Gary Lee Woods
Born: July 29, 1954 (Santa Barbara, California)
Died: February 19, 2015 (Solvang, California)
Gary Woods was an outfielder and an original member of the Toronto Blue Jays. He got a base hit and scored a run in the Blue Jays inaugural game on April 7, 1977.
The 6-foot-2, 185-pound outfielder made his major-league debut with the Oakland Athletics late in the 1976 season after signing as an amateur free agent. He played in only eight games — and had just one single with three strikeouts in only eight at-bats — yet the Toronto brain trust saw enough potential in the slick-fielding outfielder to take him with their fourth pick of the expansion draft.
In the Blue Jays’ debut, Woods played centre field and batted fifth in cold and blustery conditions at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto. He opened the second inning by beating out a bunt fielded by Chicago White Sox second baseman Jorge Orta. (The hit was the second in Jays’ history, following Doug Ault’s solo home run in the bottom of the first.) Woods then stole second before scoring on Pedro Garcia’s single off White Sox starter Ken Brett, who would take the loss in Toronto’s 9-5 victory. The outfielder grounded to second, grounded to the pitcher, lined to centre, and grounded into a double play in his other four at-bats in the game, seen by 44,469 chilled and beer-free fans.
Having beat out Steve Bowling for the centre-field spot in spring training, the rookie played in 60 games in the Jays’ first season. He was a sure-handed and versatile outfielder, but a poor hitter with scant power. He hit just .216 with the Jays. He spent half the season with the Toledo Mud Hens of the International League, where he hit .272.
Woods spent most of the 1978 season with Toronto’s affiliate in Syracuse, N.Y., appearing in just eight games with the parent club. He was traded to the Houston Astros in December.
The outfielder spent two seasons with the Astros and four more with the Chicago Cubs. He didn’t commit an error in 117 games for the Cubs in 1982. He retired with a .243 average in the big leagues.
After retiring as a player, Woods scouted for the Chicago White Sox. He was an associate head coach with the collegiate Santa Barbara (Calif.) Foresters in 2014. Woods died of a heart attack at his home, aged 60.