More Blue Jays, Leafs, NHL History

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Aug. 7) – I am constantly being reminded that there is nothing finite about moving one’s residence. Sometime before my first year’s lease has expired, the chore should be complete. Meantime, I continue to stumble upon relics from my sports collection, thereby filling space here during the hockey off season.

Many of the images in this blog pertain to the earliest moments of the Toronto Blue Jays and the club’s hosting of the 1991 Major League Baseball All-Star Game at SkyDome. There is also a bit of Maple Leafs/hockey history – and a quick reminder of that most dreadful day: Sep. 11, 2001.

Please take a few moments, and enjoy… 

FRONT-PAGE EDITIONS (ABOVE AND BELOW) OF THE TORONTO STAR ON THE DAY THE BLUE JAYS PLAYED THEIR FIRST-EVER GAME – THURSDAY, APR. 7, 1977 – DEFEATING CHICAGO WHITE SOX, 9-5, AT SNOWY AND WINDY EXHIBITION STADIUM.

BEFORE THE BLUE JAYS CAME ALONG, IT APPEARED SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS WOULD BE MOVING TO TORONTO. FRONT PAGE OF THE STAR SPORTS (ABOVE) ON JAN. 10, 1976 HAD THE RE-LOCATION ALL BUT OFFICIAL. BUT, COURT PROCEEDINGS IN CALIFORNIA DELAYED – AND ULTIMATELY SCUTTLED – THE TRANSFER, AS NOTED, BELOW, IN THE FEB. 4, 1976 STAR. OUR CITY WAS AWARDED AN AMERICAN LEAGUE EXPANSION TEAM.

TORONTO STAR SPORTS THE DAY AFTER THE BLUE JAYS INITIAL ROSTER TOOK FORM IN THE MAJOR LEAGUE EXPANSION DRAFT OF NOV. 5, 1976. SEATTLE MARINERS OF THE AMERICAN LEAGUE WERE ALSO STOCKED THAT DAY IN NEW YORK.

STAR STORY (ABOVE) FROM BLUE JAYS FIRST ORGANIZED GAME – EXHIBITION MATCH IN DUNEDIN AGAINST NEW YORK METS ON FRIDAY, MAR. 11, 1977. THAT’S A YOUNG PAUL GODFREY TOSSING OUT CEREMONIAL PITCH IN RIGHT-HAND PHOTO.

TORONTO SUN BASEBALL SUPPLEMENT (ABOVE) AND INSIDE BLUE JAYS PLAYER BIOS (BELOW) FROM APR. 6, 1977 – DAY BEFORE FIRST-EVER GAME.

ON A MONDAY NIGHT IN JUNE 1978, BLUE JAYS WENT WILD AGAINST BALTIMORE PITCHING AT EXHIBITION STADIUM – STILL A TEAM RECORD FOR MOST RUNS SCORED.

SPORTS CANADA MAGAZINE WAS A SHORT-LIVED PUBLICATION IN 1969, WITH HEAVY CANADIAN FOOTBALL CONTENT. THE NOVEMBER ISSUE (ABOVE) FEATURED COLOR PHOTOS TAKEN OF THE NEAR-TRAGIC INCIDENT BETWEEN TED GREEN OF BOSTON BRUINS AND WAYNE MAKI OF ST. LOUIS BLUES DURING A SEPTEMBER 1969 NHL EXHIBITION GAME AT THE OTTAWA CIVIC CENTER. MAKI WALLOPED GREEN OVER THE HEAD WITH THE HEEL OF HIS STICK AND THE BRUINS DEFENSEMAN NEARLY DIED OF BRAIN TRAUMA. STORY AND PHOTOS (BELOW), AS THEY APPEARED IN THE MAGAZINE. 

ALSO FROM THE MAGAZINE, A TERRIFIC SHOT OF SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS DEFENDER ED McQUARTERS HOVERING OVER FALLEN TORONTO ARGONAUTS QUARTERBACK TOM WILKINSON DURING SEP. 7, 1969 GAME AT OLD CNE STADIUM.

McQUARTERS (61) ALSO APPEARED ON COVER OF A 1971 CFL STICKER ALBUM – PHOTO TAKEN DURING 1970 ROUGHRIDERS-BLUE BOMBERS GAME AT WINNIPEG STADIUM. INSIDE THE ALBUM WAS A NIFTY AERIAL SHOT (BELOW) OF CNE STADIUM PRIOR TO THE ’70 GREY CUP GAME BETWEEN MONTREAL ALOUETTES AND CALGARY STAMPEDERS. THE SOUTH BLEACHER-STAND AT BOTTOM OF PHOTO WOULD BE DEMOLISHED, FOUR YEARS LATER, AS PART OF STADIUM EXPANSION FOR BASEBALL.

TWELVE YEARS LATER, HE WOULD WIN A SUPER BOWL WITH WASHINGTON REDSKINS. BUT, IN 1971, JOE THEISMANN WAS A ROOKIE WITH TORONTO ARGONAUTS OF THE CFL AND HE PENNED THIS INSTRUCTIONAL BOOK.

STILL WONDERFUL TO GLANCE AT – MORE THAN 40 YEARS LATER.

TORONTO STAR MAGAZINE SUPPLEMENT (ABOVE) ON DAY OF THE OPENING CEREMONY TO THE 1976 SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES IN MONTREAL. EXACTLY TWO WEEKS LATER, I HAD THE PRIVILEGE OF BEING IN THE NEW STADIUM WHEN GREG JOY OF VANCOUVER WON A SILVER MEDAL FOR CANADA (BELOW) IN THE HIGH JUMP.

TORONTO STAR MAGAZINE SUPPLEMENT (ABOVE) PREVIEWING THE FIRST CANADA CUP INTERNATIONAL HOCKEY TOURNAMENT – IN SEPTEMBER 1976. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS CAPTAIN BOBBY CLARKE OF TEAM CANADA WAS ON COVER.

STILL CONSIDERED, BY MANY, TO BE THE FINEST INTERNATIONAL HOCKEY GAME OF ALL TIME – MONTREAL CANADIENS vs. SOVIET RED ARMY ON NEW YEAR’S EVE 1975. GOALTENDING BATTLE BETWEEN KEN DRYDEN AND VLADISLAV TRETIAK ENDED IN 1-1 DRAW AT MONTREAL FORUM. HABS WON STANLEY CUP THAT SEASON.

FOUR DAYS LATER, IN A MATINEE TELEVISED FROM COAST TO COAST IN CANADA, THE “OTHER” TOURING CLUB – SOVIET WINGS – GOT DEMOLISHED, 12-6, BY GILBERT PERREAULT AND BUFFALO SABRES AT THE OLD MEMORIAL AUDITORIUM.

STILL THE MOST MEMORABLE HOCKEY GAME I HAVE ATTENDED – DARRYL SITTLER’S 10-POINT ERUPTION AGAINST BOSTON AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS ON FEB. 7, 1976 (ABOVE AND BELOW). THE ONE-GAME NHL STANDARD REMAINS, 37 YEARS LATER.

UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT WHEN LEAFS DEFENSEMAN BORJE SALMING – ON HIS 25th BIRTHDAY – SCORED DRAMATIC BREAKAWAY GOAL ON BERNIE PARENT OF PHILADELPHIA DURING GAME 4 OF STANLEY CUP QUARTERFINAL, APR. 17, 1976. HAPPENED RIGHT BENEATH MY LOCATION IN SOUTH MEZZANINE BLUES AND PRODUCED THE LOUDEST NOISE I EVER HEARD AT MAPLE LEAF GARDENS.

LEAFS TOOK THE TWO-TIME DEFENDING CHAMPIONS TO A DECIDING SEVENTH MATCH IN ’76, BUT WERE ROUTED ON A SUNDAY NIGHT AT PHILADELPHIA SPECTRUM.

LEGENDARY TORONTO STAR HOCKEY WRITER FRANK ORR GRADED LEAFS (ABOVE AND BELOW) AT MID-WAY POINT OF 1977-78 SEASON. CLUB WOULD FINISH WITH 92 POINTS UNDER ROOKIE COACH ROGER NEILSON AND UPSET NEW YORK ISLANDERS IN STANLEY CUP QUARTERFINAL ON GAME 7 OVERTIME GOAL BY LANNY McDONALD.

          

TEAMMATES IN 1977-78; RIVAL COACHES IN THE NHL TODAY. IN FACT, BRUCE BOUDREAU REPLACED RANDY CARLYLE AS BENCH BOSS OF THE ANAHEIM DUCKS.

LEAFS DAVE (TIGER) WILLIAMS SCORES ON ROGIE VACHON OF LOS ANGELES IN TORONTO STAR PHOTO (ABOVE) DURING 7-3 ROUT OF THE KINGS, APR. 11, 1978. IT WAS GAME 1 IN A BEST-OF-THREE PRELIMINARY ROUND AT THE GARDENS. LEAFS WON THE SERIES WITH 4-0 TRIUMPH AT LOS ANGELES FORUM TWO NIGHTS LATER.

IN LATE-MARCH 1978, FRANK ORR REPORTED FROM CHICAGO THAT NHL WOULD AGREE TO SWALLOW FOUR TEAMS FROM THE RIVAL WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION (EDMONTON OILERS, HARTFORD WHALERS, QUEBEC NORDIQUES AND WINNIPEG JETS) FOR THE FOLLOWING SEASON (BOBBY HULL AND GORDIE HOWE IN PHOTO).

        

BOOKS (ABOVE AND BELOW) ON THE WORLD HOCKEY ASSOCIATION.

        

BY FAR, THE MOST TURBULENT MAPLE LEAFS SEASON OF MY LIFE – AND THAT’S A MOUTHFUL – WAS 1979-80, WHEN HAROLD BALLARD MADE THE DISASTROUS CALL TO RE-HIRE PUNCH IMLACH AS GENERAL MANAGER. IMLACH TRADED LANNY McDONALD (ABOVE AND BELOW) TO COLORADO ROCKIES ON DEC. 28, 1979 AND IT TOOK 13 YEARS FOR LEAFS TO RECOVER FROM THE DEAL.

“DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES… YES!” THOSE WERE BROADCASTER AL MICHAEL’S EXULTANT WORDS ON ABC TELEVISION IN THE U.S. AS A RAG-TAG GROUP OF AMERICAN COLLEGE HOCKEY PLAYERS STUNNED THE POWERFUL SOVIET NATIONAL TEAM DURING 1980 WINTER OLYMPICS IN LAKE PLACID, N.Y.

WE WERE ALL YOUNGER IN OCTOBER 1989 WHEN BOB McCOWN KICKED OFF PRIME TIME SPORTS HERE IN TORONTO, WITH ME PRODUCING THE NOW-ICONIC RADIO SHOW.

STARRING AT SKYDOME

For the second time in ten years, baseball held its mid-season All Star Game in Canada – the 1991 affair here in Toronto. Montreal Expos had hosted the 1982 Game at Olympic Stadium. Below, are various newspaper pages leading up to – then reporting on – the ’91 event.

1992 MAJOR LEAGUE PLAYOFFS

FRONT OF TORONTO STAR (ABOVE) THE MORNING AFTER BLUE JAYS ELIMINATED OAKLAND AT SKYDOME TO WIN THEIR FIRST AMERICAN LEAGUE PENNANT.

AMONG THE DEFINING MOMENTS IN BLUE JAYS HISTORY – PINCH-HIT HOME RUN BY ED SPRAGUE IN NINTH INNING OF WORLD SERIES GAME 2 AT ATLANTA. IT PREVENTED THE AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONS FROM FALLING INTO A 2-0 SERIES HOLE.

MIKE TIMLIN TO JOE CARTER… AND WORLD SERIES NO. 1.

I’LL NEVER FORGET COVERING GAME 1 OF THE 1993 ALCS AT THE NEW COMISKEY PARK (NOW U.S. CELLULAR FIELD) IN CHICAGO WHEN NEWS BROKE THAT MICHAEL JORDAN WOULD BE RETIRING FROM BASKETBALL TO TRY HIS LUCK AT A BASEBALL CAREER. INITIALLY, WE THOUGHT IT WAS SOMEONE’S UNTIMELY IDEA OF A JOKE. WE WERE WRONG. AND, SO – BY THE WAY – WAS MICHAEL.

WHAT BLUE JAYS FAN WILL EVER FORGET THIS DOG’S BREAKFAST OF A BASEBALL GAME? IN THE COLD AND WIND AT VETERANS STADIUM IN PHILADELPHIA, PITCHING WAS NONEXISTENT AND JAYS REBOUNDED FROM A SEVEN-RUN DEFICIT TO WIN GAME 5 OF THE ’93 WORLD SERIES – SETTING UP “TOUCH ‘EM ALL” NIGHT AT SKYDOME.

COVER (ABOVE) AND SPORTS FRONT (BELOW) OF TORONTO SUN, OCT. 23, 1993 – THE NIGHT OF JOE CARTER’S WORLD SERIES-WINNING HOMER. 

BASEBALL CHAMPIONS… AGAIN.

THESE IMAGES STILL HURT… AND ALWAYS WILL.

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