Me, My Dad, and The Toronto Blue Jays
We’re a couple of days past the 3 year anniversary of my dad’s passing. I try to honour him with a blog each year, and I’m a couple of days late this year. I was in Vegas, and while I don’t mind using my wife’s iPad for certain things, typing isn’t one of them. I need that old school desktop computer when I write. It’s just how I get down. I had pledged to write a series of Toronto Blue Jays related posts, celebrating their first post season appearance in 22 years, and while my tradition of writing about my dad takes precedence, they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The truth is, I’m a Blue Jay fan first and foremost because of my dad. He was the first one to put me on to the Jays. Boy did they suck at the time. My dad was a loyal fan though. While the Montreal Expos were the far more interesting Canadian team at the time of my initial baseball awareness, it didn’t take long for me to cross over to the Blue Jays and their mighty moustached All-Star pitcher Dave Stieb. This was close to 35 years ago. I’ve never looked back. To celebrate, here are a random selection of thoughts and memories regarding my father as a baseball guy.
– From the time I was a baby, he would sit me on his knee and watch sports with me on TV. Watching a sporting event with my father was awesome if you enjoy watching someone go through an emotional rollercoaster. I’ve always been an enthusiast of colourful language. My dad hurled obscenities at the television set on a regular basis. It was a stark contrast from his actual personality. Fairly laid back, and extremely friendly to anyone that had the pleasure of knowing him. Didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, wasn’t violent. How does a guy like this blow off steam? He yells at a TV set. “You f*ckin donkeys!!!” “Get your arm out of your ass and throw the f*ckin ball!!!” You know….. stuff like that. My mom would get embarrassed if there were other people in the house. He’d try to tone it down a bit by replacing ‘f*ckin’ with ‘friggin’, or my favourite and an original I believe which was ‘frinken’. After a while she’d give him shit, and he’d start pleading with her. “But dear, if they would just………” I have friends that can do great impressions of him based on what little outbursts they may have been lucky enough to see. I’m honoured to have had this man introduce me to the game.
– He was a reluctant but well-loved baseball coach. I started playing little league baseball when I was 6. He took me to the majority of my games and practices. I gotta send a shout out to my mom, who will read this and remember all the times that she had to drive. Let’s say that between the two of them, they always got me there. My dad coached me a few times. I’m not sure it was ever by design, but once he’d done it once or twice, they’d keep asking him. He’d usually step in if someone else fell through. We had a strange dynamic as coach/coach’s son. He had a pet peeve about little league sports. It always drove him nuts when a guy would coach a team, and let his son play all the ‘cool/fun/challenging’ positions on defence, and hit clean up, particularly if the coach’s son wasn’t that good of a player (which happened all the time). He felt like the coach’s son should be treated like just another player. That’s not to say I didn’t get a chance to play cool positions. I did, but I was a fairly capable player. I never took the spot of someone who deserved it more. My dad took things even a step further. When the team needed to get yelled at, I basically got yelled at. He was too nice to yell at another parent’s kid, but if he felt like the team needed to be more focused, he’d generally give me shit for something. I actually loved him for that. He set it up so that my teammates never resented me for being the coaches son, but liked me because I probably took some of the abuse that they might have otherwise gotten. We had our battles, but never stayed mad. Overall, we had some great times competing together, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
– He took me to my first Blue Jay game. We played the Minnesota Twins. I think it was a school night, because I remember some debate about whether he should take me or not. It was a crappy game as I recall. We played the Twins and lost either 7-0 or 7-1. We were sitting down the right field line at old Exhibition Stadium in a section that actually had metal benches with numbers on them as seats. The accommodations were no better than they would be at a high school or little league game, yet this was a major league ball park. Brutal. The only thing I remember about the game was that Leon Roberts hit a double for us, and that was maybe the only exciting moment in the game. That’s a pretty obscure name. Upon further research, he only played for us in 1982, so I was 7 years old at the time. Interesting Jay fact…. He was later traded for a young prospect named Cecil Fielder. Wikipedia rules! We would go to many more games over the years. Most more exciting than that one.
– He taught me the difference between a regular season 3-game series, and the World Series which was the only series I’d heard of at that point. I remember being in the bathroom while my dad was shaving. ‘Guess what son? The Jays swept the series against the Mariners.’ ‘Does that mean they’re going to the playoffs?’ ‘No son….they’re in last place’
– He taught me that while at a game, you need to keep your eye on the ball, and if a screaming line drive is hit towards you, don’t touch the ball unless you’re sure you can catch it, because it will hurt like a sonofabitch. I watched him learn that the hard way. Then when it was my turn to get a foul ball years later, I just waited for it to bounce out of a group of fans that went after it, and when it rolled down the stairs I just leaned over and picked it up. Thank you aisle seats. Thank you Rance Mulliniks.
– My dad got to go to a fair number of conferences in the States for work. Every time he went to a different city, he would always get me a t-shirt for that city’s baseball team. When it was all said and done, I had lots of them, but never really wore a Jays shirt.
– I alluded to his temper while watching games. I feel bad that I talked about it so much, in what was supposed to be ‘nicer’ piece, but if you know me, then you know I love the funny stories the most. This is the quick story about where my Dad was when Robbie Alomar hit the legendary home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1992 ALCS which changed the fortune of the entire franchise, and in my mind is the most important home run in Blue Jay history (which I’ve hotly debated this week, especially after Bautista’s homer last week which is 3rd, and Carter’s walk off in 93 WS 2nd). I remember this game was one of those annoying afternoon games where you have to rush home from school to watch it. I must have skipped a class or something, because I was at home in front of the TV. My dad got home at some point and started watching. In hindsight, I don’t even remember that much about the game before the home run. I just remember that it looked like once again we would come up short against Oakland, and not go to a World Series, and Dennis Eckersley was at the time the most un-hittable relief pitcher in baseball, so this game seemed to be on ice. My dad had gotten so frustrated with the Jays earlier in the game (maybe the 5 run third inning) that no amount of swearing at the TV was going to fix this situation. If we weren’t there, he would have just changed the channel, but we were watching intently, so he left the room, so appalled with them that he convinced himself he didn’t care what happened. We were down 6-1 in the 8th inning when the Jays started their comeback. They scored 3 runs in the 8th to make it a 6-4 game. I went into the other room to tell my dad what happened, and convince him that he should come in and watch the 9th. Oh no, he wasn’t coming in to watch those useless assholes. He was still huffing and puffing over the 5-run third inning, and wasn’t about to forgive them for it. I gave up and went in to watch the 9th. Alomar ends up hitting a 2-run homer to tie the game, and send it into extra innings. Never a more dramatic moment in Blue Jay history, and my stubborn dad sat in the living room pretending not to care. I laugh my ass off every time I think about it. They would go on to win their first World Series that year. He came around in time for the next game.
As happy as I am that the Jays have gone on such an incredible run this year, I really wish my dad was around to see it.
I miss you dad!