Could YOUR Zaidi Be a GM?

By HOWARD BERGER

TORONTO (Nov. 8) — The Los Angeles Dodgers, earlier this week, hired a 37-year-old Zaidi as their new general manager.

Where I come from, that’s an awfully young Zaidi.

You see, Zaidi (or Zaida) is a popular and affectionate name for a Jewish person’s grandfather. I once had two Zaidi’s: Sam and Alec. The first died in 1986, shortly after I moved out of my parents’ home into an apartment on Marlee Ave. here in Toronto. The second died while I was covering a Blue Jays–Orioles game at Baltimore in September 1992. Alec was a monolithic Blue Jays fan and he left us a month before the club’s first World Series triumph. Oh, how I thought of him that night in Atlanta.

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NO, THIS IS NOT THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS’ NEW GM. BUT, IT IS PROBABLY SOMEONE’S ZAIDI.

This went through my mind when I read that Canadian-born Farhan Zaidi had become the 11th GM in Dodgers history. Were he Jewish, and a grandfather at some point, Farhan might have been known as “Zaidi Zaidi.” In the seventh-inning stretch at Dodger Stadium, they would sing “Take me out to the jewelry store.” Male fans would put on Tefillin for Saturday games. In April, a pre-game ceremony would feature someone throwing out the first shank-bone. Hatikvah would replace The Star Spangled Banner as national anthem. Food stands would serve gefilte fish mit chrain. To elevate noise, the outfield pavilions at Dodger Stadium would be strictly reserved — one for Israelis, the other for Arabs. An L.A. World Series parade would he held in the San Fernando Valley.

All of that for a real Zaidi.

We wish the baseball Zaidi much luck (or nachas).

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THIS IS THE L.A. DODGERS’ NEW GM. FAR TOO YOUNG TO BE A ZAIDI.

SPEAKING OF WHICH: Every Leaf fan’s favorite Zaidi turns a spry 90 years old today. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You will travel from one end of this Earth to the other and not find a sweeter couple than Johnny Bower and his wife Nancy. They are the epitome of life-long soul mates. Happy 90th, “China Wall.” You long ago earned the distinction of most popular Leafs player ever; your radiance and goodwill transcend hockey generations. It is our comfort to know you are still among us and thriving. Here’s to more years of health and love with Nancy.

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MY FAVORITE JOHNNY BOWER PORTRAIT (ABOVE). I TOOK THIS PHOTO LAST YEAR AT THE MATTAMY ATHLETIC CENTRE IN MAPLE LEAF GARDENS, WITH LEGENDARY GARDENS DOME IN THE BACKGROUND. JOHNNY POSED WITH EX-LEAF TEAMMATES EDDIE SHACK (BOTTOM-LEFT) AND DICK DUFF.

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NANCY AND JOHNNY BOWER AT LATE-SUMMER UNVEILING OF THE GOALIE’S LEGENDS ROW STATUE OUTSIDE THE AIR CANADA CENTRE. CRAIG ROBERTSON TORONTO SUN/QMI

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YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMEMBER JOHNNY BOWER THE PLAYER TO BE CHARMED BY JOHNNY BOWER THE MAN. PEOPLE OF ALL AGES LOVE THE MAPLE LEAFS STANLEY CUP-WINNING GOALIE OF THE 1960’s.

FROM THE BOWER YEARS

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This is an absolutely delightful book in which author Bruce McDougall has built a 341-page narrative around the night of May 2, 1967 — when the Maple Leafs eliminated Montreal to win their most recent Stanley Cup. THE LAST HOCKEY GAME is brilliantly culled from prior works pertaining to that now-mythical night in Leaf annals. As McDougall writes: I gathered most of the information in the book from written sources. I talked to a few players such as Red Kelly, Ron Ellis and Marcel Pronovost, and several times to the late Bob Haggert, the Leafs’ trainer. But, these interviews merely confirmed that I’d interpreted my information correctly.

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McDougall is a wonderfully descriptive writer and he proves to be a good study on the contrasts between Montreal and Toronto. In talking about Canadiens’ equipment managers Larry Aubut and Eddie Palchak — and their maneuverings on May 2, 1967 — McDougall writes: Palchak and Aubut had spent the entire day at the Gardens, and Palchak hadn’t eaten anything except an omelette at Diana Sweets around the corner on Yonge Street. In Montreal, he would have sent a kid out to buy a smoked-meat sandwich at Ben’s (Deli). In Toronto, smoked meat was what you got when the butcher shop burned down. And this painful little gem from the 1967 Stanley Cup playoffs: Aubut (obviously wearing his red Montreal jacket) had been attacked before a game in the Canadiens’ semi-final series against New York by a fat woman who walked up behind him outside Madison Square Garden and stuck a hat-pin into his ass.

Then there is this about Maple Leafs founder Conn Smythe, who also owned a large racing stable: When a puppy belonging to his nine-year-old grandson, Tommy, spooked one of Smythe’s horses, the horse stumbled and broke a leg. Angered that he had to put the horse down, Smythe shot the kid’s dog as well. About Hall-of-Fame Montreal forward Henri Richard — apparently reserved — McDougall writes: A visitor once asked [Canadiens coach] Toe Blake if Henri Richard could speak English. “I don’t think he even speaks French,” Blake said. “He just doesn’t speak.”

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Most of the book — as evidenced by the first page (above) — details events at Maple Leaf Gardens between 6 and 11 p.m. on May 2, 1967. For more than two current generations of Leaf fans, it truly ranks as “the final hockey game.” The book is published by Goose Lane Editions of Fredricton, New Brunswick and retails for $29.95 CAD. It’s a terrific read.

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