The boys of Summer might see the Fall.
The words of that song have been burned into my brain since I was a kid. Although I was a die-hard Montreal Expos baseball fan when I was growing up, my Granddad would cheer for the Toronto Blue Jays as well because he was fiercely Canadian, and any team that hailed from the Great White North, he would proudly claim as his own.
“You got the bleachers. You’ve got ‘em from spring ‘til fall. You got a dog, and a drink, and an umpire’s call. Whaddaya want?”
I spent an awful lot of my childhood sitting in my living room on the couch with my grandfather being taught the intricacies of the game of baseball. I also got to learn an awful lot about the man I looked up to my entire life by listening to his stories about being in the army, working in a coal mine, and spending months in a fishing boat off the coast of Newfoundland.
“Is that a fly ball? Or is it a seagull - coming in, from the lake, just to catch the game?”
When the Blue Jays made it to their first World Series in 1992, I was turning into a cocky teenager. Now that I had a girlfriend, I seemed to have less and less time to sit on that old couch and watch baseball games with my Grandad. Without fail, though, whenever we passed in the hallway or had a few moments to chat he would always let me know how the Jays were doing. I feigned enthusiasm more often than not, for his sake, but I really didn’t care a whole lot about what was going on with baseball.
“It’s the last inning. Our guys are winning”
I was at home the night of game 6, though, when Dave Winfield drove in the go-ahead run to give the Toronto Blue Jays their first World Championship – the first Canadian team to ever win the honour.
“Dave’s put down a smoker, a strike, and there’s no doubt (you’re out!). Whaddaya want?”
I remember that night seeing my Granddad cry tears of happiness because he saw one of his favorite teams finally win a championship. Two guys who never showed affection to one another hugged that night in our little living room in Glace Bay. We got to do it again the following year when Joe Carter hit that booming home run in the ninth inning of another World Series Game 6 to clinch another title for the boys from Toronto.
“Okay! Blue Jays!”
One short year later, I lost my taste for baseball entirely. They canceled the World Series the year when it looked like my beloved Expos would finally get to hoist the championship trophy. I haven’t watched so much as an inning of the grand old game since then and I had no desire to; until now.
As I write this column, the Toronto Blue Jays have just taken over first place in their division by going on a monumental 10 game winning streak, their second of the season, and toppled the mighty New York Yankees from the top of the American League east mountain. It’s the first time in 22 years that the Jays have led heir division this late in August and the possibility of them making a deep playoff run is a very real one.
All I can think of is my Granddad and how happy he would be.
A friend of mine, who is a huge Blue Jays fan, had something interesting to say when I told him of my emotional connection to the game of baseball and my grandfather. He said that it’s always good when something happens that reminds you of someone that you loved – even if it’s just a baseball game. He’s completely right. I think it may be time for me to check out a game again for the first time in over twenty years and I think I may have some company of my own.
My oldest son is only a few short years away from becoming that cocky teenager his father was so many years ago. My youngest son isn’t far behind him. I have a golden opportunity to make some memories with a couple of little boys who look up to me and teach them a little about life under the guise of teaching them the ‘intricacies of the game’ as my Grandad did to me. I’ll tell them about sacrifices, swinging for the fences, settling for a base hit when you thought it should be a double, and how sometimes you’ll get thrown out at home no matter how hard you run.
I will cheer for the Blue jays to win a championship this year. I’ll hop on that bandwagon and buy new hats for my boys and I to sport proudly and maybe try to recapture some of that magic I had so many years ago. That can’t possibly be a bad thing.
“Let’s play ball!”
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