So the Toronto Blue Jays clinched the American League East Division Title yesterday. For the first time in 22 years. I quietly enjoyed watching their champagne showers from my couch at home. I don’t remember what I did the last time they won their division, but it was 22 years ago, which made me 18. At that age I probably would have celebrated with my own champagne shower….. or sparkling wine shower…… who am I kidding? I probably quietly enjoyed it from my couch at home.
The Blue Jays have been incredible this year. I don’t blog about sports very often (because when I do, my viewer stats bottom out for whatever reason, until I just figure ‘hey…. they don’t like sports blogs’), so I don’t know if I’ve properly explained my passion for the Toronto Blue Jays. Let’s just use the word avid. With all respect to band wagon jumpers around the city (because you’re all welcome), there isn’t anything you can tell me about the Blue Jays since the year 1981 that I don’t already know, and before 1981, I was basically a toddler. I also know my fair share of stuff from before 1981, because I studied my Blue Jay history. My wife would be quick to point out that I haven’t been monetarily compensated for any of this knowledge. I would add the word YET to that sentence.
So I’ve watched a lot of games. I was thinking about my blog the other day, and feeling a bit bad for not posting anything in a while, when I realized that this dream season the Jays are having, and me not blogging isn’t just a coincidence. I’m just having a tough time thinking about other stuff. So maybe to remedy this situation, I should write about some of my life experiences as they relate to the Blue Jays. I’ve got some good stories. I tell them all the time. I’ve just never written them down. So today, I’ve decided that my next 10 blogs will have a Toronto Blue Jays theme to them. I hope their playoff run lasts long enough that they’ll still be playing until I’m finished this project. Otherwise the last few that I write will be no-fun-at-all. Without additional delay………..
Saturday October 24, 1992 – Where were you?
I’ll tell you where I was….. Working at White Rose. It was a nursery. I had a part-time job loading garden soil into the backs of people’s cars. That’s what I remember about it anyways. We did all manner of dirty jobs at that place. Sounds crappy, but it wasn’t somehow. We were too young to care how unsafe our working conditions were. There were a bunch of people our age working there, and it was great fun. Two nights earlier, the Toronto Blue Jays had a chance to win their first World Series at their home stadium, then called ‘The Skydome’, and I still call it that because that’s the name it was given (don’t get me started on corporate naming rights). My parents were at that game too. I had written a good paragraph about their adventure that night in the following post http://thoughtsandrantsinjoggingpants.com/2013/10/14/the-night-my-father-died/ That’s kind of a sad post, so scroll down to paragraph 12 if you’re not in the mood for a good cry. For those that didn’t click the link, the Jays lost on Thursday, and Game 6 would be played in Atlanta with the Jays up 3-2 in the series.
So this particular Saturday night might just be the first time in my life that a major Toronto sports team (apologies to the CFL Argonauts who I love dearly, but not the same way) could win a championship. The Blue Jays for those who don’t know were an expansion team new to Major League Baseball in 1977, so by 1992, we were ready. I wasn’t quite ready, I was stuck at White Rose until 6pm. I had found out that since the game was being held in Atlanta, the vacant Skydome was allowing fans to come in and watch the game for free as long as they brought some non-perishable food items for a food drive they were having. I wanted to be there, watching on the big screen with 50,000 screaming fans. With me getting off work only an hour before game time, and living in Mississauga, how was I going to manage this?
I give my friend Chris full credit for making this happen. Neither of us drove. He got his father to give us a lift to the train station. As I recall, the last train that we could catch to get us there was leaving the station at about 6:15 or so, and I know it was probably 12 minutes away. Chris and his dad rolled into the White Rose parking lot with food items to donate at 6 on the dot. I hurled myself into the backseat like it was a getaway car, and off we sped. We arrived at the station and ran up to the platform just as you could see the approaching train’s headlights off in the distance. A couple of minutes later we were on that train, closer to our goal, but not in the clear yet.
Before I continue, I have to explain the importance of this, because as I’m remembering it, I’m tensing up with excitement, but as I’m reading it back to myself, I’m not sure that I’m playing it up enough. At that point in time this was one of the few things that mattered to me in the world! I was 17 years old. One of the only Canadian kids who preferred baseball over hockey. It was my chance to watch my team possibly win a World Series. At 40, I still haven’t seen the Leafs win a Stanley Cup, and we’re not close. I fully understood this moment and how important it was, and how I’d be talking about it 10, 20, 50 years later. I had to get into this stadium, and we were cutting it real close. By getting on that train, we had pissed away our opportunity to just watch it on TV at home. We were downtown now. We weren’t old enough to go watch it at a bar, and what bar wouldn’t be completely rammed to capacity anyways? I’m sure we had no money, just a couple of jars of peanut butter or Kraft Dinner or something. There was no PVR, there was VHS, and while I’m usually happy to start watching a game after it’s happened these days, not the clinching game of the World Series!!! There was no backup plan! How did this story start? It started with ‘Where were you?’ If I didn’t get into the Skydome, I would be NOWHERE.
Chris and I got off the train and booked to the Skydome in hyper-speed. I think we had strategically chosen a gate near the top of the stairs, thinking that it would get us up into the nose-bleed section (the 500s). We maybe figured that those would be the only seats leftover. As we got to that gate there were like 200 people in front of us. The game was going to start in just a few minutes. It wasn’t looking good. There is a huge set of stairs that lead down to some more gates. We thought it prudent to check out the lineups at a couple of the other ones to see if it was more promising, so we started down the stairs. About 10 seconds later someone came on a megaphone and announced that Gates 5 and 6 were now the only gates left that were letting in people………….These were the gates that we were approaching…… the ones at the bottom of the stairs……
This next part plays out in my mind like a movie. I’m quite certain it didn’t happen in slow motion, but when I replay it in my mind, that’s the only way I see it. I can see the lady’s mouth slowly saying the words. You know in the movies, there would be a little bit of slow motion spit coming out of her mouth as she said it, and a really bitchy look on her face as she delivered the disappointing news, but she had probably been putting up with people’s shit for 2 hours and was happy to be shutting her gate down. Then there’s the crowd of people whose faces were looking ahead, have now swiveled towards us with sheer panic, and their stances turn athletic, and Chris and I look at each other like you do in one of those zombie apocalypse movies where there’s only two humans left, and you were doing okay sneaking around, but then someone dropped a candy wrapper on the ground, and 500 zombies suddenly see you at once, and decide they want to eat your brain, so you say to each other “RUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Chris and I had about a 30 foot lead on these people as they started running after us at top speed DOWN TWO MASSIVE FLIGHTS OF STAIRS toward Gate 5 and 6. I honestly can’t remember if I actually feared for my life at the time or not, but the possibility of getting absolutely trampled to death was a real thing. As I was flying down these stairs, if I’d had a loose shoelace, or god forbid, dropped my non-perishable food item on these stairs, it would have been curtains! As it were, we maintained our 30 feet advantage, and got into the Skydome with relative ease strangely enough, but when I tell you that we were the last 2 people who got in, I’m not exaggerating by very much. I do remember the security guards closing the doors not far behind us, and most of the zombies were left wanting. We were in, and it was totally sweet. What was to come was truly one of the highlights of my life.
We were really lucky to even find two seats together. We had a pretty awkward view of the (then, state of the art) Jumbotron, but it didn’t matter. We could see the game, and the atmosphere was electric. I had almost forgotten until now, but that clinching game was 11 innings, so we were there for hours. In between innings someone would always run out onto the field and try to outrun the security guards. Abhorrent behaviour at a real baseball game, but at the viewing of a baseball game on television, I was pretty happy to have the between inning entertainment. Lots of people took rolls of toilet paper from the bathrooms and launched streamers. I cringe for those that had to drop a deuce at the stadium that night. It was bad behaviour all around I suppose, but they were serving beer to a bunch of people who at the end of the day were watching a big TV.
The Toronto Blue Jays won their first World Series that night. Chris and I, along with everyone in the 100 level charged out onto the field after the game to celebrate. Security didn’t seem to mind, so they must have been expecting it. It was the first and maybe the only time (other than the following year when the Jays won again) that I’ve seen people so euphoric that they were high fiving and hugging complete strangers. It was like you knew every single person in there, and were happy to see them. Real hugs too. People that I had never met hugged me like I was a long-lost relative they hadn’t seen in years. There we were, partying it up on the same field where our heroes made their living, and where a year later they would be celebrating again (this time on home turf). It was a strange privilege that a few thousand people got to experience just for being in the right place at the right time. The party spilled out onto the streets of Toronto, and while a year later I was in Toronto for that incredible street party, Chris and I decided to head home. The train ride was full of ecstatic Blue Jay fans. I even walked home from the train station even though it was about an hour’s walk. Cars driving down a major street in Mississauga were beeping their horns at me, and we were all screaming together at the top of our lungs well into the night.
It was absolutely one of the greatest thrills of my life, and everybody should get to experience it the way I did. I hope sometime soon they will.