The Toronto Blue Jays selected Dave Stieb in the 5th round of the MLB draft in 1978. A year later he was in the big leagues. In his rookie year the right-hander tossed 7 complete games and a shutout while splitting his 16 decisions.
In his sophomore year of 1980 Stieb made the All Star team for the first time. After another All Star campaign in ’81, Stieb had a dominant season in ’82.
Pitching for a Toronto club that finished in 6th place, 17 games behind division-winning Milwaukee, Stieb tossed a league-leading 288 1/3 innings. He topped all AL hurlers in complete games (19), shutouts (5). The Sporting News named him their Pitcher of the Year.
Despite also leading the Junior Circuit with a 7.6 WAR, Stieb placed fourth in Cy Young balloting. The three men receiving more votes than Stieb had far less WAR. Pete Vukovich with a 2.8 WAR won the award. Jim Palmer (4.8 WAR ), and Dan Quisenberry (3.3 WAR) finished second and third, respectively. Stieb’s 17-14 record and 3.25 ERA didn’t impress enough writers.
In ’83 Stieb made his third All Star team in four years. He again won 17 and again led the Junior circuit in WAR. Stieb allowed the second fewest hits per innings pitched, was second in innings thrown, and third in ERA. He did not receive even a single Cy Young vote.
It was more of the same in ’84. Stieb lowered his ERA to 2.83, good for second in the league. His 146 ERA+ topped AL pitchers as did his 7.9 WAR. His third consecutive season of leading the Junior Circuit pitchers in WAR yielded him one lone vote in the Cy Young race.
The 1985 campaign was again outstanding for Stieb. He received the Pitcher of the Month honors in May after going 4-1 with a 1.69 ERA. In July Stieb made the All Star for the 5th time in 6 years. He lowered his ERA to a career-best 2.48. When the season ended, Stieb stood atop the AL leaderboard in ERA+ while giving up the fewest hits per nine innings in the league. He finished 7th for the Cy Young.
Stieb had his share of standout contests. In each of his final two starts in 1988 he carried no-hitters into the ninth before surrendering a hit with one out to go. The next year on August 4, 1989 he retired the first 26 Yankee batters. Roberto Kelly snapped the perfect game bid with Stieb just one out away from baseball immortality. Finally in 1990 Stieb got his gem with a no-hitter at Cleveland on September 2nd. It was the first no-no in Blue Jays history.
The 1990 season gave Stieb his 7th and final All Star selection. He finished 4th in the AL in wins and pitcher’s WAR, 5th in ERA and hits/9 innings, and 6th in WHIP.
Shoulder and back injuries derailed Stieb in 1991, ending his season in late May. He returned in 1992 and pitched to a 5.04 ERA in 21 appearances before becoming a free agent. The White Sox signed him in December. He made just four starts before his release on May 23rd. Two months later he announced his retirement.
In 1998 Stieb was with the Toronto as a spring training coach. Five years removed from his last major league outing, Stieb asked skipper Tim Johnson for a chance to pitch. Stieb worked up his arm strength in the minors before making his season debut with a scoreless outing at Baltimore on June 18th.
Stieb started three games and appeared in 19 overall. Out of the bullpen he allowed 1 run or less in 13 of 16 games. The Jays invited Stieb to return in ’99 as a reliever. He instead retired for good at age 41.
The right-hander appeared on the Cooperstown ballot in 2004 and was named on just 7 of the 506 ballots. With 1.4% of the vote, he was banished from the writers’ ballot. The following year was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
Dave Stieb remains #1 in Jays franchise history in innings, wins, complete games, shutouts, strikeouts and WAR. There is little doubt he is the greatest pitcher the Toronto Blue Jays have ever known.
In the collection is this Dave Stieb autographed Strat-O-Matic card from his final All Star season of 1990. That year Stieb won a career-high 18 games to go along with a 2.93 ERA.
Bucknell University math major Hal Richman originated the Strat-O-Matic game in 1961. Advertised in Sports Illustrated and sold out of Richman’s basement, Strat-O-Matic gave its players the ability to make managerial decisions based on MLB statistics.