So Sportsnet decided to honour the history of the Toronto Blue Jays by creating a fun (subjective) ‘Top 40’ list for the Blue Jays’ greatest players. And it’s a cool list that has sparked a good office conversation for this week and, of course, an-I-know-better-than-you kind of debate amongst fans. But, I think, the real topic of conversation that has been missed by the general public in regards to celebrating the years of the franchise might just be the years of the franchise.
The young Blue Jays organization is just not that anymore, is it? The city and the fans across the nation have all aged since April 7th, 1977 - when it all began. And many fans, of course, weren’t even born yet when the first pitch was tossed on that cold April Day at Exhibition Stadium – or, as some still refer to it as the 'Mistake by the Lake’.
So the number one song at the time when this great ball club was born was “Dancing Queen” by ABBA and that sure should put things into perspective when thinking about the age of this organization and the history that this team has created since that day.
Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister of Canada back then and now, of course, his son holds this duty today. So I guess that old saying, ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’ holds some kind of truth, I dunno - even though his father was much more a thinker and a philosopher than his son could ever smile and pretend to be.
The Blue Jays (and not the Blues, which most fans wanted them to be called) set forth on its MLB journey in ’77, and, since then, the organization has grown with the city, the nation, and with new faces and fans year-after-year.
When the Birds first arrived on the scene; Toronto had a more seedy kind of vibe with a desolate waterfront, a punk rock kind of Queen St. culture, and a Yonge and Dundas intersection that had a Hard Rock Café tavern, a Classic Bookshop, tight jeans and long hair, muscle cars that cruised up and down the lanes, Sam the Record Man, and many ‘Guys and Gals’ shops.
And over the years, the city has changed and gentrification became a more commonly used word as Toronto slowly lost its unique vibe. ‘The Big Smoke’ has progressed with the times as any city does, but it’s always good to remember the place that was.
So when the Blue Jays players hit the field on that cold 1977-day with their bats and moustaches to beat the Chicago White Sox, that moment brought a new culture to Toronto – a baseball culture. Because believe it or not, before 1977 there were no Blue Jays hats, no jerseys, no Tom Cheek, or Dave Stieb.
The Blue Jays have danced through the times and the years (but not like Abba) and with them - so have the fans. And the hard truth for all you young millennials to try to understand is that the world worked without the Internet – imagine that. That’s right, it’s true, and before people googled, they, I guess, ‘yahooed’, and before that - Internet was not around.
Back in the day, fans would have to read about the Birds in the ol’ newspaper. There weren’t any bloggers, there was no twitter, threads in Reddit for people to express their baseball ideas, troll, or be keyboard warriors. It was all done face-to-face at a bar, at home – or in a backyard with a neighbour.
The Blue Jays have been around through its share of human history from the tragic assassination of John Lennon on Dec. 8th, 1980 to the day MTV went live on Aug 1st, 1981. They were around for the unveiling of the epic Chrysler Mini-Vans in 1983, which then, of course, turned into a great vehicle to take the family and friends to Exhibition Stadium in to see a game.
The organization made history by winning their first AL East title in ‘The Drive of ‘85’ on October 5, as George Bell fell to his knees in a moment that should be honoured in some kind of bronze statue form. And then just two weeks after that great moment, the Nintendo Entertainment System launched into the universe changing the culture of video game playing forever.
The organization lived through the end of the Cold War, a Bush “War On Drugs”, a Gulf War X 2, and even a 1995 Quebec Referendum that saw the ‘No’ side narrowly achieve victory with a majority 50.58 % of the vote.
And after only 16 years of existence, the Blue Jays went on to become back-to-back World Series champions in ’92 & ’93, which will live in all of us who were around for the great moments that came with both of those legendary victories.
The 90s came and went with its grunge music and one-hit wonder times, and the early Y2Ks brought forth Nokia cellphones, Coldplay - meh -, and frosted tips of WTF was happening back then, which corresponded well with some of the saddest baseball years within the organization. As time continued to pass, so did poor season after poor season.
And while all this was happening, Toronto was quickly developing its waterfront and different pockets of the city, as the organization was trying to develop cheap tactics to ignite fans to go back to the ball park, I mean, Dome. The Blue Jays uniforms saw some painful years, which were incongruous to what the fans really wanted - I think.
Time pressed on and with it the smartphone was born, the Birds were still bad, great Blue Jays bloggers arose (like Drunk Jays Fans and the Tao Of Stieb) to give us all content that was better than the yawn happening in most of our local newspapers. The Birds were slowly descending into the future that would soon land them into a bat flip moment, which should be immortalized in front of the Dome forever.
And, now, here we stand in the present with our 2015 and '16 hangovers, awaiting a new future of Birds that play in the shadows. People have progressed with their iPhones, new Blue Jays blogs have been born, Richard Griffin is still a Toronto Star maverick, and fans still wait for that 3rd World Series.
So Sportsnet decided to give all of us a list of the greatest Blue Jays ever and it’s a moot topic to fill the air with and pass time. But the one thing I appreciate is the time that has passed with this organization through the good, the bad, and the ugly.
And as the city of Toronto continues to quickly develop at the rate it has been, I have just one question:
How many more condos will fill the Toronto sky before the future Birds bring back the World Series for a whole new generation to experience?
There have been some great memories built by this franchise, so let's not lose hope for the future ones to come.