Canada’s Place in Baseball’s Hall of Fame

In July 2011 Toronto Blue Jay’s second baseman Roberto Alomar and general manager Pat Gillick were inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame, making it a first for Canadians in baseball history.  This marks the first time Canada’s only major league team will have a place to call its own in baseballs Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY.  While there are already four other Blue Jays in the hall, but neither Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield, Paul Molitor nor Rickey Henderson were inducted as Jays.  Plenty of Canadians made the trek south of the border to watch Alomar and Gillick be inducted.

“Canadian people especially like to be proud of their athletes and proud of their accomplishments,” said Gillick. “The opportunity for Robbie and I to go into the Hall of Fame, I think it’s a feel-good story for the fans in Toronto, a feel-good story for the people across Canada.”

When I was a kid in Toronto in the 1950s, I was crazy about sports. It was primarily hockey of course. I played and I was lucky to be taken to Leaf games by my guardian. Baseball was on the periphery—softball at school, some hardball in the nearby diamond.

Maple Leaf Stadium on the Lakeshore, Toronto. It was a fun place to watch a baseball game and to see the lakers sailing through the “Eastern Gap.” Toronto set attendance records for a minor league baseball team.

A friend of the family began taking me to the Toronto Maple Leaf baseball games in the early 1950s, down at Maple Leaf Stadium on Lake Shore Boulevard. The Leafs played in the “Triple A” International League against teams such as the Buffalo Bisons, Rochester Red Wings and Havana Cubans (later Sugar Kings). I loved listening to the Leaf’s away games on the radio, especially “from” Havana (I later found out that the broadcasts were faked from ticker tape and enhanced with fake crowd and bat noises), where the 5’3” Yo-Yo Davalillo played.

The baseball Maple Leafs pretty much typified what Toronto thought about itself in those days—independent (owned in the 50s by Jack Kent Cooke, who gave us free hot dogs) and minor league. The hankering to be big league grew, as did the metro dream of being New York north. The baseball Leafs were abandoned and forgotten and the stadium torn down.

The Blue Jays came along in 1977 and I became a fan, though the Jays never seemed to have the aura of the Expos in those days. I was such a fan that I named one of my daughter’s stuffed toys for Lloyd Moseby. I was lucky to be at game 3 of the World Series against the Atlanta Braves in 1992. I shouted myself hoarse at what turned out to be one of the most famous plays in World Series history. It began with a spectacular catch in centre field by Devon White, and ended with what should have been a rare triple play, missed by the umpire (who later admitted his mistake).

The editors of The Canadian Encyclopedia have always focused on Canadian-born players but the induction of Pat Gillick and Roberto Alomar into the Baseball Hall of Fame has changed our mind. Gillick built that team, which brought the “World” Series to Canada. Alomar, a transported Puerto Rican, was the best player on the team and the best second base man of his generation. Together they made an incalculable contribution to Canadian sporting history.

James Marsh is Editor in Chief of The Canadian Encyclopedia

1 Comment

  • David Beattie


    Hello James, I would like to know where the very nice photo of Maple Leaf Stadium comes from, and whether it is in the public domain. I have seen it on web sites with the note "courtesy of CCA", but have been unable to find it based on that alone. I am interested in using the photo in a book I hope to publish. I'll be grateful for any information you can provide. [By the way, I believe that must be the 'Western Gap', not the Eastern.] Regards David

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