Vintage Toronto Ads: No Tricks—Just Treats

Originally published on Torontoist on October 25, 2011.

20111025stitches

Toronto Sun, October 26, 1980.

Ghouls definitely aren’t fools when it comes to style or a bargain. Never mind if the garments from a purveyor of affordable clothing for teenagers might not be top of the line—if you’re dressing as a zombie, tears to clothing resulting from their first visit to a laundry machine only add to the illusion.

As for how campy a cowboy hat could be, keep in mind that today’s ad appeared in the wake of the box office smash Urban Cowboy. It’s likely Stitches was appealing to John Travolta wannabes who planned to spend their Halloween riding a mechanical bull or engaging in other forms of western-themed horseplay.

We sympathize with the guy on the right, who spent months mastering the art of sticking his tongue out like Gene Simmons only to discover every Kiss costume in the city was sold out. He couldn’t even find a Kiss Your Face Makeup Kit that would provide proper instructions on how to look like his musical idols.

Advertisements

Ghosts of Christmases Past

Originally published as a “Historicist” column on Torontoist on December 25, 2010.

This holiday edition was, as the introduction noted, “a sampling of a century’s worth of Christmas advertisements, illustrations, pictures, and stories. Light up a Yule log (real or video), sit back and enjoy.”

For this edition, I’m not using the original gallery format, deleting some archival photos, and adding in some material that didn’t make the final cut. I am also merging in ads originally featured in a post for the 2014 holiday season.

globe xmas1885

Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Globe, 1885. Library and Archives Canada.

In its Christmas Eve 1885 edition, the Globe reprinted the “Story of the Mistletoe” from Youth’s Companion. While much of the piece drones on about mistletoe’s role in Norse mythology and its use by Druids, it includes these nuggets about its contemporary sources and uses, in as non-romantic terms as possible.

It used to be brought over by friendly foreign steamers, but is now found in Virginia and in most of the Southern States, and is largely used for holiday decoration…The American mistletoe is not the genuine English article, although it strongly resembles it. The botanists have given it a new name, phoradendron, which signifies “a thief of a tree.” It is, however, a true parasite. The mistletoe is now so seldom found growing on the oak that when it is found there it is a great curiousity. It frequents apple trees chiefly, and is propagated by birds wiping their bills on the boughs and thus leaving some of the viscid pulp and seed, and if the bark happens to be cracked there it takes root.

xmas1889

Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Globe, 1889. Library and Archives Canada.

Little does the turkey suspect that the young lady who visited each day with yummy treats was secretly fattening him up for her family’s holiday feast. Speaking of turkeys…

globe 1890-12-20 live turkeys

The Globe, December 20, 1890. 

20141224slaughtersale

The News, December 22, 1894.

If you couldn’t slaughter a turkey, you could always check out a “slaughter sale” of fine reading material.

news 85-12-22 ads

The News, December 22, 1885.

The News also provided “practical hints for the benefit of West End residents and others” as it named off a variety of Queen West merchants. Among the highlights: a free set of tableware with every purchase of a pound of tea at Laut Brothers (420 Queen West); a stock of nuts “not surpassed in the city” at Mara & Co. (280 Queen West); bargains among the jewellery and other goods damaged in a recent fire at J.I.S. Anderson (294 Queen West); and “beautiful villa sites overlooking High Park and Humber Bay” free of city taxes that went for one dollar per square foot at the real estate office of R. McDonnell at Queen and Gladstone.

me 97 xmas cover

Cover of the special Christmas edition of the Mail and Empire, 1897. Library and Archives Canada.

Underneath the colour cover of this supplement was a collection of seasonal art, stories, and other diversions for the entire family.

20141224xmascardsThe Mail, June 27, 1881.

Even back in the Victorian Age, saving a buck on Christmas supplies like cards was as important as aesthetic considerations.

20141224johnmilne

The Empire, December 22, 1894.

An excerpt from the Empire’s Christmas Day 1894 editorial: “To the mind of the child this is the glorious season of the year when there is no cloud in the sky to dim the sunlight of pleasure in which infantile natures rejoice; but to the mature it is a period, apart from its spiritual associations, the delights of which are tempered by gravity and the joys of which are tinged with sadness, for as men grow memories gather. Looking back upon the Christmases of the past, who is there among us who does not feel that change and decay have wrought their mysteries as the years rolled on, taking here a friend and there a companion and leaving gaps in the ranks more significant and impressive at this time than at any other, so that even at the feast, and where rejoicing reigns, the heart stops for a moment that sorrow may supply its chastening touch.”

news 10-12-24 xmas cartoon

Front page, the News, December 24, 1910. 

20101225world1910

Illustration by Lou Skuce, Toronto World, December 25, 1910.

20101225world1912

Toronto World, December 22, 1912.

From an editorial on holiday charity: “People are giving freely now, who keep their hearts and pockets closd ’till next Christmas. Why? There is need always as at Christmas time. It is simply that we are moved now by an unusual sentiment–an impulse to kindliness.”

20141224coplands

The News, December 23, 1914.

The Copland Brewing Company’s Toronto roots stretched back to 1830, when William Copland opened a brewery along Yonge Street shortly after arriving in Upper Canada. By 1914, most of its products were brewed at its plant on King Street between Ontario and Berkeley Streets. Bought by Labatt in 1946, the site was later occupied by the Toronto Sun.

20101225world1915

Toronto World, December 19, 1915.

An editorial note from the second holiday season of the First World War:

Above all, the call of Christmas is ‘Peace on Earth.’ In the present grievous crisis of the world there is significance in this call beyond that of any crisis mankind ever before was called to read. That war has darkened Christmas for so much of the world may well seem, at the moment, the crushing condemnation of all such conflicts.”

 

20101215skuce1915

Toronto World, December 19, 1915.

As the war staggered on over in Europe, World cartoonist Lou Skuce reminded readers of where the battlelines were usually located on Christmas Eve.

20101225eatons1916

Toronto World, December 25, 1916.

20101225eatons1918

Toronto World, December 25, 1918.

A pair of First World War-themed ads from Eaton’s.

20141224eatons1920

Mail and Empire, December 25, 1920.

With the shadow of the First World War fading, Eaton’s ad held the promise that life was returning to normal for its customers, and that Christmas was a time to rejoice in youthful spirit.

20141224sickkids1923

The Telegram, December 19, 1923.

Given that the establishment of Sick Kids was a pet project of Telegram founder John Ross Robertson, the paper took every opportunity during the holiday season to solicit donations for the hospital. Heart-tugging stories to invoke contributions were printed in the Tely around Christmas, bearing headlines like “CHILD SWALLOWS LYE THROAT BADLY BURNED” (December 19, 1923).

20141224sickkids

The Telegram, December 23, 1933.

A sample of a Sick Kids ad from a decade later.

20141224loblaws1924

Toronto Star, December 24, 1924.

20141224simpsonsblisscarman

Mail and Empire, December 25, 1930.

Simpsons centred its 1930 holiday ad around verse from poet Bliss Carman, who died the previous year.

20141224christmaslights

Mail and Empire, December 20, 1933.

Despite the effects of the Great Depression, the Mail and Empire urged its readers to light up the city at Christmas time. We doubt any displays inspired by this contest were accompanied by a menagerie of front yard inflatables.

20141224coke

Mail and Empire, December 22, 1933. 

Years before teaching the world to sing, or employing polar bears as pitchmen, Coca-Cola offered an economical solution for holiday entertaining during the Great Depression.

20101225eatons1933

The Telegram, December 23, 1933.

 

20101225lingerie1934

Weston Times and Guide, December 14, 1934.

The 1930s equivalent of the slightly naughty gift ads found decades later in alt-weeklies like eye and Now?

20101225simpsons1939

Toronto Star, December 23, 1939.

20101225britishfruit1945

Weston Times and Guide, December 13, 1945.

Relieved that the Second World War no longer interfered in his annual delivery run, Santa relaxed a little in 1945. He found time to stop in Weston for a luscious roast bird. Note the slightly scary look in his eye, as if he’s daring the artist to take the plate away from him.

20101225eatons1950

The Telegram, December 23, 1950.

The poet of Toronto’s sports pages, Telegram columnist Ted Reeve, penned an ode to holiday shopping based on one of the big musical hits of that season, “The Thing“:

 

As we were walking north on Church, no Xmas shopping done,
We went into McTamney’s to maybe buy a gun.
The clerk behind the counter there let out a mighty roar:
“Get out of here with that shopping list and don’t come back no more.”

We hadn’t done our Christmas cards when reaching work today,
We asked the office girls if they would get them on the way.
They turned on us with a vicious yell as fierce as any blow:
“Get out of here with that shopping list and you know where to go.”

We’ll get to Kresge’s Christmas Eve and in a final dash
We’ll try to get the presents bought unless they want some cash.
The chances are the manager, while tearing up our cheque,
Will heave us out with our boom-boom-boom and land us on our neck

There’s only three more days to go, we haven’t bought the tree,
It is a most perplexing week, we think you’ll all agree.
And if we don’t get anything done we’ll just let Xmas pass
And take that terrible boom-boom-boom and hide it in the grass.

20101225donmills1960

Don Mills Mirror, December 8, 1960.

Either the caption writer was ordered to devise a happy sentence without seeing this picture, or somebody decided to play a cruel joke at the expense of the exhausted Santa at the Don Mills Centre. His arrival by helicopter in late November prompted ten thousand people to greet him at the shopping centre, doubling the number that greeted him the year before. Santa’s trip was delayed ten minutes due to fog and low-flying planes landing at Malton airport. Once the chopper landed, Santa hitched a ride on a fire engine, which took him to his seat at the centre of the complex. With over four-and-a-half thousand kids mounting his lap that day, no wonder Santa looks like he can’t wait to escape back to the comfort of the North Pole.

20141224elpaso

Weston Times and Guide, December 22, 1960.

Wonder how many diners around that time hummed Marty Robbins’s 1959 smash hit about the west Texas town while eating their delicious young turkey dinner.

20141224kodak

Maclean’s, December 9, 1961.

From 1912 to 2006, Kodak’s Canadian division called Mount Dennis home. Its large campus near Eglinton Avenue West and Black Creek Drive is being redeveloped and will service the Eglinton Crosstown LRT. Whenever that line begins service, perhaps someone who received a Kodak camera under the tree will be inspired by the site’s history to haul it out and shoot the opening ceremony.

20141224eagleson

Weston Times-Advertiser, December 22, 1964.

Politicians love sending seasonal greetings, and Alan Eagleson was no exception. Before he achieved fame in the hockey world for forming the National Hockey League Players’ Association and infamy for his criminal actions regarding pensions and disability claims, Eagleson sat as a Progressive Conservative MPP for Lakeshore from 1963 to 1967.

 

20101225walktodeath1965

Willowdale Enterprise, December 8, 1965.

20101225highway1965

Willowdale Enterprise, December 22, 1965.

Santa and the reindeer might have needed a map when a widened Highway 401 between Highway 400 and Hogg’s Hollow fully opened to to traffic on December 16, 1965. The expansion of the freeway from four to twelve lanes included the introduction of the express/collector lane system.

 

20101225sinclair1966

Toronto Life, December 1966.

Toronto Life celebrated its first Christmas by asking Gordon Sinclair to describe how he really felt about the holiday? His verdict? Despite not being a fan of organized religion, Sinclair felt it was “the best and friendliest of all family celebrations when we are with kinfolk; the ones of our blood who accept us for what we are. Not what we should be, or could be, but what we are.” He also described Christmas was the worst day of the year to be alone, a situation he experienced while reporting from Shanghai in 1938. That day he wandered through clubs and pubs “looking for someone to feel sorry with” but found only a black eye (a present given by an American when Sinclair declined to have a drink with him) and a crying fit (after returning to his hotel to find “wish you were here” cablegrams from Canada). There was only one thing he would have changed about Christmas: “that stupid abbreviation, Xmas.”

20141224newtonbrook

The Enterprise, December 20, 1967.

An excerpt from the Enterprise‘s December 13, 1967 holiday editorial, which criticized the trend toward war toys like G.I. Joe, which kids might have asked Miss Suzie for as they received a candy cane.

War toys are not going to make a killer out of a child, but they do instil an acceptance which lasts into adult life. In other words, war toys are a marvellous propaganda instrument…The only way to counteract war toy propaganda is for the consuer public to boycott any kind of violent toy–and encourage manufacturers to produce just as interesting toys who emphasis is not military.

20141224liptons

Globe and Mail, December 25, 1970.

A stylish seasonal ad from a fashionable Kingsway-area women’s clothier. Two weeks earlier, Lipton’s published a gift certificate order form in the Globe and Mail, positioning it as “great trim for any tree.”

20141224chum

Toronto Life, December 1974.

While CHUM-FM offered a slender Santa for the holidays, its AM sibling distributed its usual CHUM Chart. Topping the Toronto hit list on December 21, 1974 was Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting.”

20101225caroling1975

Toronto Sun, December 16, 1975.

Unfortunately for eager carolers, the Sun-sponsored musical celebration of the season was cancelled due to the first blizzard of the season. High winds coupled with around 20 centimetres of snow resulted in a record number of help calls to the Ontario Motor League (now CAA), severe TTC service delays and the cancellation of a Toronto Marlboros hockey game. The storm did not deter holiday shoppers, as Simpsons reported a minor decrease in the usual last Saturday before Christmas crowd at their Queen Street flagship.

20141224simpsons1978

The City, December 3, 1978.

Simpsons felt a little punny during the 1978 holiday season. It was a time of change for the retailer–Hudson’s Bay Company had launched a bid to acquire the department store chain in November, while shoppers at its Queen Street flagship would have seen the south end of the Eaton Centre near completion.

20101225collegepark85

Toronto Life, December 1985.

Because this article needs a touch of 1980s Christmas style.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Country Look Gothic

Originally published on Torontoist on September 14, 2010.

20100914harryrosen

Toronto Sun, November 1, 1971.

Marketing tip: when marketing a new product that tries to add a touch of country amidst rock n’ roll, it never hurts to tell your ad designer to come up with homage number 5,722 to Grant Wood’s iconic painting, American Gothic.

gm 1954-04-17 harry rosen ad

Globe and Mail, April 17, 1954.

Harry Rosen and his brother Lou opened their first store at 407 Parliament Street in 1954. The ad celebrating the opening laid out Harry’s aims and dreams under an expressionless photo of the tailor headlined with “Dig That Happy Man”:

During my years as an employee in the Parliament Street shopping area I always had a dream of a shop of my own. I knew that when that day would come that it would be an unusual shop. That dream has now found realization…We aim to cater to young men who get as much kick out of wearing good things as we get out of selling them. We desire to follow the progressive American stylings that have sparkle and pep that spells “class”…Put that touch of glamour in your spring clothes at the price YOU wish to pay.

Rosen moved from Cabbagetown to Richmond Street in 1961. A second store was opened at Yorkdale in 1968, a year before Rosen sold the company to Dylex, where he became the general manager of the retailer’s Tip Top Tailors division. By the 1990s, Rosen repurchased the chain that bore his name.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Better Copies Now!

Originally published on Torontoist on June 22, 2010.

20100622apeco

Time, November 14, 1969.

Protest sign makers should be busy this week thanks to the event many Torontonians wish was anywhere, ANYWHERE, else. While most of the signs will be crafted with great care or spontaneous inspiration by human hands, there may be the odd slogan slapped onto a sapling (because we all know how protesters love using innocent, young trees) that was created with a high-quality photocopier. The right to use such machinery to promote political and social causes was earned by a dedicated group of angry financial district secretaries during what has gone down in history as the Great Copymaker March of 1969.

Disgruntled officer workers blocked traffic as they walked northbound along Bay Street from King, en route to City Hall on October 16, 1969. Though no deaths or serious injuries occurred during the main rally at Nathan Phillips Square, it was reported that one puzzled observer was hauled away when he interpreted one protester’s sign as a coded plea for LSD, which he tried to offer to an undercover police officer. Targeted offices gave in to the demands of the protesters and soon office staffs all over Metro Toronto were free to print documents on 11″ x 17″ sheets. Copier producer Apeco held a celebration at their office near Islington Avenue and The Queensway, during which the photo for today’s ad was shot.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Some perspective on this ad submitted by “Don ITW”, who worked in the copier industry:

I actually worked on Apeco Rollo Matics. With over 30 years working on copiers they where the absolute worst machine I ever worked on. Last time I saw one was in about 1981. The Apeco office was located on Aimco Blvd in Mississauga, the building was purchased by Savin ( became part of Ricoh) the rollomatics went in the dumpster.

They where always blue I never new until I saw this ad that optional colours where available. Funny the colour of the dumpsters was also blue! The building on Aimco was very flashy (sexy) slanted glass front it is consistent with the image in this ad.

 

Vintage Toronto Ads: Dressing Up for Danakas

Originally published on Torontoist on May 18, 2010.

20100518danakastuxedo

CFL Illustrated, October 11, 1976.

The man on the left was not a happy fellow. If given a choice, he would have worn his comfortable corduroy sports jacket and checked trousers to the business dinner, but the boss insisted he had to wear a tuxedo as very important clients were attending and the firm had to put on its classiest face. He shuffled off to his neighbourhood Tuxedo Junction at the last possible minute and discovered all that was left was the Prince Edward ensemble. He put on the outfit, stared in the mirror and sighed. Not only did he feel uncomfortable in so formal an outfit, but he thought he looked like a fifth-rate celebrity guest starring on a game show. No, it was even worse than that. This was the same tux his cousin Murray was married in, the cousin who told so many embarrassing, cringe-inducing stories at the altar that half the wedding party fled before the ceremony was over.

While waiting for his dinner ride, our sullen friend picked up a book a friend gave him featuring local restaurants and their prized recipes. He flipped through the pages of The Flavour of Toronto until he reached the section on his destination this night, Danakas Palace.

Mirrored ceilings, wood-panelled walls, richly upholstered furniture, a brightly glowing grill pit: all combine to create a palatial background to an elegant meal. Specializing in steaks and seafood, the Palace has named its delicious seafood platter in honour of Canada’s prime minister…Many theatrical and athletic stars have followed his example. Good wines are a specialty and service is attentive.

He gazed at the recipe for the Prime Minister’s Seafood Platter. How to eat like Trudeau…two lobster tails, six scampis, six prawns, six shrimps, eight crab legs, eight oysters, eight scallops, two ounces of breadcrumbs, a teaspoon of finely chopped garlic, an ounce of dry white wine, three ounces of butter, three teaspoons of lemon juice, and a pint of vegetable oil. The crab and lobster were baked, the smaller crustaceans sautéed in garlic and wine, and the remaining seafood fried until golden. Arrange the lot on a silver platter, douse with cognac and set aflame. The dish had possibilities. Maybe, he thought, he would buy a rose from a street vendor, place it in his label like PET, then enjoy the delights of the sea.

His ride wasn’t due for another fifteen minutes, so he pulled out the box of restaurant review clippings he filed away as potential date destinations. Buried near the bottom was Joanne Kates’ opinion in the Globe and Mail from a year earlier. His heart sunk when the headline read unfulfilled promises.” Danakas Palace got off to a bad start with Kates for producing ads touting its “famous” charcoal broil — she felt it was “strange that a restaurant should be famous in time to make that claim when it opens.” Meant to be the first in a chain of restaurants, she felt that “it’s fitting that a chain begin with a nod to progress. All guests are treated to garlic bread wrapped in that modern wonder, aluminum foil.” The food didn’t impress her, as out of the highly-touted eleven fresh vegetables, only two appeared on her plate (of which one, creamed cauliflower, was mushy and lacked cream). Bouillabaisse featured stringy, tough fish; trout was over-fried; black forest cake was leaden. She sighed that the chain would probably do well, as “it has the ingredients that seem to sell nowadays: underground parking, décor that at first glance looks first class, a la carte dinner for two with wine and tip for about $40, and above all, mediocrity.”

As his ride arrived, all he could hope was that it wasn’t going to be a long night in a stiff tux with middling food. The deal-making possibilities of the evening had better be worth the potential misery.

Additional material from The Flavours of Toronto: A Gourmet’s guide to restaurants and recipes, edited by Kenneth Mitchell (Toronto: Four Corners, 1977) and the October 27, 1975 edition of the Globe and Mail.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

danakas

And now, for your eager eyes, the seafood platter at Danakas Palace that Pierre Trudeau  liked so much the owners renamed it in honour of his position. Whether the story is true or not, it’s not surprising a seafood platter would receive such an honour, as restaurants in the vicinity of Danakas Palace loved showing off their ensembles of lobster, shrimp and other sea creatures in full-colour ads targeted to business executives and tourists—a show of hands from anyone who’s ever actually eaten the “award winning” seafood platter showcased in every Toronto visitors guide by Fisherman’s Wharf since the dawn of man?

It often seems like a seafood platter is designed to look attractive and draw as much money out of a customer as possible. I won’t deny having succumbed to the allure of a broad sampling of delights from the deep. During my university days at Guelph, there was a restaurant in the upper reaches of Stone Road Mall called Legends that accepted school meal plans. At the time, it was one of the few off-campus spots that took meal cards, so it often wound up being the destination for special events among my residence-mates at Arts House. It became a running joke that I’d always order the most expensive thing on the menu, which was the seafood food. A further running joke was that the platter was never the same twice—a good night might bring heartly samplings of crab, grilled swordfish and tuna, a lousy one saw a meagre serving of shrimp and a puny crab appendage arrive at the table.

Come to think of it, Legends was often unpredictable with its fare, such as the time four of us ordered blue lagoons and each arrived with a different colour. Who knew purple lagoons existed?

Here’s how you can make a meal worthy of the occupant of 24 Sussex Drive, though you can choose to eat it as a salute to the current PM or your all-time favourite leader.

2 lobster tails
6 scampis
6 prawns
6 shrimps
8 crab legs
8 oysters
8 scallops
2 oz (50 g)breadcrumbs
1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
1 oz (25 mL) dry white wine
3 oz (75 g) butter
3 tsp lemon juice
1 pint (500 mL) vegetable oil

To prepare: cut the lobster tails and bend back in butterfly style; shell and de-vein the scampis, prawns and shrimps; extract the meat from the crab claws; remove the oysters and scallops from the shell and coat with breadcrumbs. Finally, wash the lobster, scampi, prawns and shrimps under cold running water and dry thoroughly.

Proceed with the following cooking methods simultaneously: (a) Place the crabmeat in a small ovenproof dish, add 1/3 tsp garlic, 1 tsp lemon juice and half the white wine and bake in a moderate oven for 10-15 minutes.; (b) Place the lobster tails in an oven pan, add 1 oz (25 g) butter and 1 tsp lemon juice and bake in a moderate oven for 8-10 minutes; (c) Melt 1 oz (25 g) butter in a frying pan, add 1/3 tsp garlic and the remaining wine and sauté the scampi, prawns and shrimps for 2 minutes, stirring continuously; (d) Heat the oil and fry the scallops until golden, then transfer to a small overproof dish, add the remaining butter, garlic and lemon juice and place in a broiler for 5 minutes; (e) Re-heat the oil and deep fry the oysters until golden.

To serve: arrange attractively on a silver platter, pour over the Cognac and flame. Serves 2.

Recipe taken from The Flavour of Toronto, edited by Kenneth Miller, photographed by René Delbuguet (Toronto: Four Corners, 1977). 

Vintage Toronto Ads: Boosting Your Sox Appeal

Originally published on Torontoist on April 20, 2010.

20100420garter

Toronto Star, July 6, 1928.

Today’s ad proves that, while technology has relegated men’s garters to an aesthetic fashion decision from their one-time general usage, a bad pun is timeless.

Manufacturer Albert Stein & Company, in numerous ads during the early part of the twentieth century, boasted that “no metal can touch you” when you wore their garters. Comfort was always stressed to attract dubious fellows like today’s sad case; an ad from 1910 noted that “the fit is snug without shutting off blood circulation or furrowing the flesh.” Paris Garters were also touted as a great Christmas gift, as a 1939 ad for a boxed set illustrated:

He doubly appreciates receiving Paris from YOU. First he prefers Paris for its style, its quality and its utility. Second, and this is very important—he’s proud you’ve chosen THE BEST for him…Remember, Paris is priced no higher than imitations, but is always higher in quality than in price.

We suspect that our careless friend might not have had enough “sox appeal” to be on the receiving end of a gift that could have altered his destiny. He sat in his chair for several hours and pondered if it was simply sock issues that were his obstacle to dominance in the business world. Nobody seemed put off by his halitosis or the clucking noise he made when nervous or stressed. After taking stock of his situation, and determining that only eighty-seven different emotions seized him at any one time, he decided to launch a manufacturing firm dedicated to eliminating the scourge of sock droop from lazy dressers like him.

Additional material from the May 1910 edition of The Fra and the December 11, 1939 edition of Life.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Thrifty Jays

Originally published on Torontoist on October 6, 2009.

20091006bosettismall

1980 Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine.

While Blue Jays fans may bemoan the disappointments of the past season, at least this year’s squad didn’t stink as badly as their predecessors thirty years ago. The 1979 edition of the bluebirds was the worst in team history, with a record of fifty-three wins and one-hundred-and-nine losses. Chances were good that the shirt modelled by outfielder Rick Bosetti could have performed better on the field than most of that year’s lineup.

As Stephen Brunt noted in his history of the Blue Jays, Diamond Dreams, Bosetti was “a player blessed with more charisma and chutzpah than talent. But on a very bad team that was more than enough to make him stand out. It was Bosetti who became the first Blue Jay to publish a book under his name [Rick Bosetti’s Baseball Book, a guide on how to watch the game], which in retrospect seems like an act of colossal hubris.” Bosetti played every game of the 1979 season and had a career year, knocking in eight home runs and sixty-five RBIs to go with his .260 batting average.

Among Bosetti’s flakier habits was his desire to water the grounds of all of the natural grass fields in major league baseball…the natural way. As he told a reporter in 1979, “I’ve gotten all the American League parks. That’s why I want inter-league play. To water that beautiful grass in Wrigley Field would be a dream come true.” An outline of Bosetti’s watering technique was later provided in The Baseball Hall of Shame 2:

Bosetti claimed that he wet the grass without a hose only in pre-game warm-ups when there were no fans in the park. But it was an open secret around the league that he did it during games while pitching changes were being made. He wanted to prove that he could take a leak before thousands of fans and not be noticed. He accomplished this feat by turning to the outfield wall and putting his glove in front of his waist.

Bosetti stayed with the Blue Jays through 1981 and retired a year later after a stint with the Oakland Athletics. He later served as the mayor of Redding, California, where we hope he didn’t take a deep personal involvement in the city’s groundskeeping budget.

Additional material from Diamond Dreams by Stephen Brunt (Toronto: Penguin, 1996) and The Baseball Hall of Shame 2 by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo (New York: Pocket Books, 1986).