TORONTO — Former Blue Jays executive Pat Gillick remembers former Toronto second baseman Damaso Garcia as a “very good player and a very good person.”
Garcia, a two-time all-star who helped the young Jays find their winning ways in the 1980s under Gillick, died earlier this week at the age of 63 in his native Dominican Republic, according to ESPN.
“He was a big part of that team that was developing, that went on to win the (American League East) division in ’85,” said Gillick, a former Jays GM and vice-president and member of both the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“A very intelligent player, he studied the game. He knew a lot about the game,” he added.
Gillick also recalls Garcia as a sensitive soul, whose sensitivity “made him a little more emotional.”
“Sometimes that led to a lot of emotion on the field when he played and some emotion off the field.”
Garcia was signed in 1975 as a free agent by the Yankees by legendary scout Epy Guerrero, who eventually left New York with Gillick to join the Jays. Garcia was traded along with Chris Chambliss and Paul Mirabella to Toronto in November 1979 for Rick Cerone, Tom Underwood and Ted Wilborn.
Prior to being traded to Atlanta in February 1987, Garcia was the first Blue Jay to register 1,000 hits and was the all-time club leader in hits (1,028), at-bats (3,572) and stolen bases (194). He compiled a .288 average with Toronto in 902 games, with 32 home runs and 296 runs batted in.
He played all but 130 games of his major-league career as a Blue Jay.
Garcia’s death comes two months after another Dominican Blue Jays legend, shortstop Tony Fernandez, died at 57 after several years of battling kidney problems.
“It’s a sad time,” Gillick said in an interview Thursday. “They went too early.”
Garcia had a malignant brain tumour removed in 1991. Gillick visited him in Miami soon after.
“The prognosis was not good at that time. It was a very short prognosis, in fact,” he recalled.
“His life’s been too short but at the same time it exceeded, I think what the medical people felt it would be,” he added.