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Soup of This Day #35: Sly And The Growing Pains Family Stone Blue Jays

July 17, 2011

Welcome to SkyDome. 30 story high dome. SkyDome – Photo: Binche, 2006. Binche is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I have just the 1 sibling, my brother who is a little over a year older than me. Because we grew up in the country with friends often many kms away we grew up playing sport against and with each other.

Often to particularly stupid lengths. Flat ball basketball is a prime example, whilst our interminably long test matches are to cricket what roadkill is to fine dining. They were notable for our devotion and general bloody-mindedness though.

Because of this competitive nature we often ended up supporting clubs in opposition. As I became a Liverpool fan, he became an Everton man. Never with real malice between us, a good weekend is when both teams win and a bad weekend is when they have to play each other. Then it’s just awkward.

In spite of this policy of rivalry he never quite took up baseball the way that I did. In fact, as I adopted the Red Sox he resolutely stuck to football, skateboarding and Transformers. At 1 point in the 90s he briefly flirted with the idea of backing the Toronto Blue Jays. The affliction never took hold though and he’s pretty much just carried on with life sans a MLB team to follow. He has moved on from the skateboarding.

Baseball however might be back in the frame. The other day he announced that he was taking another look at the Blue Jays. The gap in the English football season is clearly getting to him and without hockey he’s at a loose end. This renders him a free market agent and the team turning his head right now are old flames, the Jays. He doesn’t really know much about them though so here now, in part in honour of my bro’s birthday later this week, is the:

Longworth72 Guide to the Toronto Blue Jays

A small disclaimer off the bat: I’ve never been to a Blue Jays game. Or to Toronto. Actually I’ve never been to North America. That’s right, I’ve missed a whole continent. And to be honest I’m not really that much of an expert on the Jays. Whilst you could argue that this gives me an unmatched outsider’s insight others could argue that I’m clearly having a lend. Fair enough. If you’re looking for incisive commentary and a meaningful plunge into Canadian sports history then you clearly didn’t read the part above where I mentioned playing basketball with a flat ball. That sums up this post. It’s a history lesson with a flat ball. Tute on:

Wikipedia charmingly points out that the Blue Jays derive their moniker ‘from the bird of the same name’. Instead of the other way around. Which makes sense as the ballclub has been around since 1977 and the bird, notwithstanding Darwinism vs Creationism, presumably a lot longer.

The Blue Jays are of course a Canadian team and are the only non-US team to have won a World Series (92 and 93). This is probably down to there having been only 2 non-US teams in the Majors. Ever.

Since the other team, the Montreal Expos, relocated to Washington in 2004, the Jays are currently the sole Canadian and indeed, non-US team playing in the Majors. They manage this momentous feat out of the AL East, a division that they have inhabited since their debut game, April 7th 1977. That first game is notable for a ‘minor snowstorm’ prior to the game and the fact that the Blue Jays won, something they kinda struggled with for the remainder of that year. There is the old cliché, ‘Every team wins 54 and loses 54. It’s what you do with the other 54 that count.’ Toronto took this literally and won and lost the mandated 54. Unfortunately, when it apparently counted, they lost the remaining 53 (161 played). In 1979 (After a 4 win improvement in their 2nd year, 1978) they managed to top this, winning just 53, while dropping 109. This can be encapsulated in the following graphic:

This is a minor snowstorm. The Blue Jays were majorly crap. Perspective.

Heading into the 80’s and milestones then started to occur with startling rapidity. In 1982 they won more than 70 games, finishing 78 and 84. Then in 1983 they won more games than they lost for the 1st time, storming home with a 89 and 73 record. Sadly this was only good enough for 4th in the Division though but hope was now surging through Toronto like a river of maple syrup. A wave that the 85 Jays barrel rode all the way to 99 and 62, snagging their 1st AL East crown. They went on from there to achieve another 1st in the ALCS as they led Kansas City by 3 games to 1 down the stretch. Unfortunately this was the 1st year of 7 game series and Kansas City won the last 4 to take it 4-3 on their way to their only World Series crown. So more of a 1st for them really.

In 1987 more heartbreak awaited as the Jays went into the last series of the regular season a game up on 2nd placed Detroit, 95 to 94. The Tiges though took inspiration from curling and broomed their way home finishing 97 to 95.

In 1989 Toronto recovered from a 12 and 24 start to win the AL East with 89 wins. Of greater cultural significance is that they moved from their inaugural home at Exhibition Park to the new, retractably roofed SkyDome. The opening night was one for the ages, with an all singing, all dancing review that showcased the very best of Canada.

And Alan Thicke.

It was (and still is) one of the most bewildering opening ceremonies ever witnessed, with a musical finale that featured actors dressed as (I think?) Argonauts and Blue Jays players square-dancing to the background of a song penned especially for the occasion and belted out enthusiastically by Thicke and Andrea Martin.

Man, I hope those were actors.

You gotta love Thicke. If the End of Days kicked off tomorrow I reckon Thicke could enthusiastically sing us in with a smile. At least until the first fireball of the Apocalypse mercifully took his head off, probably to great cheers.

Of particular note is the part where they commenced opening of the roof only to discover that it was pouring down with rain. Unfortunately for those present the roof continued to open fully so that the skydivers could slalom alarmingly across the sodden stadium floor.

Oh, Canada.

These were just growing pains though (Ba boom) and the SkyDome would go on to bigger and better things. Like a World Series decider and bankruptcy (2002).

The former happened in 1993 and by then Toronto had already had a taste of the big time under it’s belt. The year was 1992 and Liverpool won the FA Cup, George Harrison discovered that he’d been born a day early than he’d always believed and Sylvester Stallone teamed up with Estelle Getty to make Stop or My Mum Will Shoot. The latter was produced by Canadian and Toronto resident Ivan Reitmann who had previously directed the quite brilliant Ghostbusters and Stripes. Everyone has an off day.

Anyway, 1992 and the Blue Jays had a stellar season. They took the AL East with a 96 and 66 record. They then took the ALCS over the A’s, crucially coming back from a 6-1 deficit after 7 to win Game 4. In the World Series they matched off against the Braves. It was a tight series, The Jays with a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 in Atlanta. It would go to the 11th of that game when Jays outfielder Dave Winfield doubled in 2 runs. Atlanta responded with a run of their own but in the end it was Toronto’s day and their 1st World Series.

On to 1993 and Liverpool did not win the FA Cup, George Harrison had firmed up on his birthday with no further changes and Stallone returned to good form with Cliffhanger and Demolition Man… Oh wait…Ummm… Yeah… They were better than Stop or My Mum Will Shoot anyway.

Ivan Reitmann directed Dave and it was a good film. And the Jays added a 2nd World Series. They had 7 All-Stars, a 95 and 67 record and a 4-2 ALCS over the White Sox. In the World Series they took the Phillies 4-2, with Game 6 in Toronto. They won it with a walk-off 3 run blast in the 9th. Alan Thicke must have been so proud to see it go 30 stories high in the Sky. Dome.

Please don’t sit through that video again to get/check that reference.

That was the high water mark for the Jays. The following 17 seasons have been fruitless. Oh, there’s been some interesting times, which I will now summarise in haiku form:

Blue Jays change feathers
Now rocket’s juice is no good
Post-Season is a dream

Translation: They changed their uniform (It’s not as good). They got *juiced up Rocket Roger Clemens from the Red Sox and failed to make it past the regular season at all. Not even once.

*Everyone knows you were juiced man. Here’s a parable for you: Sylvester Stallone was arrested in Australia in 2007 for bringing 48 vials of restricted growth hormones (HGH) into the country. He admitted it. Maybe you could too Roger.

This year looks no different for the Jays, albeit Clemens has been traded to a team called ‘grand jury’. They have been spirited – Jose Bautista has arguably been one of the 3 best in the AL, seemingly knocking in long shots for fun. Right fielder Eric Thames is hitting .319 and 1st base Adam Lind, .304. Which has been necessary because the pitching has been ordinary with most ERAs getting up around 4 at the minimum. The problem is that the spirit hasn’t been consistent across offence and defence and they’re up against the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Rays in an AL East fight that punishes that kind of form.

As evidenced in their current 4 game home stand against the Yankees, winning the 1st 16-7, the 2nd 7-1, before losing this morning 4-1. When the bats show up they’re on top, otherwise it’s a struggle. Ultimately this has left them hanging tough at 47 and 48, just shy of .500. They are 9 shy of the 2nd placed Yankees who also happen to hold the wild card slot, 4.5 games clear of fellow AL East combatants, the Rays.

My theory bro? It’s the uniform change. To demonstrate I’ve compiled the following 2 graphics:

Graphic 1: The cap is the 2011 Blue Jays on-field model. Sylvester Stallone could have worn this in Demolition Man. Or Assassins. Or The Specialist. Or Get Carter. Probably not Rocky or Copland or Escape to Victory. Partly because they were good films and also because they were set in Philly, New Jersey and WW2 respectively.

Graphic 2: This cap is the 1977-1983 model. It could make Alan Thicke look cool. Jason Seaver would wear this hat. Possibly while flipping Kirk Cameron the bird.

And now I leave you with this:
Sylvester Stallone at Everton

This image was not photoshopped or otherwise performance enhanced. Yep, Sylvester Stallone is a Toffee’s man.

Happy Birthday for Tuesday bro.

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