Blue Jays Flashback: Devon White

In Kevin Glew’s latest Blue Jays Flashback article, he focuses on a man who was integral to Toronto winning the World Series not once, but twice. Sit back and take it in. It’s Devon White.

Blue Jays Flashback: Devon White

If a ball was hit anywhere in the air at SkyDome while Devon White was playing centre field, he felt like he could catch it.

And during his five seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays from 1991 to 1995, the team’s fans felt the same way.

With his long, graceful strides and his Jordanesque leaps at the wall, the man known as “Devo” was a marvel to watch.

“I think when a ball is in the ballpark and it’s not a hard line drive, I’m going to get to it,” White once told a reporter.

And that proclamation wasn’t far off.


White got to so many balls that he led American League outfielders in putouts in three seasons. He also won a Gold Glove in each of his five campaigns with the Blue Jays and was a key contributor to two World Series-winning teams.

And a deeper dive into his statistics reveals that he’s not only the greatest defensive centre fielder in Blue Jays’ history, but a strong argument could be made that he was the best centre fielder in Major League Baseball for the 10-season stretch from 1986 to 1995. During that period, his 15.9 defensive Wins Above Replacement (dWAR) was superior to that of any other centre fielder.

White couldn’t have dreamed of such a vaunted status when he was growing up in Jamaica playing cricket and soccer. He moved to New York City with his family when he was nine but didn’t start playing baseball until he was a teenager.

White emerged as a standout on the diamond at Park West High School in Manhattan and he caught the eyes of California Angels scouts who convinced their bosses to select him in the sixth round of the 1981 MLB draft as a third baseman.

Yes, you read that correctly. White was drafted as an infielder.

It was Joe Maddon, White’s first professional manager with the Rookie Ball Idaho Falls Angels, who decided the raw youngster’s speed and athleticism were best suited for the outfield. From there, he evolved into one of the Angels’ top prospects.

White spent almost five full seasons in the minors before he made his major league debut on September 2, 1985, and he didn’t earn a starting outfield position with the Angels until 1987. That campaign, he showed off his five-tool talent with 24 home runs and 32 stolen bases, while also leading American League outfielders with 424 putouts.

His offensive numbers dropped off in 1988 but he won his first Gold Glove, and after a strong start to the ensuing campaign, he was selected to his first All-Star Game. But in 1990, he slumped miserably and finished with a .217 batting average in 125 games.

By this time, his stock had plummeted with the Angels, and after the Blue Jays failed to make the postseason in 1990, general manager Pat Gillick swung a deal for White and reliever Willie Fraser in exchange for Junior Felix and Luis Sojo. Gillick acquired White for his defensive prowess, but the fleet-footed outfielder would provide so much more.

Blue Jays Flashback: Cito Gaston

After an impressive spring in 1991, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston anointed White the club’s leadoff hitter. The switch-hitting outfielder excelled in the role, batting .282 with 17 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 156 games. He also topped the team with 110 runs and a 6.3 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and captured his third Gold Glove.

He followed that up with another strong season in 1992 that saw him top the majors with a 3.9 dWAR, which remains a single-season record for a Blue Jays fielder.

And in the World Series that year, he made the most famous defensive play in franchise history. In the fourth inning of Game 3, Atlanta Braves slugger Dave Justice belted a ball deep to centre field at SkyDome. White leapt into the wall and made a miraculous catch to begin what should’ve been a triple play. It was a momentum-shifting grab in a pivotal game that the Blue Jays won 3-2 to take a 2-1 lead in the series that they eventually won in six games.

White returned in 1993 to serve as the catalyst atop the Blue Jays’ WAMCO offence (White, Alomar, Molitor, Carter, Olerud). White finished second on the team with a 6.2 WAR and helped the Blue Jays to their second consecutive championship.

The veteran outfielder would collect two more Gold Gloves with the Blue Jays in 1994 and 1995 before leaving to sign a three-year contract with the Florida Marlins.

He earned a third World Series ring with the Marlins in 1997 and enjoyed an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998, before ending his career with tenures with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers.

On top of leading American League centre fielders in dWAR for the 10-season stretch from 1986 to 1995, White had the second best dWAR (11.5) of any centre fielder in the 1990s to Kenny Lofton (14.1).

Unfortunately, when his name appeared on the National Baseball Hall of Fame writers’ ballot for the first time in 2007, White failed to garner a single vote.  That seems a shame for a player who is not only the greatest centre fielder in Blue Jays’ history, but one of the greatest centre fielders in major league history.