Blue Jays Flashback: Rance Mulliniks

In the latest episode of Kevin Glew’s Blue Jays Flashback, we take a trip back to the time of Rance Mulliniks, a man whose career started in the 1970s and ended in the 1990s as a certified Blue Jays cult hero.

Rance Mulliniks

Rance Mulliniks looked more like an accountant than a professional baseball player.

But when you crunch the numbers on his 11 seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays, you can understand why the bespectacled infielder was named to the Blue Jays’ all-time team in 2001.


Mulliniks ranks first in franchise history in pinch-hits (58), seventh in walks (416), ninth in on-base percentage (.365) and 10th in doubles (204). He also topped the team in batting average with runners in scoring position in multiple seasons.

Defensively, he led American League third basemen in fielding percentage for three straight seasons from 1984 to 1986, even though shortstop and second base were his primary positions before landing with the Blue Jays.

And Mulliniks’ smarts, strengths and versatility would be highly valued in Major League Baseball today.

“Under [then Blue Jays manager] Bobby Cox, I like to think I became much more than just a professional baseball player,” said Mulliniks in a recent phone interview. “I like to think I became a student of the game.”

Born in 1956, Mulliniks grew up in Woodville, California, where his father, Harvey, a former pitcher in the New York Yankees organization, would throw to him.

“My dad started throwing batting practice to me when I was about seven years old,” said Mulliniks. “That’s how young I was when we started working to some degree with a purpose. That continued all the way until I signed professionally in 1974.”

A standout high school pitcher and shortstop, Mulliniks was selected by the California Angels in the third round of the 1974 MLB draft. He received his first big league call-up in June 1977 and became the Angels’ regular shortstop for the rest of the campaign.

Mulliniks was hampered by a back injury for the next two seasons and was dealt to the Kansas City Royals on December 6, 1979. He appeared in 60 games for the Royals before he was dealt to the Blue Jays on March 25, 1982 for right-hander Phil Huffman.

With help from coach Jimy Williams, Mulliniks was converted into a third baseman.

“When I got traded to Toronto and moved over to third, I was learning a new position at the major league level,” said Mulliniks.

He counts Williams and Bobby Cox as two of the greatest influences on his career.

“Bobby Cox taught me that if we all play the game to our strengths and use our strengths to help the team win, as a group, we compensate for each other’s shortcomings,” said Mulliniks.

Starting in 1982, Mulliniks was the left-handed hitting member of a very productive platoon with Garth Iorg at third base.

“That was just another example of Bobby using the strengths of his players,” said Mulliniks.

Mullinks enjoyed a breakout campaign in 1983 when he hit .275 with 10 home runs in 129 games. For an encore, Mulliniks hit a career-best .324 in 1984, before being a key player on the Blue Jays’ division-winning squad in 1985 when he had a career-high 57 RBIs.

“In my opinion, that was the most talented team I ever played on,” said Mulliniks. “Really when you looked around the field, we had no weaknesses.”

The Blue Jays recorded a franchise-best 99 regular season wins but bowed out to the Royals in seven games in the American League Championship Series.

In 1986, Mulliniks and the Blue Jays slumped to an 86-76 record and there were times during that season when he felt he wasn’t seeing the ball well. The following spring, he discovered he needed glasses.

And those glasses helped.

In 1987, he batted .310 to help the Blue Jays to 96 wins. Unfortunately, they lost their final seven games and the division title to the Detroit Tigers.

“That was the toughest loss I ever absorbed,” said Mulliniks. “That was a hard one to take, it really was. I think as a team it took us a couple of years to recover from that.”

Mulliniks served mostly as a pinch-hitter/DH on the Blue Jays’ second division-winning team in 1989 and he’d be employed in a similar role in the next two seasons.

Blue Jays Flashback: John Olerud

The savvy veteran was hampered by a back injury and played just three games in 1992, but he was a valuable mentor for young players like John Olerud, Jeff Kent and Ed Sprague.

In fact, Sprague has credited Mulliniks for his dramatic, two-run, pinch-hit home run against Atlanta Braves closer Jeff Reardon in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 1992 World Series. The Blue Jays had lost the first game and were trailing 4-3 when Sprague was sent in to pinch-hit.

“Basically, I told Ed, ‘Look if he flips you that little slider he throws, don’t even think about that. Don’t let it get in your head,’” recalled Mulliniks of the advice he gave Sprague. “I said, ‘Spraguey, you look for one fastball and if you like it, you let it go.’ And that’s what he did.’”

That homer gave the Blue Jays a 5-4 win and shifted the momentum in the series.

Mulliniks hung up his playing spikes after the 1992 season and began working as a hitting coach. He also served as an analyst on Blue Jays telecasts for CBC from 2006 to 2010.

More recently, he operated his own baseball school and has participated in Blue Jays alumni events.

“When people ask me my opinion about something in baseball, I tell them the three people I learned the most from in the game are Jimy Williams, Bobby Cox and Cito Gaston. I was so fortunate and I’m so grateful that when I got traded to Toronto, they had those types of people there,” said Mulliniks.



Our Blue Jays Flashback series has taken us on trips down memory lane with stops offs including Jesse Barfield, Dave Stieb, Fred McGriff and many more. Stay tuned for more Blue Jays legends incoming.