TORONTO – Tony Fernández, a stylish shortstop who formed five All-Star teams in his 17 seasons in the major leagues and helped the Toronto Blue Jays win the 1993 World Series, died on Sunday after complications from kidney disease. He was 57 years old.
Fernández was released from a life support system that afternoon with his family, who was present at a hospital in Weston, Florida, said Imrad Hallim, director and co-founder of the Tony Fernández Foundation. Fernández had been in a medical coma and had been waiting for new kidneys for years.
Fernández won four gold gloves in a row with the Blue Jays in the 1980s and holds club records for career hits and played games. As a clutch hitter in five postseason trips, he had four separate stints with Toronto and played for six other teams.
One of them was the New York Yankees, who replaced him with a 21-year-old Derek Jeter at Shortstop in 1996. Fernández was slipped to the second base and remained as insurance, but he broke his right elbow (for the second time in his career) on a ball late in spring training and missed the entire season.
Of course, Jeter won AL Rookie of the Year and the first of his five World Series titles. Fernández, who was supposed to facilitate Jeter’s transition, received a World Series ring from the Yankees this season.
The following year Fernández took second place with the Cleveland Indians and was instrumental in their pennant for the 1997 American League. He fought Baltimore against 0.357 in the AL Championship Series and celebrated a 1-0 win for Cleveland in clinch game 6 in the 11th inning at Camden Yards – this is the only home run after the season.
Fernández then scored four RBIs in the World Series against the Florida Marlins .471. His two-part single in the third inning of Game 7 gave the Indians a 2-0 lead, but the Marlins tied them at the end of ninth place and won 3-2 in 11 innings to win the championship.
In 43 postseason games, Fernández beat 2327 with 23 RBIs and an OPS of 0.787 against 0.327. He went with nine RBIs in the 1993 World Series 7 to 21 (.333) and helped the Blue Jays beat Philadelphia in six games for the second consecutive time.
Fernández, a wiry switch hitter with speed, made his major league debut in the Blue Jays in September 1983 at the age of 21. In a career that lasted until 2001, he also played for the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets, the Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers.
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 the cycle in a home game and accomplish the feat in 1995.
Fernández finished with 2,276 hits, 1,057 runs, 414 doubles, 92 triples, 246 stolen bases and an OPS of 0.746. He only hit 784 times in 8,793 record appearances – never more than 74 times in one season.
Especially at the beginning of his career, the wafer-thin Fernández was a breathtaking shortstop defender. Silky smooth on the field, he had a familiar way of hurling the ball almost under his hand from his hip, causing his throws to bend their way to the first base before landing gently in a teammate’s glove.
He was part of a memorable blockbuster deal in December 1990 in which Fernández and bat Fred McGriff were sent from Toronto to San Diego to get Hall of Fame second baseman Roberto Alomar and outfielder Joe Carter who Homerun won at the end of the game, who won the 1993 World Series for the Blue Jays.
Fernández was traded to the Mets after the 1992 season and back to Toronto in June 1993. He spent 1995 as the main stop for a Yankees team that gave the franchise its first playoff spot in 14 years.
He signed again with the Blue Jays in 1998 and made his last all-star team with them in 1999 at the age of 37. Third, he achieved the best results of his career with 0.328 with 75 RBIs and 0.877 OPS. His 41 doubles were a career high.
Fernández played in Japan the following year and then shared his last major league season between Milwaukee and Toronto. It ended where it started and in 2001 hit 48 games for the Blue Jays .305.
Fernández is Toronto’s career leader in hits (1,583), triple (72) and games played (1,450). He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2008.
He was born in San Pedro de Macoris in the Dominican Republic, a cradle of shortstops and home to dozens of prominent leaders such as Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano and Robinson Canó.
After retiring from baseball, Fernández was appointed ordained minister and the Tony Fernández Foundation was established to help underprivileged and troubled children.