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Don Drysdale

Don Drysdale

Tell me, where the hell is it written that I must now be a Toronto Blue Jay fan?

Is it because I am a Canadian?

Well, I have been a Canadian for going on 84 years and during that entire time I confess that I have been a British Columbian first and a Canadian second, a confession I have made many times and have no intention of ever retracting. There are a lot of reasons for this which you can read when my latest book comes out, I Remember Horsebuns, this fall.

Part of my allegiance goes back to early childhood when I gained a hearty dislike for the Toronto attitude in this country. It probably gained strength when a young lad came to Vancouver from Toronto, we were both about 10 at the time, and he started to fill me with all sorts of eastern bullshit. His parents haughtily fostered this and I heard how superior the magazine Toronto Saturday Night was, as were The Star Weekly, the Toronto Maple Leafs and on and on ad nauseum it went. I saw the arrogance early and far from abating, it’s become even more tiresome as the years pass.

This annoyance was fortified by the fact that the CBC refused to broadcast any hockey games other than the Toronto Maple Leafs and those broadcasts included a mid-period “Hot Stove League” which spent much of its time bad-mouthing French-Canadians, “yellow streak down their back”, “slackers” and that sort of thing. The owner, Conn Smythe, spats and all, loathed French Canadians and was forever demonstrating that. It all seemed so unjust to me and all my life I’ve hated injustice.

As you may have surmised I have always been just a little bit of a rebel and I reacted very strongly and became a devoted Habs fan. I detested the Toronto Maple Leafs and was overjoyed when they lost, especially if it was to the Habs.

Now you would’ve thought that I would grow out of this, especially coming from a family that didn’t feel this way at all and did all they could to discourage my lese majeste.

Far from growing out of it, all the evidence I saw as I grew up fortified my belief that Toronto was a pain in the ass and Canada was the worse because of it. This belief particularly became evident when I became BC Minister responsible for constitutional affairs and found out, firsthand, the patronizing contempt these eastern bastards felt for British Columbia.

Sports allegiance has got nothing to do with common sense. It has everything to do with utterly irrational emotion. Otherwise how could there have been, during my earlier years, such devoted Yankee fans amongst people who had never being within 1,000 miles of New York? Similarly, how could I, who had never been further east than Kelowna, been such a devoted Dodger fan?

These allegiances are inclined to stick with you and they certainly did with me.

Not only was I a Dodger fan but I detested the New York Giants during the season and the New York Yankees, usually, during the World Series. Along the way I became a National League fan as opposed to the American League and I cheered for the former during All-Star games and in the World Series. In the latter case, it was hard to be for the New York Giants when they were in the World Series, however I managed.

As life went on I was horrified when the American League adopted the designated hitter rule. This was a denial of what the game was all about. The pitcher’s ability or inability to hit was a critical part of managerial strategy during the game whether on offense or defense. For the pitcher’s team the manager had to plan carefully the impending at bat of the pitcher- should he bunt? Swing away? Or just get the hell out of there as fast as possible. If his pitcher could hit, that changed everything. The defensive manager had to look ahead to see when the opposing pitcher was coming to bat, being that he would usually be an easy out. Into this mix was inserted the possibility that the pitcher was in fact a very good hitter as were Don Newcomb and Don Drysdale to name but two.

There is a certain irony in the fact that the American League that passed this hideous rule had as its greatest player, Babe Ruth, who was a first class pitcher before he started to hit so many homers he was placed in the outfield forevermore.

All of this is by way of preparation for this simple statement – I do not like the Toronto Blue Jays, I did not like them in 1992 or 1993 and pulled against them in those World Series, I’m not going to like them in 2015 just because they happen to have decent team team and may very well go all the way. I am not going to pull for them because suddenly, out of the woodwork, come thousands of people who don’t know first base from the pitcher’s mound who are suddenly devoted Toronto Blue Jays fans.

Baseball is, without argument, the greatest team sport there is. If you doubt this – and how can you possibly do so? – I suggest you watch Ken Burns six part history of baseball that you can get on Netflix.

Baseball being what it is, inspires absolute loyalty. Real fans, as opposed to sometime johnnies-come-lately who want to sound like good, loyal Canadians which has nothing to do with the game, and betray their ignorance from the first utterance don’t waver from team to team because of the exigencies of the moment but stay with their team through thick and thin.

One of my best friends, but late Dick White, was a devoted Detroit Tiger fan. He lived and died with the Tigers and though a devout Catholic, thought Al Kaline very close to the Celestial Throne.

Another great pal, the late Robin Heather, was just as devoted a Giant fan. To him, Willie Mays was a god. Just how our friendship continued under those circumstances, while difficult to explain, was very real. We golfed together, drank beer together, fished together and fought about baseball together.

I can tell you that Robin and Dick would never have changed their allegiances no matter what. Dick had to wait from 1945 when he was a young teenager as I was until 1968 to see his team win. Robin’s wait was almost as long but very much compensated for by that horrendous year 1951The Giants came back from 13 1/2 games to beat the Dodgers for the pennant.

I suffered in a different way. The “Boy Of Summer” had a magnificent team from 1947 through 1955, the days of my youth, except they couldn’t beat the Yankees for the World Series. When they finally did so in 1955, it ranked certainly in the top two or three exciting moments of my life.

Now, having said all that, I go back to my initial question – why in the hell should I be expected to suddenly become a Toronto Blue Jays fan!

The answer is that I am not ever going to do that and while I agree they have a very fine ball-club which, in spite of the DH rule, I enjoy watching, I hope they get their asses kicked from here on in. Whoever they play will, for that series, be “my team” on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend”!

To paraphrase the great US patriot, Patrick Henry, “If this be treason, I’ll make the most of it.”

6 Responses to “No, I WILL NOT root for the Blue Jays”

  1. Matt Baker says:

    Rafe, miss you on the radio. Loved this article. Agree 100 percent. Amazing how some people just drop the “everything about Toronto sucks” mindset because Blue Jays the only team in Canada. Go Mariners.

    Matt Baker TSN 1040

  2. george gordon says:

    Rafe, sorry to see you have mellowed so much in your later years 🙂

  3. Doug says:

    Cripes,the Mariners gave up 45 runs to the Red Sox on the weekend and I am still a Mariners fan!I used to sit in The Kingdome with ~ 5,000-10,000 of my closest friends watching the Mariners.

    Once again Toronto Sportsnet shows almost zero Mariners games to protect their Blue Jays.I got mlb.tv to watch the Mariners.

    Blue Jays fans are annoying but not nearly annoying as Yankees fans.

    Go!Ms!Go! … one day

    Oh … a small Drysdale story.I was outside the big A in Anaheim during the time Drysdale was broadcasting for the Angels.Don was entering the stadium with his wife Ann Meyers and their baby.Don was carrying the child and a bag and Ann was carrying all the other baby stuff.A zealous autograph hound approached Don for an autograph even though Don had both hands occupied.Man … if looks could kill.No autograph for that hound.

  4. Rafe says:

    Doug reminds me of a story about Tom Lasorda. When I was MLA for Kamloops about 1978, they had a Boys & Girls Club banquet and Tom Lasorda was the guest speaker. His plane could not land in Chicago and was diverted to Dallas then Los Angeles where he could have disembarked and gone home. Instead he flew to Seattle then Vancouver and then Kamloops and, when he arrived an hour late, got a tremendous standing ovation. His was one of the most enjoyable speeches I have ever heard and he had adults and kids alike getting out of his hand.
    A class act.

  5. Lulymay says:

    Okay, Rafe, I’ve been a died in the wool Yankees fan since I was 9 years old and used to run home from school at lunch time to listen to the World Series on radio. I’m from a large family and I was the lone Yankee fan, the rest rooting for those bums, the Brooklyn Dodgers. I’m still a Yankee fan at 76 and love to go to Seattle once a year to see them play the Mariners. There’s nothing like sitting in the ballpark on a beautiful evening. I grew up with Larry Walker, whose father and uncle were both great local ballplayers. Larry’s son, Larry Jr. played some darn fine ball for Montreal. Of course, this was all before the CFL and NHL came to Vancouver, but my favourite sport is still baseball.
    And I’m with you — I refuse to root for Toronto. Isn’t that supposed to be the centre of the universe? Just ask anyone from TO-ville.
    Thanks for reminiscing about my favourite game.

  6. admin says:

    Here’s a reason to root for the Blue Jays: they called up North Delta’s Jeff Francis.

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