tom Henke, shortstop Tony Fernandez, first baseman Willie Upshaw, third baseman Rance Mulliniks, infielder Garth Iorg and hitting coach Cito Gaston were on hand for the festivities.
As Don Henley’s "Boys of Summer" played, members of the 2015 team presented the 1985 alumni with personalized framed prints. When the tune switched to Bruce Springsteen’s "Glory Days," Bell, Moseby and Barfield threw out ceremonial first pitches to outfielders Ben Revere, Kevin Pillar and Jose Bautista.
But on Friday the 1985 outfielders lamented what could have been.
"Winning and losing are brothers and sisters," Moseby said. "Somebody has to do it, and we lost."
Barfield wondered if Bobby Cox made the wrong call letting Doyle Alexander pitch to George Brett in the fifth inning of Game 6. Brett hit his third home run of the series, was named MVP and went on to lead the Royals to a World Series title.
"I saw (Brett) with our ring on and I asked him, ‘Are you taking care of our ring?"’ Barfield said. "He laughed. But you know what, that’s baseball, and those guys outplayed us for those three games in a row."
Bell, who disappeared to his native Dominican Republic after the 1985 season was over, said he suffered a lot. And then he suffered again during his MVP season two years later when the Blue Jays blew a first-place lead to the Detroit Tigers in the final week.
But 1985 may have hurt more because the Blue Jays were the best in the AL through a full season and couldn’t get it done.
"(In) ’85, we had it," Bell said.
Defending Cox for trusting Alexander, Moseby wondered if those Blue Jays "were meant to lose." But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
"Yeah, therapy, definitely, that’s on the table," he said with a laugh. "I’m going to take my therapy sooner or later."
Seven years later the Blue Jays fell short in the playoffs for the first time, a different era of players with only a handful of holdovers won the first of back-to-back World Series titles. Stieb, Key, Tom Henke, Mulliniks and infielder Manuel Lee made it back, along with Gaston who became manager.
But Bell, Moseby and Barfield didn’t, so the pain remains.
"Was it meant to be? I don’t know," Barfield said. "It sure hurts that we didn’t win it. I’m glad they got theirs back to back in ’92, ’93 and my heart was with them, but it sure would’ve been nice to have one."