Living in Vancouver I have not been able to catch as many live Blue Jay games as I would like to have. I seem to have trouble with the border so I’ve not joined my friends on their trips to Seattle. Luckily my life as a songwriter brings me to Toronto every so often and I try to arrange my schedule so I can be there when the team is in town.
The last two times that I was able to get to a Jays game the visiting team was that one which I hate so much, the New York Yankees.
The first of these two games happened to be on the 5th anniverary of the 9/11 incident, in the year 2007. Part 2 is about the 2nd game I went to and the events around that, I will publish that on my blog tomorrow so check back in.
On September 11th 2007 my mother and my uncle Gary (who is fairly close to me in age) picked me up at the airport and we immediately broke for downtown to eat supper early so we could catch batting practice. My mother is dutch, she wanted to be close to the field but bought the cheapest 100 level tickets which are typically behind the opposition bullpen. We ended up sitting in the presence of more Yankee fans than there were those rooting for the Jays which would be a key part to how our day unfolded. But before that we had to eat and drink.
Our dinner at a nearby Irish Pub was as much about the meal as it was the beer, we pounded several pitchers of beer during supper so we’d not need to drink many $9.75 Rogers Centre draft beer to enjoy the game. We stumbled into the Dome and got to see Alex Rodriguez take batting practice. Suddenly he pounded over the fence right us, I was standing down by the railing with a few other people. The ball bounced off the cement wall right a number of feet below us and bounced way back into the out fied. One of the bullpen attendants was walking by, picked up the ball and hurled back towards the stands. With my barehand I grabbed it clutching it tightly, I had been to 20 baseball games and never came home with an official MLB ball. I felt like it was my day.
Before the game began a host of ceremonies commerating 9/11 took place and the crowd ate it all up. A large contingent of New York City firefighters were marched out on to the field. I have a lot of conflicting opinions about the September 11th terrorist attack, but despite all of that I recognized the insane bravery of these men in the face of those appocolyptic moments. So when everyone stood up and clapped I figured there was no reason that I should not give them respect for their work. This all went on for quite some time, I was half hammered and bored of it but eventually the first pitch was thrown and the game underway.
I was excited to get a good look at this young kid Shawn Marcum, but it wasn’t really his day. The Yanks hammered him often and early culminating in a bases loaded situation with Jason Giambi at the plate. You know what happened? He smoked the damn ball into the 200 level and the game was aleady well out of reach. The general mood in the Dome was turning sour, people weren’t having fun anymore watching the billion dollar Yankees smashing the shit out of the hometeam. The only thing left to talk about for most fans was the opening ceremonies. People were getting disorderly and the cops were not hesitating to throw people out of the ball park.
“That was quite a beautiful ceremony,” a heard a man say in the bathroom.
“Yeah, there was so many people who were killed, I can’t believe it was five years ago,” his friend quipped.
Now I don’t like to get into politics too often while my cock is out in the open air, but I was drunk and angry now too so it was harder to keep my mouth shut, “you guys know that like 50,000 kids starved to death today? Every day is a tragedy that makes 9/11 look small in scope but we don’t have opening ceremonies in the name of the starving milions. They wouldn’t be starving if countries like America didn’t make so much money off their poverty.”
I guess everyone just thought I was nut. So I pissed and got out of there, got back to my seats and carried on the same exact conversation but with mom and Gary instead. They were much more willing to entertain my suggestions and hear them out. But by the 7th inning stretch I was a little more drunk yet, for we did buy a few $9.75 beers in the Dome.
Generally the 7th inning in Toronto is characterized by that dirty Blue Jay mascot coming out on the field with some teenage girls singing that song, “okay, okay, Blue Jays, Blue Bays, Let’s, Let’s, Play, Play, BALL!”
But not on the 5th anniversary of 9/11, the announcer came over the loud speakers, “now join major league baseball stadium across the United States as we remember the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks by singing together GOD BLESS AMERICA.”
That’s about when the politicizing of the days event finally broke me. I am a hard headed hillbilly Canuck, I don’t give a rats ass about America and all the wars and bullshit its doing. I would not stand, I stuck out like a sore thumb ammongst a 70% majority section of people wearing Yankees paraphenelia. Mom tried to convince me to stand and I replied, “I don’t believe in their god, and I don’t believe in America. My conscience won’t let me participate in this.”
Suddenly I heard a chorus of cursing from about ten guys in the next section over. These were all pretty macho looking guys and they were red with rage at me, “you fuckin goof, stand up for the goddam song,” one of them yelled. They were all yelling and mom didn’t like the way things were developing.
“Just do it son, some things you just hafta do.”
“Would you have me stand for God Bless the Nazi’s, is that what your saviour would want?”
Mom knew that there would be no convincing me so with that she gave up. Around that time one the guys had made his way over to our section and approached. He stood right before pointing, “you are one peice of fuckin work, you are one class act aren’t you. You peice of shit.”
He must’ve seen that one of the attendants was coming over because he went back over to where his buddies were. Now the song was nearly over, but even the attendant was now trying to convince me. He was a very dark skinned fella from some Caribean place, he had thick accent to go with it.
“If you believed in freedom you would not judge me if I feel that I must sit at this time. If you were freedom you wouldn’t ask to me participate in something I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in the war in Iraq and many other things. I will not stand up. Besides, what if couldn’t stand up for whatever reason.”
I was bold but by this time even I was hoping things would simmer down. The game got back on the go and I tried to ignore everything that was happening by staring at the game which was a runaway Yankee victory. I was forced to endure yet another thumping of our little team against these mighty devils with all the resources of the world at their fingers. It just isn’t fair.
“Hey you, hey down there, guy who wouldn’t stand up! Hey….”
Oh no I thought, not more. Ten minutes had passed and I thought that maybe this was all over by now. I slowly started to turn and take a look at who was yelling to me.
“Buddy, guy who wouldn’t stand up for the song…hey!”
“What is it?”
“Did you not see what happened to all those guys that were yelling at you,” this group of guys five rows behind me were pointing to that other section where those men had been standing.
“No, what happened,” I looked over there but could not see a single one of them.
“The fuckin cops came and threw every last one of them out of the ball game.”
I laughed, “I really?”
“Yeah, good on you, fuck those guys anyway.”
“Yeah you know, they wouldn’t stand for Oh Canada in the Bronx if they didn’t want to.”
“And they flew our flag upsidedown in the World Series in 92.”
I laughed even more, “is that so, right on. Thanks for telling me that.”
Then as the game went on other people quietly nodded to me, others said something positive and then one woman who was walking with a Yankee fan thanked me very quietly so her friend wouldn’t hear her. That all made me feel pretty good about myself because 26,000 people stood and tried to sing this song that hardly anyone in Canada could recite. It was so absurd that we should be forced to do that, clearly several thousand people stood up but wished that they did not have to. They didn’t have to!
Nonetheless the Yankees pounded the Jays that day, then they pounded them a few weeks later. Then 2008 came and the Yankees pounded Toronto a whole bunch of times, pretty much every time that somebody other that Roy Halliday was pitching. We have to play them 18 times a season. Our payroll has been between $67-80 million that whole time, the Yankees spent more than $200. They bought themselves a superstar team so they could go all over the continent smashing small market teams and sucking the fun out of everything for the fans.
That’s why in 2008 we made sure to catch the game on a day that Roy Halliday was scheduled to pitch. That game fell on the final home game of the season, Halliday had 19 wins and was looking to hit that plateau again in his life. It was a very exciting game…you can read about that redeeming day tomorrow when I post my next blog.
TUNE IN THEN FOR PART 2 OF: OH HOW I HATE THE YANKEES.