Originally published on Torontoist on April 7, 2009.
“Belt it” was a concept the Ontario government and Blue Jays slugger Rico Carty were well acquainted with as the 1979 baseball season dawned. Too bad the rest of the Blue Jays played like careless drivers during that season’s opening game in Kansas City. Where the 2009 squad steamrolled over the Detroit Tigers last night, the 1979 team was like a deer caught in the headlights.
Fans in Toronto were likely relieved that they didn’t have to witness in person an 11–2 shelling by the Royals on April 5. The Globe and Mail declared that outfielder Rick Bosetti was “the smartest of Toronto’s players” for being thrown out of the game on a disputed call with a scab umpire (the men in blue were on strike as the season started). Bosetti missed out on a horrible second inning where the Royals scored nine runs off of starting pitcher Tom Underwood. Six of those runs were unearned, thanks to errors galore from the fielders. Most of the local papers showed right fielder Bob Bailor bending in an uncomfortable position after being hit by a pitch.
Carty acquitted himself well on opening day, reaching base four times. The “Beeg Mon” returned to the team in the off-season after a brief stint with the Oakland A’s towards the end of 1978. Carty’s fifteen-year career in the majors swung wildly from highs (a .366 batting average while with the Atlanta Braves in 1970) to lows (entire seasons missed at his peak due to injuries and tuberculosis). Carty hit .256 and twelve home runs for the Blue Jays in 1979, which proved to be his swan song. In the long run, Carty paved the way for future Blue Jays stars from the Dominican Republic, especially from his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris.
As for seat belts, the Ontario legislature mandated their usage in 1976, making it the first province to do so.
Additional material from the April 6, 1979 edition of the Globe and Mail.