Fred McGriff, John Olerud and Carlos Delgado. These were the three first basemen I watched in the 1990s, growing up a Blue Jays supporter on the outskirts of Toronto. I know, I was lucky. Blessed, actually. And the first baseman that defines the era — the 90s — for me is a combination of all three of those men.
Fred McGriff: tall, quiet, and unassuming. Yet accomplished. Ready to make a lasting mark on the game, like the Blue Jays teams he played for. His career began in Toronto and, wherever he played, McGriff got the job done. Remembered for hitting the first home run in the history of the SkyDome, my ideal first baseman of the 1990s no doubt has the consistency of the Crime Dog.
John Olerud changed my opinion of the position. He is the reason why, years later, I’m most fond of the first baseman who can field as well as he can hit. A revolutionary, you might call Olerud, what with him wearing a batting helmet in the field, as well. My model 1990s first baseman has Olerud’s swing — one of the sweetest, smoothest and most fluid I’ve ever seen — along with Olerud’s ability to work a base on balls. As late as August 27, 1993, Olerud was batting .390, and I’ll never forget that summer. That year. For Blue Jays fans who grew up in the 90s, Olerud is synonymous with winning.
Give my Utopian 1990s first baseman Olerud’s grace, along with Carlos Delgado’s power. In the one-on-one battle that is pitcher versus hitter, and hitter versus pitcher, I’d never seen a Toronto Blue Jay strike fear into his opponent, standing 60 feet away, the way Delgado did. Delgado’s batting stance — left-handed, slightly open, back elbow raised — is ingrained in my mind. Along with his smile. Confident beyond his years, Delgado led.
Look, what I believe I’m trying to say is: Frehnlos McOlergado. When I think of the 1990s, of first basemen, and of growing up, I think of Fred McGriff, John Olerud, and Carlos Delgado. Looking back, and much thanks to the gents at Pitchers & Poets for allowing me to do so, it’s rather obvious: the 1990s were the best of times at first base. As they should have been.