June 20, 2021

Tony Fernandez, Stylish All-Star Shortstop, Is Dead at 57

Tony Fernandez throws to first as he tumbles to the ground in a game against the Chicago White Sox in Toronto in 1999. He made five All-Star teams in 17 seasons.<br /><br />

Tony Fernandez, a stylish shortstop who made five All-Star teams during his 17 seasons in the major leagues and helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the 1993 World Series, died on Sunday in Weston, Fla. He was 57.

Fernandez, who was suffering from kidney disease, was taken off life support at a hospital in Weston, said Imrad Hallim, the director and co-founder of the Tony Fernandez Foundation. Fernandez had been in a medically induced coma and had waited years for a new kidney.

Fernandez won four straight Gold Gloves with the Blue Jays in the 1980s and holds club records for career hits and games played.

Especially early in his career, the rail-thin Fernandez was a breathtaking defender at shortstop. Silky smooth in the field, he had a familiar way of slinging the ball almost underhand from his hip, causing his throws to arc their way to first base before landing softly in a teammate’s mitt.

A clutch hitter in five trips to the postseason, he had four separate stints with Toronto and played for six other teams.

One of those was the New York Yankees, who replaced him at shortstop with a 21-year-old Derek Jeter in 1996. Fernandez was slated to slide over to second base and stick around as insurance, but he broke his right elbow (for the second time in his career) lunging for a ball late in spring training and missed the entire season.

Jeter went on to win the American League Rookie of the Year and the first of his five World Series titles. Fernandez, who had been set to help ease Jeter’s transition, was given a World Series ring by the Yankees that season.

The next year, Fernandez caught on at second with the Cleveland Indians and was instrumental in their 1997 American League pennant. He batted .357 in the AL Championship Series against Baltimore and homered in the 11th inning at Camden Yards to give Cleveland a 1-0 victory in the clinching Game 6 — his only postseason home run.

Fernandez then hit .471 with four RBIs in the World Series against the Florida Marlins. His two-run single in the third inning of Game 7 put the Indians ahead 2-0, but the Marlins tied it in the bottom of the ninth and won 3-2 in 11 innings to take the championship.

A wiry switch-hitter with speed, Fernandez made his major league debut with the Blue Jays at 21 in September 1983. He also played for the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers in a career that lasted through 2001.

He was a .288 hitter with 94 homers and 844 RBIs in 2,158 big league games. He remains the last Yankees player to hit for the cycle in a home game, accomplishing the feat in 1995.

Fernandez finished with 2,276 hits, 1,057 runs, 414 doubles, 92 triples, 246 stolen bases.

He was part of a memorable blockbuster trade in December 1990 that sent Fernandez and slugger Fred McGriff from Toronto to San Diego for Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter, who hit the game-ending home run that won the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays.

Fernandez was traded to the Mets after the 1992 season and then back to Toronto in June 1993. He spent 1995 as the primary shortstop for a Yankees team that gave the franchise its first playoff berth in 14 years.

He signed back on with the Blue Jays for 1998 and made his final All-Star team at age 37 with them in 1999. Playing third base, he set career bests by batting .328 with 75 RBIs and an .877 OPS. His 41 doubles equaled a career high.

Fernandez played the next year in Japan, then split his last big league season between Milwaukee and Toronto.

Fernandez is Toronto’s career leader in hits (1,583), triples (72) and games played (1,450). He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.

He was born on June 30, 1962, in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, a cradle of shortstops and home to dozens of major leaguers who followed such as Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Cano.

A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

After he retired from baseball, Fernandez became an ordained minister.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *