Becoming a Toronto Blue Jays Fan

Since this is the dead of summer, and Mennonite history feels a little distant, and even though the Toronto Blue Jays have fallen on harder times, it has caused me to reflect on how I became such an avid baseball fan. In October 2015 I wrote a blog about Mennonites and Major League Baseball, but didn’t talk about why it mattered to me.

When I was growing up in eastern Ohio on a small 80-acre farm, two of my siblings, my oldest brother and my second-oldest sister, were baseball falls, following the Cleveland Indians. In the 1950s the Indians were a competitive team, unlike the Pittsburgh Pirates, who were about an equal distance away. (In 1954 the Indians won 111 of 154 games in the regular season, but lost the World Series in four straight games to the New York Giants; in contrast Pittsburgh won 53 of 154 games and finished in last place.)

Miss-MantleMickey_Mantle_1953In the third grade, 1954-55, I really liked my pretty, young teacher, whose name was Melva Mantle. My clear memory is that this positive association with Miss Mantle turned me into a New York Yankees fan, with their (also) young (age 22) star center fielder, Mickey Mantle.

My love for baseball means I cannot even count the number of times I read Duane Decker’s series of baseball books for boys about the “Blue Sox,” and I had my mother make a T-shirt with “Blue Sox” imprinted on the front.

On radio I was restricted to listening to Cleveland games (with play-by-play announcer Jimmy Dudley). My married oldest brother had a TV, and occasionally I’d get to see a New York game on a Saturday afternoon. On a few occasions, I saw a game in Cleveland, and saw Mantle hit one of his majestic home runs.

My interest in Major League Baseball continued at a lessened pace in my college years, but my year of poverty in Chicago in 1967-68 found me still going to several Chicago Cubs games, since seats in the bleachers were quite cheap. Leo Durocher was the manager, and Ernie Banks still played every day. Ron Santo and Billy Williams were the team stars, and Canadian Fergie Jenkins led the pitching staff, winning 20 games that year (and pitching 20 complete games) in 308 innings.

My move to Canada in late 1968 coincided with Mickey Mantle’s retirement from baseball. I remained a nominal Yankees fan, but never liked George Steinbrenner when he took over ownership of the Yankees in 1972. I was more than ready to switch my allegiances when the Blue Jays launched in 1977.

Exhibition_Stadium_before_the_Toronto_Blue_Jays_faced_the_Chicago_White_Sox_on_May_27,_1988_1

By Jerry Reuss (1988 Toronto Blue Jays Exhibition Stadium 11) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Although it was an odd ball park, old Exhibition Stadium had a kind of intimacy that the Skydome/Rogers Centre will never match. I still go to two games a year, and watch all or part of Blue Jays games when at home. I use my IPad to keep linked to statistical information at Gameday on mlb.com while watching the game.

I well remember the small group from our church meeting in our home on October 23, 1993.  After our usual sharing, we watched game 6 of the World Series. My wife, Sue, who was not yet an avid baseball fan, went to bed because she was preaching the next morning at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. Needless to say, the small group erupted when Joe Carter “touched ’em all” to win the series. (Sue has reminded me, that she has “mended her ways” and is now an avid Blue Jays fan.)

Erik Krath, 2015.

Erik Kratz speaking on January 29, 2015. Minda Haas Wikimedia Commons.

I was also inordinately pleased when Mennonite Erik Kratz briefly played for the Jays in 2014.

If you are a baseball fan, how did it come about? What keeps you attracted? What caused you to lose interest?

Go Jays!

3 thoughts on “Becoming a Toronto Blue Jays Fan

  1. Thanks, Sam. I’d like to hear more about when the phrase (and especially the surrounding concept!) “meaningful baseball in September (August)” came into use. More importantly, when did winning the league championship become as important as it seems to be now. In my early years MLB had only the AL and the NL, with ten teams each. There were no playoffs other than the world series. Only the AL champ and the NL champ had a “post-season.” So most years 14-16 teams were out of contention but they continued to play and fans continued to follow and root. My question isn’t about any perceived increase in importance in winning per se. Winning is inherent to sport. But have others perceived a shift from winning THE GAME to winning the league championship? What has caused this. Clearly the increase in numbers of teams entering the post season was TV/marketing inspired. And I like that. But has there also been an accompanying (and I think undue) shift in the importance of being league champions? Why? I suspect Tim Schmucker ought to have an interesting take on this.

    Like

  2. You might not believe this Sam, but I have been a fan of the Chicago Cubs since 1947. In 1945, before I paid any attention to baseball, the Cubs lost the 7th game of the World Series to Detroit. I discovered this when I started to become interested in Baseball in 1947. By that time the Cubs were floundering in the lower regions of the league and, being a fan of the underdog, I became a life long Cub fan. Those 60’s Cubs were great and they should have been in the World Series in 69 but the double curse of the billy goat and the black cat kicked in. Then last year when they were finally in the World Series for the first time since 1945 I experienced a bit of a curse myself. In the 7th game the score was tied in the 9th inning and there was a rain delay. Weather forecasts locally were for rain most of the night, I was exhausted from the tension and knew that, given the Cubs history, they would lose anyway. So I went to bed. It wasn’t until I cheeked my email the next morning that I had a message from my daughter, who pays no attention to baseball, but was all excited about what a fantastic win that was by the Cubs in the 10th inning. She was flabbergasted when she discovered that I had been sound asleep. At any rate, the Cubs are a bit lackluster this year and we may be in for another hundred plus years before they win another World Series.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Sam: Not a fan of TV games… When I was young and my then-boyfriend / husband played hockey and baseball (NWRSL), our social life was hockey and ball and I enjoyed that. I guess I like the games when I know the players. Now, it’s grandsons. My nephew, who is 12, has introduced me to basketball and football. That’s my story 🙂 I enjoyed yours. Marion

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s