I decided to embark on a new five part series in which we will debate and argue the merits of the top five Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Blue Jays as well as the top five overall athletes in Toronto sports history and finally as a contrast we will do the top ten athletes currently residing in the ‘Big Smoke’. Feel free to comment and please post your own opinion on any of the top five lists, I am sure there will be seriously differing opinions across the board and people definitely place a different emphasis on things like winning, personal stats and overall impact on the city.
Part IV – Top 5 Toronto Sports Athletes of all time
Part V – Top 10 Current Toronto Athletes
Part IV – Top Five Athletes in Toronto History
I hope you have enjoyed the ‘Top Five’ series thus far and today we continue by looking at the Top Five Athletes in Toronto Sports History. This list will not focus as much on tenure and longevity as some of the other lists have but purely on talent level and peak performance while in the city of Toronto, more than one or two seasons of greatness is preferred but this list will encapsulate the absolute best that has ever performed in the great city of Toronto. A player that was as close to the top of his respective sport as possible for a 2+ season stretch, so just missing out were Hakeem Olajuwon, Erik Hanson and Vesa Toskala.
On to the list.
A surprise name to see for some, he was a must inclusion for me. Prior to Doug Flutie’s arrival in 1996, the 1995 Toronto Argonauts were pitiful, sporting a 4-14 record, in Flutie’s first season with the ‘Boatmen’ was in 1996 and he led them to a 15-3 record and a story book turnaround, they won the Grey Cup and Flutie was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player.
Next season Flutie led the team to back-to-back CFL Grey Cup’s and again won the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player (1997) after leading the league in basically every major statistical category. Toronto had a love affair with its diminutive QB and the popularity of the CFL in Toronto was at an all time high. There are probably even some that are surprised to hear that Doug Flutie isn’t even Canadian. Flutie went on to have a fairly successful NFL career and people in Toronto will always claim him as one of their own, anybody down for some Flutie Flakes?
In my opinion Doug Flutie for those two seasons in 1996 and 1997 was one of the top athlete’s in the history of Toronto sports.
Carlos Delgado was one of the game’s best sluggers during his peak years with the Toronto Blue Jays and was absolutely robbed of deserved MVP Awards in 2000 and 2004 when a Canadian hating writer from Chicago neglected to even put Delgado on his MVP ballots. Look at these stats and take into consideration that WAR heavily penalizes Delgado for playing first base (plus playing it relatively poorly), his bat was lethal:
Delgado was the best offensive player in the history of the franchise and among the best in baseball for a good portion of his career in Toronto, without the ‘hack’ excluding him from his ballot he might have some impressive hardware to show for his handy work. Imagine the 2010 Blue Jays had Delgado at 1B?
#3 – C Doug Gilmour. Played parts of 6 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, his peak seasons in 92/93 and 93/94 and undeniably some of the best hockey ever played in Toronto and ‘Killer’ was considered among the NHL’s best all-around players.
Ah, 1992-1994, nothing warms the soul like a trip down memory lane and for Toronto Maple Leafs fans born basically anytime post 1970 the back to back playoff runs from our beloved Leafs in 1992/93 and 1993/94 will forever have a place in our hearts. The thrilling OT Game Seven winner by Nikolai Borechevsky, or the wrap around goal by Doug Gilmour against Curtis Joseph and the St. Louis Blues or that high-stick by Mr. Gretzky that was missed by Mr. Fraser, that ******* high stick! Not that I am still bitter or anything.
At the helm of those teams was the heart and soul and leader of leader’s the Assistant Captain Doug Gilmour, old #93. He was in the prime of his career during both of those magical seasons and put up the best seasons a Leafs player has ever had in its illustrious history:
Not only great regular seasons but simply brilliant postseasons as well:
Taking the team to the Stanley Cup semi-finals two straight years and playing a huge role in the early 90s turnaround of the Maple Leafs, Gilmour was the talk of the town and will forever remains a folk hero for any true Leafs fan, they don’t make enough Dougie Gilmour’s.
No player is more vilified however no player was more dynamic and electric than Vince Carter during his prime two year stretch with the Toronto Raptors. Seemingly flawless and on the verge of joining the absolute elite of elite players, Carter had captivated the city and it was buzzing and energized for all things Raptors, basketball and of course Vince Carter.
Easily the most polarizing figure in team history, during his peak Vince Carter put up ridiculous numbers in his two best years here:
Those numbers stand up against almost any player in the NBA at the time and Carter even chipped in a block per game and was getting to the free-throw line nearly 7 times per game. Carter’s production remained fairly steady up until his last season with Toronto however he struggled to play a full season and was exposed as a terrible defender and one-dimensional player soon after his peak years. However, to say he wasn’t one of the most talented players to ever play in Toronto would be an outright lie, who knows how the franchise would have fared if Vince Carter and Chris Bosh attempted to play together for a few more years.
#1 – SP Roy Halladay. Routinely called the best pitcher in baseball, Halladay has the numbers to back up those claims and was completely dominant during most his seasons with the Jays, and exceptionally great during the 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2009 seasons.
The city of Toronto has had a lot of great players come and go in all of the major sports but I don’t think any of them could have or were ever considered the absolute best at their position in their respective sport, besides Roy Halladay. On a pure talent and peak season(s), Roy Halladay is the greatest athlete to ever play in Toronto, and I don’t think it is particularly close either.
One of the classiest players to boot, Halladay was a machine, a well prepared workaholic, Halladay took his craft very seriously and for these four seasons was one of the better pitchers in the history of baseball:
These truly special four seasons in Halladay’s career were simply amazing, he pitched 990.1 IPs, was 78-35 (.690 win %) and accumulated an insane 30.5 WAR. I included his BABIP totals each season to show his successful seasons were never ‘outliers’ and luck did not factor much in his overall success (obviously), Halladay even had a strong ground ball rate each season (normally top five in MLB) and suppressed HRs as well as anybody. He won 78 ballgames in these four years while the team provided him an average of 4.5 runs per game, he also had a whopping 29 complete games and 9 complete game shutouts.
It was obviously a tough day for me to see him leave but I think I can speak for nearly all Blue Jays fans when I say I wish him all the best and I hope he goes on to much success and glory with his new team, maybe he could even return one day.
There you have it, the Top Five Athletes in Toronto History are 5) Doug Flutie, 4) Carlos Delgado, 3) Doug Gilmour, 2) Vince Carter and #1 Roy Halladay – the incomparable one.
Next up, the top ten current athlete’s in the city of Toronto…