Yes, I remember where I was when JFK was shot (Grade 9 English Class, Nelson High School). When Apollo 11 landed on moon I was working at the #2 Rod Mill at Stelco in Hamilton. And I have a clear memory of September 9, 1956 when this six-year-old surreptitiously crawled down the back hallway, apparently undetected by unsuspecting parents, to watch Elvis gyrating on the Ed Sullivan show.
|Dave Winfield - Hall of |
Famer and Gull Slayer
I also remember where I was thirty four years ago (August 4, 1983) - an historic date. That day at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium Dave Winfield “slew a gull.” My memory is foggy, as the Stadium often was, though. I guess I should have taken notes.
Along with about 36,000 others I was taking in the game from the cheap but covered seats in left-centre field at what later became known as the Mistake-by-the Lake. Burlington Post reporter Dennis Smith and I spent four dollars each for our seats (Could they really have been $4.00 dollars then?) Between innings I had my 7x50 Dienstglas binoculars trained on this bird. It had been sitting in the same place in right-centre field for several innings. While I looked at the gull through the binos, it was smacked by a baseball. Someone sitting near us called out: “Winfield killed that poor pigeon.”
The “pigeon” was indeed dead. A hapless ball boy was dispatched to cover and remove the dead bird. While some booing began I, clearly identifying with that ball boy, flashed back to a similar incident in my past. As a student Steelworker I had been ordered by the foreman to “bury that poor effing cat” that had been found dead in Stelco’s #2 Rod Mill. Poor ball boy.
As I’ve suggested some of the details of this important day are lost to me.
The Toronto Star says the charge against Winfield, later dismissed, was “cruelty to animals.” I can’t say I remembered that specific but for some reason I do recall Winfield’s manager’s response to the charge: Said Billy Martin: “Cruelty to animals? That’s the first time he’s hit the cut-off man all year.”
I remember, too, that the birding community was irked. Peter Whalen of the Globe and Mail wrote about it. His column lamented the fact that the deceased bird was continuously referred to by the media and public as a “seagull.” There is no such species, as any birder worth his feathers would tell you. It was a ring billed gull or larus delawarensis, if you prefer.
Imagine the audacity of a wannabe world class city hauling an American celebrity off to the Hogtown Hoosegow? I recall, then Metro Chairman, Paul Godfrey grovelling to the Americans over our misfeasance. But didn’t that have to do with getting a NFL franchise for Toronto?
All these memories coming back to me……
Oh, and where were you on August 4, 1983?
|The Queen and Prince Philip in the North Grandstand...|
but not that night
Dennis Smith, who attended the game with this Blogger, is semi-retired and does freelance work for the Burlington Post including a regular Entertainment column. Dennis reminds me, often, that another team played at the CNE in the ‘Year of the Dead Bird.’ That team, the Toronto Argonauts, won the Grey Cup in 1983.
While the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the Yankees that August day they did go on to record their first winning season in 1983 winning 89 times against 73 losses. This year they are on pace for a record of 76 wins and 86 loses.
The #2 Rod Mill was opened by the Steel Company of Canada (Stelco) in 1966. Once North America’s largest manufacturer of hot rolled wire rods, the mill closed for good in 2004.
Dave Winfield is now 65 years old. A Hall of Famer, he was member of the Blue Jays 1992 World Series Championship team.
Bob Wood lives in Port Rowan Ontario and hasn’t attended many games at the SkyDome/Rogers Centre. He preferred the Mistake-by–the-Lake even if they were cruel to animals there.