For Howard Starkman

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Apr. 22) – We share a given name and we shared (more than 20 years ago) – he as the Blue Jays media relations director; me as a reporter for The FAN-590 – several of the greatest moments in Toronto sports history. That’s why I’m writing today about Howard Starkman, shortly after his unexpected retirement from Canada’s lone Major League team.

“Dear Friends: As you may know, my official retirement from the Blue Jays was Friday (Apr. 11),” Howard wrote in an email. “The past 38 years went so quickly. The random date was my choice over a year ago. I had committed to getting the 2014 season started and felt it was the right time. I have so many cherished memories of my experiences here.”

It’s no wonder why.

Between 1985 and 1993, Howard Starkman was the most sought after media relations guru in the history of Canadian sport. That’s because the Blue Jays – beginning with the run-up to their first playoff appearance and ending with their second of consecutive World Series championships – were the most popular team, coast to coast, in the country. Reporters, photographers and TV personnel from Newfoundland to British Columbia wanted a piece of the club – a frenzy that spiraled beyond anything witnessed in our land when the Blue Jays moved from Exhibition Stadium into SkyDome (and its retractable roof) in mid-season 1989. From that moment until Joe Carter’s “touch-’em-all” blast off Mitch Williams nearly 4½ years later, there wasn’t an unsold seat at the ‘Dome… or a vacancy in the press box.

Beest-Stark

HOWARD STARKMAN (LEFT) BEING PRESENTED AT SKYDOME (NOW ROGERS CENTRE) WITH A TROPHY IN HIS NAME BY BLUE JAYS PRESIDENT PAUL BEESTON.

Starkman executed, as well as anyone could, the unenviable balancing act of “protecting” the Blue Jays players and providing access to them on a daily and nightly basis. He was necessarily gruff at times, yet almost always fair… and his bark was invariably worse than his bite. He came by that bark honestly, having worked for Stafford Smythe and Harold Ballard as Toronto Maple Leafs publicity director from 1969 to 1976. Though he’ll never admit so, I always figured that a young Howard woke up each morning and looked in the mirror, wondering how fate could have landed him in such an ordeal. Desiring a competitive wage for someone of his experience, Starkman left the miserly Leafs roughly three years before Ballard began his systematic destruction of the hockey club by re-hiring George (Punch) Imlach as general manager.

It was a brilliant, timely departure for Howie.

Starkman-Leafsedited

YOUNG HOWARD IN 1974 TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS PUBLICITY PHOTO.

Seeking their first P.R. manager, the Blue Jays quickly brought him aboard at a salary above the poverty line, where Starkman would have forever remained at the Gardens. It was the start of a long, rewarding affiliation among the multitudes that covered the baseball team – myself included – and the man that somehow coordinated the frenzy.

I had the privilege of being “kept in line” by Howard from 1988 to 1994 at Canada’s first all-sports radio station. I was there – home and away – to watch the Blue Jays in their biggest moments: American League Championship Series games at Oakland (1989), Minneapolis (1991), Oakland (1992) and Chicago (1993); World Series games at Atlanta (1992) and Philadelphia (1993). There was the Major League All-Star Game at SkyDome in 1991 and others with Howie at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego (1992) and Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh (1994).

Apr7-77Ticketedited

MY TICKET FOR BLUE JAYS FIRST-EVER GAME – vs. CHICAGO WHITE SOX – APR. 7, 1977.

For being the most tenured employee in Blue Jays history, the Howard Starkman Award will now be presented annually to the club’s employee-of-the-year – a richly earned tribute to Starkman, who joined the organization in ’76 just after the accounting department hired Welland, Ont. native Paul Beeston. You may recognize the latter as president of the Blue Jays before and after their championships – a tenure briefly interrupted by a role at baseball’s head office in New York. Starkman hung around and retired with the longest unbroken term in club history.

I don’t often dig out my cardboard newspaper scrapbooks from the Blue Jays early years (damn, are they heavy), but I did so this week… as my lower-back is reminding me. There was no other way to recognize Howard for all the hospitality he provided in the infant stage of my radio career. Presented below, therefore, is a collection of 84 original newspaper pages from the best moments (to date) in Blue Jays history.

Happy, healthy retirement, Howard S. From Howard B.

And, thanks.

FALSE ALARM

SFJAYS-1edited

TORONTO STAR STORIES FROM JAN. 10, 1976 ? AND FEB. 4, 1976 ? DETAILING PLAN OF MOVING THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS TO TORONTO.

SFJays-2edited

EXPANSION DRAFT

JaysHatchedited

TORONTO STAR SPORTS FROM NOV. 6, 1976 INTRODUCING THE FIRST BLUE JAYS ROSTER AFTER EXPANSION DRAFT IN NEW YORK THE PREVIOUS DAY.

GRAPEFRUIT LEAGUE OPENER

Godfreyedited

TORONTO STAR FROM MAR. 12, 1977 (THEN-METRO CHAIRMAN PAUL GODFREY THROWING FIRST PITCH) – DAY AFTER FIRST-EVER ORGANIZED BLUE JAYS GAME: EXHIBITION OPENER vs. NEW YORK METS IN DUNEDIN FLA. TORONTO WON, 3-1.

THE DAY BEFORE

JaysSup-1edited          JaysSup-2edited

FRONT AND BACK COVERS OF TORONTO SUN SUPPLEMENT FROM APR. 6, 1977 – DAY BEFORE THE SEASON OPENER vs. CHICAGO WHITE SOX.

FIRST GAME

Opener-1edited

FRONT-PAGE EDITIONS OF THE TORONTO STAR ?? ON APRIL 7, 1977 – AFTER THE BLUE JAYS FIRST-EVER GAME AT COLD, SNOWY EXHIBITION STADIUM.

Opener-2edited

A RECORD NIGHT

24runsedited

TORONTO STAR SPORTS – JUNE 27, 1978 – NIGHT AFTER SECOND-YEAR JAYS ESTABLISHED A TEAM RECORD THAT STILL EXISTS FOR MOST RUNS IN A GAME.

FIRST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE

85Jays-1edited

TORONTO SUN ? AND TORONTO STAR ? OCT. 6, 1985 – DAY AFTER BLUE JAYS BEAT NEW YORK YANKEES AT EXHIBITION STADIUM TO WIN AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST TITLE.

JaysClinchedit          BellKneesedited

AScoreedited

FIRST PLAYOFF GAMES

Brettedited

TORONTO STAR AFTER GAME 1 ? AND GAME 2 ? OF THE 1985 AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES AT EXHIBITION STADIUM BETWEEN BLUE JAYS AND KANSAS CITY ROYALS. JAYS WON BOTH GAMES AND LED 3-1 BEFORE THE ROYALS AND GEORGE BRETT RALLIED WITH THREE CONSECUTIVE VICTORIES TO PREVAIL IN SEVEN.

Game2edited

AirExedited

1991 ALL-STAR GAME at SKYDOME

91-1edited

91-2edited          91-3edited

USABB-1edited

USABB-2edited

AllStar-1edited

AllStar-2edited

AllStar-3edited          AllStar-4edited

AAA-1edited

1992 ALCS: BLUE JAYS vs. OAKLAND

Oak-1edited

ON COVER OF MY SCRAPBOOK: CARDBOARD SIGN (COURTESY SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER) GIVEN TO FANS AT OAKLAND COLISEUM PRIOR TO GAME 3 OF 1992 ALCS.

Oak-2edited          Oak-3edited

OAKLAND – OCT. 11, 1992

THE MOST SIGNIFICANT MOMENT, TO THIS TIME, IN BLUE JAYS HISTORY: ROBERTO ALOMAR’S GAME-TYING HOME RUN OFF DENNIS ECKERSLEY IN THE NINTH INNING OF GAME 4 AT OAKLAND COLISEUM. WITHOUT IT, THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN A 1992 WORLD SERIES MATCH-UP (AND VICTORY) AGAINST THE ATLANTA BRAVES.

RobbieHRedited

Oak-4edited

Oak-5edited

FIRST AMERICAN LEAGUE PENNANT

Apen-2edited

BLUE JAYS DEFEAT OAKLAND ?? IN GAME 6 AT SKYDOME – OCT. 19, 1992 – TO WIN THEIR FIRST AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP.

Apen-1edited          Apen-3edited

FIRST WORLD SERIES

AWS-1edited          AWS-2edited

DECORATED COVER OF MY SCRAPBOOK AND FRONT OF OCT. 18, 1992 TORONTO SUN – MORNING AFTER BLUE JAYS DROP WORLD SERIES OPENER IN ATLANTA.

AWS-3edited          AWS-4edited

FIRST WORLD SERIES WIN

92First-1edited

TORONTO STAR SPORTS ? AND TORONTO SUN COVERS ? OCT. 19, 1992 – MORNING AFTER PINCH-HIT HOME RUN BY ED SPRAGUE EVENED WORLD SERIES IN ATLANTA.

92First-2edited          92First-3edited

92First-5edited          92First-6edited

COVER AND SPORTS FRONT OF USA TODAY FROM OCT. 19, 1992.

FIRST WORLD SERIES GAME IN CANADA

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 20, 1992

92-Dome-1a

92-Dome-2b          92-Dome-3edited

ATLANTA – OCT. 24-25, 1992

92Champ-1edited

92Champ-2edited          92Champ-3edited

92Champ-4edited          92Champ-5edited

FIRST PARADE – OCTOBER 26, 1992

Parade-3edited

Parade-2edited

Parade-4edited          Parade-5edited

Parade-1edited

TSN-92edited

1993 REPEAT

93-1edited

TORONTO SUN SEP. 28, 1993: JAYS CLINCH AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST AT MILWAUKEE.

93-2edited          93-3edited

SECOND AMERICAN LEAGUE PENNANT

93-6edited

COVER OF TORONTO STAR ? AND TORONTO SUN ? FROM OCT. 13, 1993 – MORNING AFTER THE BLUE JAYS ELIMINATED CHICAGO WHITE SOX IN GAME 6 AT COMISKEY PARK FOR THEIR SECOND AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP. 

93-5edited

93-4edited

93-8edited          93-9edited

93-10edited

SECOND WORLD SERIES

93WS-1edited          93WS-2edited

TORONTO STAR (OCT. 20, 1993) AFTER BLUE JAYS AND PAUL MOLITOR HAMMER PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES AT VETERANS STADIUM IN GAME 3 OF THE WORLD SERIES.

PHILADELPHIA – OCTOBER 20, 1993

93WS-3edited

BLUE JAYS AND PHILLIES COMBINE TO SCORE 29 RUNS IN GAME 4 AT VETERANS STADIUM – TWO DECADES LATER, STILL A WORLD SERIES RECORD. 

93WS-4edited

93WS-5edited

93WS-6edited          93WS-7edited

TORONTO – OCT. 23, 1993

93WS-8edited

93WS-9edited

93WS-10edited

93WS-11edited          93WS-12edited

93WS-13edited

93WS-14edited

93End-2edited

SECOND PARADE – OCT. 24, 1993

93End-4edited

93End-3edited

AAA-2edited          AAA-3edited

93End-6edited

“TOUCH ‘EM ALL, JOE!” – THE LATE, GREAT TOM CHEEK.

EMAIL: HOWARDLBERGER@GMAIL.COM

TWITTER: BERGER_BYTES

FACEBOOK: HOWARD BERGER [HUMBER COLLEGE]

LINKEDIN: HOWARD BERGER [BROADCAST MEDIA]

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.