A definite Blue Jays difference

From the blog Torontoist, here is a great 1980 advertisement for Toronto Blue Jays-branded food items, exclusively available at Dominion supermarkets. The products are mostly of the “if you enjoy it at the ballpark, you’ll enjoy it at home” variety, but there are a couple of outliers: granola bars? Peanut butter?

There’s also milk in a Blue Jays logo glass. I assume that’s because they were selling Blue Jays glassware in the stores; however, I’d like to think it was a near-last-minute addition during the photo shoot when someone decided that, with the kids depicted eating baseball stadium “junk food” (a hot dog, popcorn, and potato chips), there should be some indication that they might be consuming something healthy at some point in the near future.

Despite having taken a year of French in college, I don’t remember having seen the French word for “peanuts” before — not even at Olympic Stadium in 2004 — and now that I see it on these packages, “arachides” is a little too close to “arachnids” for comfort. There better not be spiders roasted in those shells!

Opening Day 2007: Hour 3

12:00 — Salsa, chips, and cheese — lunch of champions!
12:07 — Say what you will about TBS, I enjoy their “scorecard” graphics.

12:09 — On WGN, they’re interviewing Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who at one point refers to baseball as “the industry,” which is just a horrible way to refer to baseball, although I’m sure it feels like it from his perspective.
12:16 — Hey, Ken Griffey Jr. is in right field for the Reds! He’s still around?
12:17 — The Reds catcher still has the old Mr. Redlegs design on his mask (well, the old new Mr. Redlegs design, without a mustache, which has now been replaced by the new old Mr. Redlegs design).

12:20 — Ah, the Midwest!

12:25 — Mrs. Owner of the Dodgers is being interviewed at hipster hangout named Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood, where I’ve been once. Various Dodgers people went to various establishments today to watch the game with the fans. Given the game action on the TVs in the background, I can tell that this interview is not airing live.

12:32 — A woman with a loud and high-pitched voice is sitting very close to a microphone that TBS is using to capture crowd noise, and she’s cheering for Tom Gordon: “Come on, Flash!”
12:41 — At this moment, both the Braves-Phillies and Blue Jays-Tigers games are tied at 3 with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th.
12:44 — At this moment, a cat has jumped onto my lap to watch her beloved Tigers.
12:49 — Tigers and Blue Jays go into extra innings. The Braves-Phillies game already went into extra innings, while I wasn’t paying attention.
12:54 — Bud Selig is in the booth at the White Sox-Indians game. Hawk Harrelson tells him he’s the best commissioner since 1959, with the late Bowie Kuhn second. Uh-huh.
12:57 — W.B. Mason has helpfully added “Office Supplies” to their outfield wall advertising this year. Now we can assume that things there are just like they are at Dunder Mifflin, as seen on TV’s “The Office.”

Opening Day 2007: Hour 1

When Opening Day came around a year ago, I was unemployed with no immediate prospects. Within a month, I had been hired for a full-time temp job. And by the time the World Series rolled around, I was hired as an actual employee.

So it’s clear that baseball is a force for good. Let’s see what it can do for me this year.

10:00Tampa Bay Devil Rays at New York Yankees (ESPN and YES)
Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies (TBS)
Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers (FSN Detroit)
Florida Marlins at Washington Nationals (MASN)
Time for everyone’s pre-produced “Opening Day” intros.
10:05 — The Tigers manage to get under way first.
10:06 — The Blue Jays have the first at-bat of the season — a walk.
10:08 — And the Blue Jays steal against Ivan Rodriguez. This season is going great for the Tigers so far.
10:09 — The Marlins steal third! Looks like this is going to be the Year of the Stolen Base, as the L.A. Times sort of predicted today.
10:11 — Carl Crawford leads off for the Devil Rays with a hit against the Yankees.
10:12 — Crawford steals second!
10:15 — Rocco Baldelli, whose name is on the back of the Devil Rays T-shirt I’m wearing, hits to the warning track. The Yankees announcers say it could have been a home run if the humidity were lower today.
10:19 — I have to go get my laundry out of the dryer. Meanwhile, things fall apart for the Devil Rays.
10:30 — The Yankees score two runs, which the YES graphics briefly award to the Devil Rays.

10:40 — Hey, it’s Adrian Fenty, the mayor of Washington, D.C., in the stands at RFK Stadium, being interviewed with a radio mike that’s not quite working properly.
10:49 — The Devil Rays get their first run of 2007. First of many, I’m sure.
10:52 — Not particularly baseball-related, but I get an automated phone call from the L.A. Times telling me that the “TV Times” section is being discontinued after next week, but I’ll still be able to get TV listings online. They don’t know I have a TiVo.

Home plate dish

The MLB Extra Innings pay-per-view package will now be exclusively on DirecTV, because DirecTV offered a lot of money and also agreed to exclusively carry what appears to be MLB’s version of NFL Network.

I do have DirecTV, but don’t subscribe to Extra Innings (I certainly enjoy watching it on Opening Day via the free preview, but I wouldn’t watch enough games during the season to make it worth the cost). I’m a little concerned about MLB limiting its exposure like this, particularly to the all-baseball network.

In the past, DirecTV’s version of Extra Innings has only included games airing on regional sports networks carried by DirecTV — so if, say, a Phillies-Dodgers game were being carried on Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (not available on DirecTV) and on over-the-air Channel 13 in Los Angeles (not available on DirecTV except as a local channel in the L.A. area), it wouldn’t be on Extra Innings on DirecTV. Or a Blue Jays-Devil Rays game that’s on whatever weird Canadian network the Blue Jays are on, and only available via Morse code relay in the Tampa Bay area. So I’m wondering if the new exclusive Extra Innings package these types of games — can’t wait to see, or perhaps hear, the Morse code Devil Rays games.

The grass is always greener on the other side, they say

The only real comment I have about watching the Devil Rays-Blue Jays game on TV tonight is that when Levi and I saw the Jays at SkyDome last year, the artificial turf was a brilliant shade of bright green; now that the building is known as Rogers Centre, they’ve switched to the modern-day artificial turf that more closely matches the color of real grass, yet somehow manages to look much worse on TV than real grass does.

Since that wasn’t quite substantial enough for a post, I’ll also provide a baseball-related excerpt from Bennett Cerf’s 1956 collection of jokes and anecdotes “The Life of the Party”…

Two rooters at a ball game were so engrossed in the contest that neither wanted to take time out to march back to the refreshment bar for hot dogs — and there wasn’t a vendor in sight. They finally bribed a kid nearby to go for them, giving him forty-five cents and saying, “Buy a dog for yourself at the same time.”

The kid came back with thirty cents change for them, explaining, “They only had my hot dog left.”

Actually, this one is slightly more typical of a Bennett Cerf collection of jokes and anecdotes…

Milton Berle discovered Tallulah Bankhead rooted to a radio in her dressing room one day, screaming her head off for the New York Giants. “Gosh,” exclaimed Miltie, “I didn’t realize you were so interested in the national pastime.” “Darling,” snapped Tallulah, “I am the national pastime.”

Incidentally, Tallulah wanted some new recipes for her chef to try. She called her favorite bookseller and ordered two copies of Fanny Farmer’s Boston Red Sox Cookbook!

Toronto pictures

Parking ticket from our hotel, once we found the parking entrance…

Pro-Red Sox signs in the windows of the Skydome Hotel…

Ace the Blue Jay leading the Jays cheerleaders…

Levi noticed that this isn’t a foul pole, it’s foul netting. Also, in the background, you can see some of the Skydome’s neon…

Johnny Damon at the plate…

Orlando Hudson alertly pointing out Johnny Damon on second base…

Yes, there are other people in the world with Devil Rays caps, and one of them sat in front of Jim…

The final line…

A Change of Sox

Toronto feels far more like London that I would have expected. When I was here two years ago for a conference, I didn’t notice that because I didn’t get out of the immediate downtown area much. We made it into town early enough yesterday, though, for me and Jim to wander around a bit through what seemed to be kind of the Belmont area of Toronto. The businesses all keep their doors open, like in London, and the crowd–young, stylish, multi-ethnic–feels much more international than a similar crowd in, say, Chicago, would. The weather was beautiful, as it was on my previous trip, leading me to suspect that perhaps the weather is always great in Canada, but is painted otherwise by Canadians in order to keep Yankee fans from retiring there en masse. When I went for a short run this morning, I noticed another similarity to London: it’s hard to run on the sidewalks in Toronto because there are too many pedestrians. I guess it was good practice for the slow-runner-dodging required in the marathon–although this was like the marathon would be if, say, everybody but me decided to walk the race, except for a couple of people on bicycles.

But on to the game: Red Sox Nation descended on Skydome in force last night. I suppose we shouldn’t have been surprised–the combination of Fenway’s astronomical prices and limited seating must make an eight-hour drive to Toronto seem reasonable. So when Jim and I reached the ballpark, delivered by the TTC subway, there were a couple thousand Sox fans waiting outside the gates. Various psychologists and counselors were making a fortune wandering the line and taking appointments from long-suffering Sox fans. Every once in a while, a Blue Jays fan would wander by, seeming out of place. The atmosphere wasn’t quite as overwhelmingly Sox-positive as the pro-Cubs crowd at Milwaukee creates, but I have no doubt the audience was more than half Sox fans.

From the outside, Skydome looks less like a ballpark than a convention center or hotel or parking garage, its utterly nondescript concrete exterior looking out of place topped by the retractable roof, which was rolled back for the game last night. Inside, the décor—concrete, neon, pastel railings, futuristic logos on the food stands–reminded us a bit of EPCOT Center, which I posit is the most-quickly out-of-date design in the history of the universe. The only way Skydome could have seemed more mid-80s would have been if the ushers had been decked out in Members Only windbreakers.

Our seats, way down the right-field line, 21 rows up, are seats that are pushed back out of service when Toronto’s Argonauts play arena football, which I hear resembles hockey or curling or something. Remembering the worshipful articles about the glories of Skydome that appeared in every U.S. newspaper when the Jays were good in the early 90s, I went in search of interesting vegetarian food, and I found some. There was sushi stand, advertising sushi “Made while you wait.” In Canada, “Made while you wait,” must mean, “Taken from a stack of containers of pre-made vegetarian sushi while you wait.” It wasn’t the best sushi I’ve ever had, but it was, hands-down, the best sushi I’ve ever had at a ballpark. I followed it up with a vegetarian burger, which, like most of its ilk, was predictably bland. Jim had pizza and a bag of popcorn so large that the usher made him go buy it a ticket.

From the start of the game, the Sox fans dominated the proceedings with their cheering. Even the many children seemed to pay attention to the game. Tim Wakefield threw his “balle de papillon” past several Blue Jays early on, although one pitch which failed to knuckle—making it a 120-kilometre-per-hour fastball—was deposited by Orlando Hudson in the right-field seats. But an inning later, Doug Mirabelli knocked a “balle de c’est la vie” from Miguel Batista into the second deck in left to give the Red Sox a 3-2 lead. Chants of “Let’s go Red Sox!” swept the park. The game remained close, with Tim Wakefield, hoping to keep the crowd in the game, managed to load the bases with no one out in the 6th, forcing a reliever, former Blue Jay Mike Timlin–who wears a camouflage t-shirt under his jersey–to strike out the next two Blue Jays and get a groundout to preserve the lead.

When the seventh-inning stretch rolled around, the mostly-annoying P.A. announcer—who seemed to take his vocal stylings and enthusiasm from former “Double Dare” host Marc Summers—shouted to the assembled, “It’s seventh-inning stretch time, and you all know what that means!” Fool that I am, I thought I did. Instead of one of the two acceptable songs for this moment (I allow “Roll out the Barrel”), the Jays began playing some hideous song that mixed loud guitars and processed drums and banal lyrics about the Jays, the Skydome, the baseball, and how we’re all going to enjoy a day at the ballgame. It even referred to “the umpire’s call” as an element we might have been looking forward to, which I suppose we might, in the same sense in which we might look forward to hearing that our cancer is benign. It was a nasty little song–but I was given pause when I looked around and saw that the audience was kind of into it. They were making some kind of lazy gestures that were being encouraged by the Jays’ cheerleaders (yes, that’s another abomination that we won’t discuss) atop the dugouts. Maybe I was wrong? Maybe this was a good song, beloved by Jays fans? But then I remembered that half the audience were Red Sox fans, and we all know that Red Sox fans prefer pain and suffering to pleasure and happiness. They probably play the long version of “Feels So Good” at Fenway in the seventh. “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” was played following “Sucky Jays Baseball Song” so I guess no permanent harm was done. But the whole thing did nothing to lessen my feeling of being stuck back in the 1988-1991 period, a dark era if ever there was one.
The game was the longest we’ve seen on the trip so far, but it stayed close–5-4 Sox–to the end, so we didn’t mind. And, unlike the Sox fans who left–rushing back to their hotels to catch the latest medal count update?–in the 8th, we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be. When Keith Foulke struck out Eric Hinske to deliver the W for the Sox, a rousing cheer went up from the Hub fans, and, for one night at least, all was well in Red Sox Nation—though the situation among the Sox fans still didn’t feel quite healthy. After all, midway through the game, apropos of nothing, a chant of “Yankees suck!” made the rounds. Obsession is an ugly thing, as are festering inferiority complexes.

Oh, and Johnny Damon? He played a solid centre field, though one ball went over his head. Walk, groundout, single (complete with a stolen base and an advancement to third on a throwing error), strikeout. Sadly for everyone involved, neither his helmet or his cap ever left his head. If I assume that that’s Bud Selig’s fault (Maybe Selig ordered Damon to get some toques that fit?), is that a sign that my Selig hatred is becoming unhealthy?

Oh, well, on to Montreal! Oui, Monsieur!

Original comments…

thatbob: I was going to say that Marc Summers might be Canadian, but a little research shows that he’s a Hoosier. Still, there’s no reason the announcer couldn’t have been Marc Summers. What else is he doing?

Speaking of parallel universe song choices, did you sing along with “O! Canada! before the game at the top of your lungs? That’s *my* favorite thing about Blue Jays games. You have no idea how loudly I can sing “O! Canada!” No idea.

stacey: 1. marc summers is hosting a show on the food network. it only occasionally involves slime.

2. the version of “o, canada!” i hear most often is the hidden track on the end of cub’s “mauler” – and the words go, “o, canada! what’s wrong with you?” this is problematic for singing along at the ballpark.

The big letdown

So much for the Devil Rays’ win streak. If there’s any consolation, it’s that they didn’t go out quietly, since it took the Blue Jays 10 innings to win tonight’s game.

Tomorrow, the new streak starts!

Original comments…

thatbob: Well, no. Technically the new streak started the night of the loss. Perhaps tomorrow (ie. today) the streak will continue, 2L?

Jim: No, I meant that a new winning streak would start tomorrow. And it did!

thatbob: Oh.