Owning October In Ontario

Like a multitude of Jays’ fans, I was tuned to Game 5 of the Jays-Rangers game but I was only able to catch it after getting home from work.  By that time, the Jays were down, 2-1, and it was starting to feel like all those years of dreaming of getting back to another World Series were going to come to an end.

I should back everything up and tell you what it was like to be the kid growing up in Virginia that was “weird” because he liked the Jays.  Or when the Jays played the Atlanta Braves in the 1992 World Series where I was the only kid in a Virginia resort (where they filmed Dirty Dancing) and the room was ready to run me out of the building when the Jays took the lead in the game and won?  This was of course before the Washington Nationals and most people who weren’t Baltimore Orioles fans loved the Braves, so I was enemy number one not only because I was rooting against the beloved Braves but this was the Southern team, “America’s team” at the time, and I was rooting for the Canadian team.

They would look at me and ask “what’s wrong with you?”

“Why the Canadian team?  Why can’t you find an American team?”

“Because Robbie Alomar is my favorite player,” I would reply, “Because he is the best second baseman in the game.  Because I like the Jays.  I don’t question who you like.  Why do I have to defend who I like?”

Keep in mind that Joltin’ Joe Carter was from Oklahoma, Minnesota’s Dave Winfield was the DH, the SS was Kelly Gruber from Texas, John Olerud and his batting helmet hailed from Seattle and he patrolled first base and Pat Borders the catcher was from Ohio among the countless other players from America.

All anyone saw was the name on the front of the jersey, they didn’t see the players and who they were.  What they saw was a maple leaf or a “Toronto” and instantly they saw it as an insult to America.  Suddenly I was the outcast because I was the fan of the “foreign team.”  In a way, I think it was a wake up call for me, I think it was something that made me realize that the world can be such an unforgiving, unassuming and definitely a biased place.

While I was cheering for the Jays I also grew to love the Maple Leafs as well and I knew all their players.  It was a huge time for the city of Toronto, as the Leafs and Jays were winning and it seemed that entire city was feeling great.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned about Bill Barilko but also that the Leafs haven’t won a Cup since 1967.  I watched that Western Conference Final with the Kings and the Leafs and I still don’t know how Gretzky was not penalized for high sticking Killer.  That Leafs team has and probably always will be my favorite.  Dougie will probably always be my favorite Leaf as well.  So for someone who doesn’t live in Toronto or Canada, I’ve followed the Jays and Leafs from afar for years, unlike many of the people commenting on the game in the broadcast booth or in the Texas dugout.

Jump back to Game 5 and after Edwing ties the game with a monster shot, there’s nothing but nerves in the crowd for minutes to come.

That 7th inning that played out in Rogers Centre, the most bizarre 7th inning I’ll probably ever see, or you may ever see.  A ball bounces off a bat, an ump waves off play, a manager questions an ump’s decision, a run scores after the ump changes his mind, panic ensues, the ump calls his boss, more questioning, fans throw stuff on the field and then play starts back with the Jays down 3-2.  Phew.  I think I got all that.

I don’t condone what the fans in Rogers Centre did when they threw stuff on the field, but I will say that there’s a lot of pent-up feelings about the way Canadians have been treated.  Harold Reynolds’ jab at Canadians and the feeling that once again someone was going to screw their team out of advancement (Kerry Fraser not calling that high stick) among other things.  But I would never throw anything on the field. I don’t understand when fans throw home run balls back, keep that ball, what’s the point?  So it wasn’t your team, but it’s a Major League baseball, who cares who hit it?

When the bottom half of the inning played itself out all the way up to Joey Bats, sorry I had to call him that, it just felt like this is the way the game was supposed to be.  Jeff Banister can say it came down to bad fielding and this that or the other, but in reality, the better team won.  But I’m getting ahead of myself again.

Joey Bats.  The homer.  THE HOMER.  Joe Carter said it was the second best home run in Jays history, Joe should know.  I still remember Joe’s home run.  I think I jumped through the house like Joe.  I couldn’t stand Mitch Williams.  For Joe to slam that ball over the fence like that and beat the terrible Phillies, it was the best.  But in some ways this was almost better.

I almost think Robbie’s homer off Eckersley in Game 4 of the 1992 ALCS is up there too.  Robbie who hardly ever was a home run threat against a guy that all those damn A’s fans thought would shut down the Jays and he just sends it down the line.  I had a poster I got from Toronto with him winning the ALCS MVP that showed him holding up his arms after hitting that home run.  I remember I had rigged up an antenna in my room so I could listen to radio stations all over the country (and Canada!) and I happened to catch that game and I still remember that home run.

Anyway, Jose hits the home run and flips his bat.  He just has no more use for a bat because in reality the ball is on its way to Vancouver.  They are going to need to send out the RCMP to find it.  Apparently some felt that Jose was showing up the pitcher which led me to ask the question, why is that in baseball everyone is so against showing emotion?

In football, you score a touchdown and you celebrate.  Guys run down the field to grab each other and jump up and down.  A quarterback makes a toss to a wide receiver who burns a safety to score and the safety doesn’t say after the game he felt like the wide receiver showed him up by celebrating.

In basketball some guy makes a huge three in the corner to tie the game late in the fourth and the entire bench goes crazy.  No one is over there saying that they are being shown up.

In hockey, you score a goal and you go celebrate.  You jump up against the glass and celebrate with your linemates.  You celebrate.  No one says you are showing up the goalie.

In soccer, it’s the same thing.  Goal.  Celebrate.

The pitcher’s job is to throw the ball by the batter and the batter’s job is to hit the ball.  That being said there’s emotion because we are human.  When humans do jobs, emotions get involved.

What I can’t understand is why are we still talking about people being shown up in 2015?  When this gets brought up I think about those two old guys on the Muppets.  I imagine baseball as being a game for old guys that want to see a boring game.  If that’s what people want to see then it’s time to change the game.

Steve Phillips of SiriusXm’s The Lead Off Spot made a comment on the day after the game that David Price had a note left in his locker by Joe Maddon when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Rays.  Maddon told him if he didn’t want to be shown up that he needs to make the pitch.  In this situation if Sam Dyson throws a better pitch we aren’t talking about the second greatest home run in Jays history occurring on October 14, 2015.  How ironic is it that Sam Dyson was drafted by the Jays in 2010?

Now it’s time to move on to Kansas City and hopefully the Jays don’t let all the emotional energy of a comeback win and odd 7th drain them.  It’s time for them not only to take October but Own October because October is for bats…Joey Bats!

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