The lucky first 20,000 fans into the Rogers Centre for “Canada Baseball Day” on Sunday will not only get to see the Blue Jays take on the Tigers (projected Toronto starter: R.A. Dickey), but will also each go home with a red replica Blue Jays jersey.
On a day celebrating baseball in Canada, naturally our very own Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame was also invited to take part in the festivities.
“We will be down there with a large display space in the 200 level outfield area,” said manager of operations Scott Crawford. “We’ll also be presenting [Toronto Star baseball columnist] Richard Griffin with his Jack Grainey Award and giving [Toronto Sun baseball columnist and 2015 CBHFM inductee] Bob Elliott his induction plaque in front of his home crowd. We’ve already presented both awards, but the team thought this would be a great opportunity to promote St. Marys and the Hall of Fame.”
To go along with the theme of Canada and baseball, Rogers Sportsnet recently produced a documentary titled “There’s No Joy in Beachville: The True Story of Baseball’s Origin,” about former St. Marys resident Dr. Adam E. Ford’s written account of a game that took place in nearby Beachville, Ontario on June 4, 1838. It’s widely accepted (though not in Cooperstown) as the first recorded baseball game in history.
Crawford said filmmakers with Sportsnet got in touch with the Hall to ask their opinion of the game in Beachville and Ford’s letter, which was first published in the Philadelphia-based “Sporting Life” magazine over 40 years after the fact in May 1886. The letter, entitled “A Game of Long-ago Which Closely Resembled Our Present National Game,” describes watching a game on “Militia Muster Day” being played by teams of between seven and 12 young men on a five-sided playing field in which a pitcher threw a ball to a “knocker,” whose hits were either fair or “no hits” (foul). The length of the game was determined by innings, not by whichever team scored a certain amount of runs.
“We agree that this was the first recorded game of baseball,” Crawford said in an interview Wednesday morning, prior to the documentary’s airing. “I haven’t seen it yet, but I expect it will give an overview of that game, its history and how the sport first spread around Southern Ontario.”
Here a few more important dates in Canadian baseball:
May 1, 1879 – Bill Phillips becomes the first Canadian to play in a Major League game when he appears at first base for the Cleveland Blues. They lose 15-4 to the Providence Grays as Phillips, of Saint John, New Brunswick, goes hitless. In 1880, he hit his one and only career home run, becoming the first Canadian to hit a homer in the Majors.
Sept. 5, 1914 – As a member of the Providence Grays, Babe Ruth hits his first professional home run at Hanlan’s Point Stadium on Centre Island in Toronto.
April 8, 1969 – The Montreal Expos play their first regular season game at Shea Stadium in New York, going on to beat the New York Mets 11-10. A week later on April 14, they played the first regular season MLB game outside the United States, and the Expos got their first home victory at Jarry Park, in an 8-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. They would finish the season dead last, with a record of 52-110.
Oct. 23, 1993 – For the first time in MLB history, a come-from-behind walk-off home run won the World Series, as the Toronto Blue Jays repeated as World Series champs. The pitcher was Philadelphia closer Mitch Williams. Toronto’s Joe Carter hit his famous homer with a 2-2 count in the bottom of the ninth, with two men on, down 6-5 at SkyDome. The Blue Jays haven’t been back to the postseason since.
June 30, 1997 – Though they had faced off in mid-season exhibition games dubbed the Pearson Cup since the mid-70s, it was on this date that the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos first played a regular season interleague game against one another. Thus, this was the first time since World War II that the American National Anthem was not played before a regular season MLB game. The Expos won 2-1.
Aug. 28, 2002 – It was on this date in 2002 that Los Angeles Dodgers closer Eric Gagne, of Montreal, began his record streak of 84 consecutive successful saves. His streak of saves stretched almost two years, with his 84th coming on July 3, 2004. Over a course of 89 innings pitched, he allowed just eight earned runs, striking out 139. In 2003, Gagne became the ninth reliever to ever win the Cy Young Award, and just the second Canadian after Ferguson Jenkins.