There was much consternation on Twitter Saturday afternoon when news leaked Alek Manoah had chosen the Blue Jays’ red alternate tops for his start against the New York Yankees.
Given how the club has performed on the field in them over recent seasons–and then what transpired during the game that day–it was hard to blame the vocal opposition.
The Blue Jays donning red is not a new phenomenon. According to sportslogos.net, Canada’s (now) only Major League Baseball team adopting a red jersey dates back to 1996. The uniform always reflects that outfit of the day and in the first seasons of specialty uniforms, players’ nameplates were swapped out for the entire roster to wear CANADA on their backs.
As you can see in some years, most recently 2015, they used a white top with red accents instead of blue. In fact, that iteration of the uniform was quite successful. The team went 2-0, including a dominant Canada Day win over the Red Sox.
The following season, the first signs of a Curse could be detected. On Canada Day, slugger Edwin Encarnacion and manager John Gibbons were ejected in the first inning for arguing balls and strikes. The Jays eventually lost to Cleveland in 19 innings. Toronto had to use two infielders to pitch.
The following month, however, the team wore them on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate Baseball Canada. Josh Donaldson clubbed three home runs in a 10-6 Toronto win over Minnesota. Hard to believe there would be anything afoot with the alternate jerseys based on that performance.
In 2017, everything changed.
At the beginning of the season, the team announced they would wear red during every Sunday home game, perhaps in a nod to Tiger Woods and his famous success wearing red on Sundays of important golf tournaments.
In addition to the jerseys, there were also red hats and, for the first time, red batting helmets to match. The jersey design was altered slightly, with the logo dropping the traditional blue on the bird for an all-red look, as highlighted side-by-side below.
Many fans were upset about the news, feeling the red jersey was best saved for special occasions such as Canada Day and Baseball Canada Day. Should a team called the BLUE Jays routinely wear red jerseys?
And then there were the results on the field.
In their first game, the Jays lost 11-4 to Baltimore. Three close games followed, including a dramatic 3-2 win over the Yankees on June 4. The red jerseys sported a 2-2 record when the Jays took on the Red Sox over Canada Day weekend.
By the end of the month, the team might have been wearing white jerseys covered in their own blood.
On July 1st, they lost 7-1 to Chris Sale.
On July 2nd, a Sunday, they lost 15-1.
One week later on July 9th, they lost 19-1 to Houston.
Outscored 41-3 in three losses over nine days.
Surely the club wanted to send the jerseys to the bottom of Lake Ontario. But Sunday July 30th was Baseball Canada Day, so the red jerseys were trotted out again. Heading into the bottom of the 9th, the home side trailed 10-4 to the Los Angeles Angels, and I headed for the exit.
But a dramatic 7-run rally, capped by Steve Pearce’s second walk-off grand slam of the week gave the Jays an 11-10 victory, and maybe some new life for their alternate uniforms. But on the next Sunday home game, red was replaced by white, and Toronto defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the game, players admitted they had made the executive decision to ditch the red jerseys for the remainder of the season. Ryan Goins suggested they be “lit on fire, or donated to charity.”
Red was not worn again until Canada Day 2018 (with a gold leaf on a red cap). The slight alteration made no difference as Detroit played spoiler with a big win. In 2019, the red jerseys also made their only appearance on Canada’s birthday when the Jays took down the lowly Royals.
Jumping ahead to 2021, Yusei Kikuchi (yes, that guy) spun a gem in Buffalo en route to a 7-2 Seattle win and the Blue Jays lost their only game in red for the season.
On June 5, 2022, the Jays surprised everyone by busting out the red alternates. According to radio voice Ben Wagner, the jerseys intended for Canada Day had arrived early and the players were given permission to wear them ahead of the big day.
It marked the first time the Jays had worn red for a non-Canada Day game since Pearce’s walk-off in July 2017, a span of nearly five years.
Kevin Gausman proceeded to have (to that point) his worst start of the season, and the Curse Talk returned.
So when Manoah decided to tempt fate by wearing red against the Yankees, who entered the game on an 8-game winning streak with an 11-game lead over the Jays for first place in the AL East, there was a significant amount of trepidation.
Then Manoah lost his first EVER home start as a Blue Jay and manager Charlie Montoyo was ejected for the fourth time this season.
Since the start of 2017, the Blue Jays are now 4-9 in red jerseys and very few of the losses have been particularly competitive contests. Did the change from a blue logo to an all-red logo spark the curse?
We know the club will be wearing patriotic garb when Canada turns 155 years old next week. Will they try to reverse the poor trend in any other games this season? It appears highly unlikely, but Jays Balk will be keeping track of the results either way.