Exclusive 1BlueJaysWay Interview with Tom Filer

Allow your mind to wander back in time. Back to a time when there were only 4 divisions in baseball and 97 wins was not good enough to make the playoffs.

Your Toronto Blue Jays were a team that featured names like: Whitt, Garcia, Fernandez, Upshaw, Mulliniks, Iorg, Stieb, Alexander, Key, Clancy, Acker, Henke and arguably the best young trio of outfielders in all of baseball: Bell, Moseby and Barfield.

In the dugout, the calm and steady hand of Bobby Cox called the shots and a young coach that went by the name Cito took care of the hitters. The front office staff included GM Pat Gillick and Paul Beeston, who at that time was the executive vice president.

We were entering our ninth season in the Majors and only twice had we managed to finish with a record over .500. The city was embracing this game of baseball and was eager to build on a second place finish from the year before. On May 20, we gained sole possession of 1st place, a position we would not relinquish for the remainder of the season, finishing with a record of 99 – 62 and smashing attendance benchmarks along the way.

To this day, 99 still stands as the club’s best single season win total.

That magical season in which we won our first pennant will always be known as "The Drive of '85".

We here at 1BlueJaysWay were lucky enough to track down an unsung hero from that team. A man who’s name does not appear above. A man who pitched only 1 season in Toronto. A man who posted a 7-0 record with a 3.88 ERA during that famous Drive toward the postseason. A man who now molds and mentors young pitchers in the Pirates system, for Altoona in the Double A level Eastern League. A man named Tom Filer. 1BlueJaysWay's Jay Ballz had the opportunity to catch up with Tom this week, and that interview lies ahead.

So far in 2010, your Altoona Curve pitching staff has been solid and has led the team to a 42-23 record atop the Western division in the Eastern League. Talk a bit about the success of your pitching staff.

Well, so far the guys have been great. We're pretty strong 1-12 and our guys, for the most part, have been throwing strikes. And we've got some pretty good athletes out on the mound and it shows in their performances.

Are there certain guys on your staff that you have great confidence could reach great success at higher levels?

I think every time you have a staff, there are certain guys who kind of stand out more than others, but I like to think that all of them have an opportunity to move on. I like a couple of our left handers, especially Rudy Owens (28th round 2006 draft pick) and Justin Wilson (5th round 2008 draft pick). And 1 through 5, our rotation is pretty strong. We've got Daniel Moskos (1st round 2007 draft pick) closing out games. They're all doing a great job.

In 1985, you were a virtual rookie coming up to put forth a great effort and helped the Blue Jays advance to their first post season. What was that experience like and what was your excitement level like coming into that situation and contributing so much?

I wasn't really young at the time...I was 27 or 28 at the time. I had a cup of coffee (years before that) with the Cubs, but that year, I went to winter ball and did really well and came back stateside and went to spring training and almost made the team. I went to Triple-A that year and threw very well and I got an opportunity to come back up to the big leagues, I think, in June of that year. We had a very good ball club at the time...very young, very athletic. We had the likes of Willie Upshaw at first base, Tony Fernandez played short, George Bell was in left and Jesse Barfield- are some of the names that people might remember, but we were very good and athletic, so if I was able the throw the ball over the plate and keep it down, our guys made plays for me. I think it's very important to anybody's success is the defense that you have behind you.

What was it like experiencing history for Toronto, with that organization going to the post season for the very first time?

Well, that year, Toronto was drawing tremendous crowds all the time...both home and on the road. We were an exciting team to watch. The guys were really up for it. I had so much fun that year. Just remembering- each game that I pitched was so important and every game we played was so important. But nobody made anything of the game, they just went out and played the game. That's what made it exciting for me. And I just remember going to New York, and we had a two game lead, and we had to go to Boston right afterwards and I think we won 6 out of the 8 ball games we played.

Can I get your thoughts on Bobby Cox?

Ah, I love him. I tell you what, when I was there, Bobby was in his 3rd or 4th year of managing and he was like a father figure to you. He was very open, but very strong in his opinions and how he handled people. I remember those days fondly and I remember things he would say to me. He was always mentoring.

You grew up in Philadelphia...did you grow up as a Phillies phan?

Definitely. I don't think you can grow up in Philly without being a Phillies phan. I still am to this day. I always follow the Phillies. I worked for the Phillies for six years before I came over to the Pirates, and they were six very good years.

At what point did you know you would become a baseball coach?

I would think there was a time when I was getting down toward the end of my career and I had people asking me to go over and help with younger players and that's how it started. Helping guys out on my own team, talking about things, because I was the senior member on some of the teams I was on. I've been involved ever since then.

Are there coaches from your past that you knowingly sample their coaching repertoire?

I think it's a combination of everybody. I remember having (former Reds pitcher) Sammy Ellis as one of my early pitching coaches and he helped me out a lot with my mechanics and that's really stuck with me- that's one of my staples in my coaching. I played for Hoyt Wilhelm and he helped us with our mental approach and I still use some of his stories to this day.

Where do you think Toronto ranks among baseball cities?

Toronto, when I was there, it was a fever pitch. Back in the 80's through the early 90's, that place was sold out every night. I love that town. The eclectic sampling of people you come across, it was really neat and my wife enjoyed it very much while we were there and it was a great time.

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  1. Very cool interview, always good to hear from these unheralded players from teams like the Drive of '85.

  2. I am glad the readers here are enjoying these interviews. There will be more...we promise you.

    In the meantime, tell your friends about 1BlueJaysWay and get Toronto fans united here, as our writers continue to bring you content that no other Blue Jays site can.

  3. Awesome read. Thank you Jay Ballz, very much appreciated.