Archive for October, 2016

Hi everyone:

I am back again with another posting designed to offer some fun. And funny you should ask – just like a number of my more recent postings here on this blog, my entry today was also inspired by something I wrote on Facebook. One of my favourite radio shows is “Sunday Morning Trivia” which runs from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m on Newstalk 1010 – CFRB Radio Toronto, one of Toronto’s most popular radio stations. October 9, 2016 was a day when the city was gripped by Blue Jays Fever. That’s right, our city’s baseball team capped its 40th anniversary season by qualifying for the post-season for the second year in a row. But by a slightly different route than in 2015. Last year our gallant boys in blue won the American League Eastern Division crown, their first since 1993 (the second of two consecutive years when Toronto won the World Series and ruled the baseball world). But in 2016,the Boston Red Sox proved a wee bit too strong for the Jays, so Toronto had to settle for one of the “wild card” playoff spots. They would defeat the Baltimore Orioles in that playoff game, and eventually defeat the Western Division champions the Texas Rangers. Alas, it all came down with a thud on October 19 when the Cleveland Indians defeated Toronto in five games to advance to the World Series. As my beloved Dodgers used to say, especially back in their Brooklyn days before they moved west to Los Angeles in 1958: “Wait till next year!”

But that series with Cleveland was still in the future when Jason Agnew (the host of Sunday Morning Trivia) decided to devote the enitre October 9 show to the Blue Jays. That’s right. A full two hours of nothing but Blue Jays trivia. And after the show ended, I decided to take all this to a new level and offer a whole bunch of trivia. Consider this a 40th anniversary present to Jays fans worldwide. And while I am publishing this in October 2016, only a few days after their sad defeat at the hands of that noble team from Ohio, I just might revise this from time to time in future. Hmm – can you say “Toronto Blue Jays Trivia – part two?” Yeah, depending on what I find, this might be too much for one posting and I might need to go multiple. Oh well, that’s for another time. OK folks, put on your Blue Jays clothing, pick up the bat and let’s play ball. Oops, I mean trivia. Let’s get it started:

Anne Murray sang the Canadian national anthem at that first Blue Jays game on April 7, 1977, which was televised by CBC. I don’t know for sure, but I would not be surprised if the enchanting songstress from Springhill, Nova Scotia also did the American anthem. I’ll need to look into that one. Don Chevrier was the lead broadcaster, with the former great New York Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford doing the colour commentary. By the way, Whitey Ford wasn’t the only member of those great Yankee teams of the 1950’s and early 60’s to do commentary for the Jays. Their legendary shortstop Tony Kubek became an excellent broadcaster after his baseball career ended, and did many Toronto games in their early years. But not today. This one is the Don and Whitey Show. You can watch it again via the following YouTube link:

If that’s not enough, here’s a second link to that snowy April afternoon. When you combine both videos, that should give you a pretty good taste of what happened that day. Are we really talking about nearly 40 years ago? Toronto sure has changed a lot since then. Take a look at the skyline as the camera pans over downtown. Or the fact that old Exhibition Stadium, where the game was played and which served as the Jays home until June 1989 (more about that in a minute), no longer exists. Although in an interesting irony, there’s a brand new stadium on that site today. BMO Field is on that same site, and is the home of both the the Toronto FC Soccer Club and the Toronto Argonauts of the CFL. Here’s the link – enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85x6eY65B3A

If you just watched one or both of the above videos, then you know all too well that the Blue Jays first game was against the Chicago White Sox. Bill Singer threw the first pitch in team history to Ralph Garr, it was a strike. According to Chevrier’s call, the umpire immediately took that ball out of play and it was sent to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Both men wore no. 48 for their respective teams. By coincidence, the White Sox and Blue Jays also played the final game at Exhibition Stadium on May 28, 1989 before the team moved over to the SkyDome (now the Rogers Centre). To really come full circle, Toronto also won this game, this time by a final score of 7-5, thanks to a tenth inning walk-off home run from George Bell. As one might expect, everything is a “first” when it’s the first game in a franchise’s history. Al Woods really took it to a new level on that April day – he became only the 11th player in MLB history to hit a pinch-hit home run in his very first at bat.

There have been many songs associated with the team over the years. While some of you may disagree I think the best known and best loved of all those songs is the classic “OK Blue Jays”. It’s been a few years now since I went to a Jays game live, but I recall for many years fitness instructors would stand on the dug-outs and lead the fans in exercises during the 7th inning stretch while the song played in the background. And of course we all sang the “OK Blue Jays. Let’s play ball” chorus along with the recording. I hope that is still being done today. If not, if anyone from the team is reading this, please bring it back for the 2017 season and beyond. Keith Hampshire and the Bat Boys sang OK Blue Jays. Here’s a link if you want to watch a video of the song, complete with lyrics:

“OK Blue Jays” may be the most popular song in team history, but it may surprise some of you, especially my younger readers, to learn that it was NOT the original theme song for the team. A group named “Paul’s People” did an earlier song “Toronto Blue Jays – We’re With You All The Way”, which was used as an opening theme on the radio broadcasts during their early years. Watch it at:

Blue Jays knuckleballer Tom Candiotti played perhaps the most famous knuckleballer of them all, Hoyt Wilhelm, in Billy Crystal’s “*61” – his movie around the 1961 Yankees and in particular the Roger Maris – Mickey Mantle race to break Babe Ruth’s home run record. Wilhelm appears in the Yankees 154th game of the season, when Maris has a chance to break the record in Baltimore.

I noted earlier that when the Blue Jays won the 2015 American League Eastern Division title, it was their first one since 1993. That team was a juggernaut with an offence that was second to none. One of their hallmarks was that the top of the order from that 1993 team was called “WAMCO”. It stood for Devon White, Roberto Alomar, Paul Molitor, Joe Carter and John Olerud.

The longest game in team history was 18 innings against the Angels on July 28, 2005 in Toronto. Blue Jays won 2-1. The team also holds the record for the longest game ever played on Opening Day. This was on April 5, 2012 in Cleveland vs the Indians. Toronto won that one too, defeating the Indians 7-4 in 16 innings. The next day, it happened again, the Blue Jays defeated Cleveland by the same score in 12 innings.

One final observation before I go – well at least for now. As I said way back at the beginning, I just might add some more trivia over time. The team used the same logo and uniforms from 1977 to 1996. The logo was designed by a Toronto advertising firm (Savage Sloan Ltd). They may have also designed the famous “split” font used for the lettering and numbers on the uniforms. I’m phrasing it this way because I am not sure exactly where that font came from. I did some research and couldn’t find anything. Perhaps that same advertising firm designed the font too, but I don’t know for sure. If anyone reading this has the answer, let me know via the Comments area below and I will add that info as part of a future revision. For many Blue Jays fans that logo and those uniforms became iconic symbols of the franchise. As much a part of the team’s heritage as the classic Yankee pinstripes or that famous interlocking “NY” logo (by the way, did you know that “NY” logo was first designed by Louis Tiffany? Yes THAT Tiffany – of the famous New York jewellery store), the Old English script “D” used by the the Detroit Tigers or the Dodgers classic script on the front of their jerseys with a red number below. Those uniforms and logos haven’t changed in decades.

Sad to say, however, but after the 1996 season, the owners decided to go in another direction, which saddened me and many other long-time fans. The team went through a number of different logo and uniform designs from 1997 until the end of the 2011 season. Is it more than just coincidence that the “dark years” of the Blue Jays franchise, when they failed to come even close to their glory years took place during that time? I think so, but if you’re a Jays fan, decide for yourself. But the team finally saw the error of their ways, and returned home. On November 18, 2011, the team announced that they were returning to the original logo and a uniform very close to the original jersey (a small tweak of the letters and numbers, along with blue caps instead of the famous blue and white ones). Here’s a Web site that talks about the redesign of the logo and uniforms:

As I noted above, it seemed that the so called “dark years” seems to coincide with the departure from the original uniform and logo. Is it just coincidence that when the Jays went back to their roots, they started winning again? That they returned to the playoffs in both 2015 and 2016? That their merchandise sales have exploded in the five years since they returned to the original logo and uniforms, albeit with a slight update? And that even though I am writing this only days after their 2016 season ended, I really think the team has a bright future? Indeed, the Blue Jays merchandise is among the top sellers in Major League Baseball. Here’s a page from the team Web site that talks about their logos and uniforms through their history:

Well folks, that’s all for now. As always thanks so much for reading this blog entry. And be sure to watch for my next offering, coming soon to a computer near you. Enjoy your day everyone!

Read Full Post »

Hi everyone:

Like some of my other recent postings – I originally put this one up on Facebook yesterday, which as noted below was the anniversary of the federal election. Seems a number of people liked it, so I thought it might be fun to offer it here as well. I hope you enjoy it, and as always, feel free to share this blog posting with anyone you wish. Ready? Here we go!!

October 19 was the one year anniversary of the federal election which saw a new government under the leadership of Justin Trudeau come to Ottawa. I’m not going to offer a commentary on things like whether Canada is better off under his leadership than we were with the old Harper government, whether the Liberals have lived up to their election promises and so on. There’s already enough people doing that. You certainly don’t need that from me as well, right?

Instead, I want to say thank you to all the people I worked with at Elections Canada Hamilton Centre, not only on Election Day, but also in the period from Labour Day right through to October 19 itself, when I worked behind the scenes in several areas, most especially as a Revision Assistant and then as a Central Poll Supervisor. Special thanks to our Returning Officer Ryan Thomas Scally Leverton, as well as people like Brad Mailman, Jordan Callander, Charlene Manning, and so many others. It was my pleasure to call each of you not only my colleagues, but also my friends. Those few weeks last year were very stressful and fast-paced, but I would not change that for anything. Yes, even the fact that my duties as the Central Poll Supervisor at Queen Victoria School did not finish until something like 3:30 the next morning. Our work was worth it because we got to serve not only the people of Hamilton Centre, but also our fellow Canadians right across the country. And of course I can’t do this without remembering my friend and colleague Eduardo Cordero, who sadly passed away back in August. Eduardo was an important member of our Hamilton Centre team and he will be missed by many people, especially all of us who had the pleasure of working with him and getting to know him day after day. A wonderful man, a class act in every way, and a true friend. I’m glad that I was able to attend his memorial service at First Unitarian Church here in Hamilton. May he rest in peace, and may God bless his family and friends.

The next election, of course, will not be until the fall of 2019. A lot can happen between now and then, but if I am available to do so, I would be delighted to work with Elections Canada once again, and likely do all the same things I did a year ago. Let’s see what that time brings. Best wishes to all.

Read Full Post »

Hi everyone:

As I write this blog entry it is early October 2016. And if you are a baseball fan then it is the best time of the year. That’s because the regular season is now over and the first round of the playoffs is now underway. Well, maybe I ought to revisit that statement because the “Wild Card” round of games took place earlier this week. The first game was last Tuesday night (October 4) when the favourite team in these parts, the Toronto Blue Jays, emerged victorious with a thrilling extra-innings win over the Baltimore Orioles. The next night, the defending National League champion New York Mets exited when they were defeated by the San Francisco Giants. Perhaps it’s appropriate that I mentioned the Giants because it leads very well into my subject for this article.

If you are a longtime baseball fan, chances are you have heard of Vin Scully. Vin has just retired from the Los Angeles Dodgers after an incredible 67 year run as the team’s lead broadcaster. Yes, you read that correctly. Vin started in 1950 when the team was still based in Brooklyn and has continued for all these years. What a remarkable run, and I seriously doubt that anyone will ever achieve that feat again. Just think about it. 67 years with the same organization. In a world where today people are lucky to spend 67 months or even 67 weeks in the same job, Vin Scully has been going strong since 1950.

Last month (September 2016) the Dodgers organization made a wonderful gesture. In tribute to Vin Scully and his incredible career, the team invited fans worldwide to send greetings to Vin and to offer thanks for his career. As a lifelong Dodgers fan, of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I have followed the team all my life, for reasons too numerous to mention here. Gee – I think I just came up with another blog idea. I did write a blog entry a while back about the New York Yankees, maybe I should do one about the Dodgers and why I have loved the team since I was a wee lad back in St. Lambert. In keeping with the Dodgers offer, I sat at this computer a while back and offered the following:

Greetings from Hamilton, Ontario Canada. I am a lifelong Dodgers fan, and to say thank you for your countless contributions to my team, to Los Angeles, to Brooklyn and to the world, not just in broadcasting but in every other part of society seems somehow inadequate. You have been the soundtrack of our lives. You treat everyone with class, dignity and the highest respect. If someone asked me to select a role model that people could emulate and take encouragement from, you are my choice. I will be listening to your final broadcast from Dodger Stadium today (Sept. 25) and also continuing through this week until the season concludes next weekend. How appropriate that the season will end by calling the Dodgers and the Giants in San Francisco. You know better than anyone about our rivalry with the Giants, so I think it is most fitting that your time will close with that rivalry. As you so aptly described it during the final time the teams played at the Polo Grounds in September 1957 “Sparta and Athens are at it again.” God bless you Vin. Rest assured that millions of people worldwide love you and will miss you. In closing, to use your trademark line “It’s time for Dodger baseball”. But somehow, it won’t seem the same not having you calling the action. Thank you to the Dodgers for allowing me and so many others worldwide to offer our best wishes. We will miss you, Vin, and we will never forget you.

In addition to the above letter, let me offer some other tributes to Vin that I located online. For openers, here is a video presentation shared at Dodger Stadium as part of a special ceremony honouring him on Friday September 23: A Tribute to Vin Scully in celebration of 67 years of excellence with the Dodgers

If that little taste whets your appetite – here’s the entire ceremony from that evening. A very classy and wonderful tribute from the Dodgers, the City of Los Angeles, the entertainment community and fans worldwide. Let me caution you, get a box of Kleenex before you watch this thing. I was in tears watching it live that night, and I have experienced that again watching it a few times since then. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you Vin! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz-B8QK5qtE

The following afternoon (September 24) Vin led a nearly one hour press conference for the media at Dodger Stadium reflecting on his many years as a broadcaster. As always he handled every question with class, charm and elegance. Early in the proceedings (around the 7 minute mark) Vin even took a question from a Montreal journalist in which he reflected on the Expos and his experiences calling games both at Jarry Park and the Olympic Stadium. And while he didn’t actually say it, you get the feeling that he would be happy to see baseball return to Montreal some day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RaZOdbrWJIc

September 25 was a typically beautiful Southern California Sunday afternoon. And high above the field at Dodger Stadium, in the press box that will always bear his name, Vin Scully was winding down his remarkable career. Here’s the call of his final batter. A home run by Charlie Culberson that clinched the 2016 NL West Division crown. It doesn’t get much better than that. If you want to relive that magical moment, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HayOXW09kl8

Here’s a behind the scenes look at that final home game at Dodger Stadium, a wonderful video production put on the Dodgers Web site that beautifully captures Vin Scully at work in his final home broadcast: http://m.mlb.com/lad/video/topic/8911656/v1202416683/?c_id=la

Now of course, no tribute to Vin Scully would be complete without giving you what many consider his most memorable call. That’s right. October 15, 1988. It’s game one of the 1988 World Series. Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. Kirk Gibson at the plate. I think you know the rest, but let’s watch it together, shall we? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4nwMDZYXTI

Dusty Baker was a star player for the Dodgers for many years. I really enjoyed his short but heartfelt tribute to Vin Scully, I think he says it all for the hundreds of men who have worn Dodger blue for those 67 years, first in Brooklyn and then in Los Angeles. Here he is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3iFZRcADUw

KLAC was the flagship station for the Dodgers radio network during the 2016 season. In tribute to Vin’s amazing career, the station produced a special 90 minute broadcast. Yes, I did indeed listen to the whole thing. Sure, it will take you a while, but take my word for it – you will enjoy it. Why not settle back, relax and have a go at it. Here’s the broadcast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEiSM-oLXAc

One week later after that emotional farewell at Dodger Stadium (October 2), Vin called his very last game – against the Dodgers most bitter rivals at San Francisco. As I wrote in that letter to him, how appropriate that his final game would be against the Giants. So let me close with some video content from that final game. First, in a very classy move by the Giants, they pay tribute to Vin and his career. My apologies if the sound quality isn’t the best, if I find a better video of this tribute I will replace it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzpGZIFf1-0

Second, a video tribute to Vin, played on the scoreboard at AT & T Park. Again, such a wonderful and very classy move by the Giants. As with the above, I apologize if some of you have issues with the quality of this video, but I felt it was worth sharing. I suspect this was taped by a fan from their actual seat in the stadium. Whoever that fan was, if he or she reads this one day, thank you for sharing this with the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnUTZL_qmlQ

Third, a video of the final inning in San Francisco, taken from the Sportsnet LA broadcast. As in the case of some other videos, the quality here may not be the best. I suspect that someone taped that last inning and then transferred this over to YouTube. But for now it will have to do. If I find a better copy of that 9th inning in San Francisco, I will replace it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2zjxHO0hkE

And after the game, he recorded a touching and very emotional send-off. I want to share that with all of you. Please note that because this video originated on Facebook, you may need to log into your FB account before you can watch it. My apologies if that causes a problem for you, but I think you will agree with me that it’s worth the effort. Why don’t you watch it now and then decide for yourself? https://www.facebook.com/Dodgers/videos/10155349077078508/

Just as Vin Scully ended his incredible broadcasting career with the video I just shared, perhaps that is a fitting way for me to end my tribute to him. Thank you and God bless you, Vin. We will never see his like again. As he said as part of that final broadcast in San Francisco (you will hear it on that 9th inning video above) “Don’t be sad because it’s over, smile because it happened”. Truer words were never spoken. I can’t think of better words to end this tribute. As always thanks for reading this article and for watching any or all of the videos that I offered. Have a super day, watch for my next blog entry – coming soon to a computer near you. So long for now!

Read Full Post »

As I have done with some of my recent blog entries (such as one I published in July 2016 about my struggles with depression), I have adapted this one slightly from a Facebook posting. This one was done on September 23, in keeping with the final week of the 2016 season. Don’t be surprised if I revise this once the season ends, but this is where we are at the moment. Here we go!

No doubt like many of you reading this, I am a baseball fan. And late September is the best time of year. Or as the famous “September Song” notes “the days dwindle down to a precious few”. The 2016 regular season is winding down and the playoffs, culminating in the World Series, are around the corner. As of now, the Cubs are the only team to have clinched a playoff berth, but with only a week left other teams will join the Cubs soon. As a lifelong Los Angeles Dodgers fan I am cheering for my guys to win the NL West and hopefully take it all the way. Especially when you consider that the greatest broadcaster of them all, the immortal Vin Scully, is retiring. He will call his final games next weekend when we play the Giants in San Francisco. How appropriate that given the incredible rivalry between my Dodgers and the Giants, which first began in Brooklyn and New York so many decades ago, and then continued when the teams moved to California in 1958, that Vin will conclude his career with these two rivals. Would be so wonderful if the Dodgers can win the World Series, our first since 1988. Or as many folks are saying in Los Angeles, “Win It For Vin”

In celebration of all this, let me offer all of you a video containing what I think is the finest comedy routine ever. Perhaps I am showing my age, but to me a lot of what passes for comedy today is rude, vulgar and disgusting as to be almost repulsive. If you want some “real” comedy, and also with a baseball theme, I offer for all of you the classic “Who’s On First” routine from Abbott and Costello. I hope you enjoy this one, as well as the rest of the baseball season to come. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTcRRaXV-fg I trust that you will agree with me that this is a wonderful comedy skit, and a wonderful tribute to baseball.

Read Full Post »