Vintage Toronto Ads: Just What Blue Jays Fans Ordered

Originally published on Torontoist on April 13, 2010.

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Source: Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Volume 4, Number 11, 1980.

Thanks to your friendly neighbourhood Dominion store, budding Blue Jays fans in 1980 could extend their love of their favourite baseball team to the culinary items usually associated with the sport. If the kids couldn’t make it to Exhibition Stadium, they could pretend they were at the ballpark merrily munching on hot dogs and chips while watching or listening to a game. Proud parents might find this a great opportunity to take a picture of their junior Jays, though the kids could lose patience after being forced to hold a bag of popcorn for fifteen minutes.

The 1980 home opener was scheduled for April 14, but heavy rain, high winds, and bone-chilling temperatures led to its cancellation. Fans were used to lousy weather to start the season—as spectator Lorne Leboeuf told the Star, “I’ve been down to all four of these opening days and I come expecting the worst. Today I got it. Even before they called it, though, I knew I just wasn’t going to be able to get ‘into’ the game. The weather sure knocks the enthusiasm out of you.”

Two days later, despite windy, one-degree weather, the Jays strode onto the field and clobbered the Milwaukee Brewers 11–2. Just over twelve thousand fans saw Dave Stieb pitch a complete game where he struck out five Brewers and gave up only six hits. Third baseman Roy Howell started the scoring with a two-run homer, then turned two double plays with new second baseman Damaso Garcia. The playing conditions were an adjustment to Garcia, who had been acquired in off-season from the Yankees: “that was the coldest weather I’ve ever played in.”

The Jays hovered around the .500 mark until June then stumbled for the rest of the season. Though they finished in the American League East basement for the fourth season in a row, 1980 marked the first time the team lost fewer than one hundred games as they finished with a 67–95 record.

Additional material from the April 10, 1980 and April 17, 1980 editions of the Toronto Star.

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Vintage Toronto Ads: Thrifty Jays

Originally published on Torontoist on October 6, 2009.

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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).

Vintage Toronto Ads: Safe at Home with Rico Carty

Originally published on Torontoist on April 7, 2009.

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1979 Blue Jays Scorebook Volume 3 Number 16.

“Belt it” was a concept the Ontario government and Blue Jays slugger Rico Carty were well acquainted with as the 1979 baseball season dawned. Too bad the rest of the Blue Jays played like careless drivers during that season’s opening game in Kansas City. Where the 2009 squad steamrolled over the Detroit Tigers last night, the 1979 team was like a deer caught in the headlights.

Fans in Toronto were likely relieved that they didn’t have to witness in person an 11–2 shelling by the Royals on April 5. The Globe and Mail declared that outfielder Rick Bosetti was “the smartest of Toronto’s players” for being thrown out of the game on a disputed call with a scab umpire (the men in blue were on strike as the season started). Bosetti missed out on a horrible second inning where the Royals scored nine runs off of starting pitcher Tom Underwood. Six of those runs were unearned, thanks to errors galore from the fielders. Most of the local papers showed right fielder Bob Bailor bending in an uncomfortable position after being hit by a pitch.

Carty acquitted himself well on opening day, reaching base four times. The “Beeg Mon” returned to the team in the off-season after a brief stint with the Oakland A’s towards the end of 1978. Carty’s fifteen-year career in the majors swung wildly from highs (a .366 batting average while with the Atlanta Braves in 1970) to lows (entire seasons missed at his peak due to injuries and tuberculosis). Carty hit .256 and twelve home runs for the Blue Jays in 1979, which proved to be his swan song. In the long run, Carty paved the way for future Blue Jays stars from the Dominican Republic, especially from his hometown of San Pedro de Macoris.

As for seat belts, the Ontario legislature mandated their usage in 1976, making it the first province to do so.

Additional material from the April 6, 1979 edition of the Globe and Mail.

Discover the Feeling When You Come to Play

Originally published on Torontoist on July 17, 2008.

If Reba McEntire and Tony Bennett come to Toronto to play, why shouldn’t tourists follow suit?

Two decades ago, Metro Toronto urged tourists to “discover the feeling” while sampling its neighbourhoods and attractions. The focus of the late 1980s television spot that we’ve dug up today is the multitude of leisure activities the city offers. Viewers in markets like Cleveland and Detroit were enticed to check out ballet, fishing, gondola rides, horse racing, boutique shopping, bike taxis near the Gooderham Building, and Jim Clancy leading the Blue Jays to victory over the Indians or Tigers.

The producer’s sure-fire bet to bring in the crowds? Hire a pair of dueling fencers and a fog machine to lend an air of mystery and old-fashioned adventure to Casa Loma.

As for when the headliners came to play, Tony Bennett crooned at a Variety Club of Ontario fundraising gala in February 1988 while Reba McEntire took the stage for two nights at Massey Hall that October.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Here’s an earlier version of the campaign, featuring Rochester native Chuck Mangione instead of Reba.

The lone surviving comment on the piece is typical of trolls with pseudonyms who are oh-so-happy to put down the city. From “Astoria”: “LOL Plezzzzz Toronto is such a boring place and non world class as its wannabe inhabitants claim – keep tryin’ tho!” My retort to this sort of shit: a city is what you make of it when you actually experience it.

I also wrote an article on the print version of this campaign, which originally appeared on Torontoist on August 11, 2009.

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Monthly Detroit, July 1985.

Last year, we featured the television spots used during the latter half of the 1980s to encourage tourists to come to Toronto and “Discover the Feeling!” Today’s ad is an early print version of the campaign used to lure travellers from Motown into driving east on Highway 401. After a year of development by Camp Associates, the new tourism slogan was unveiled in 1984 as a replacement for “Toronto…Affectionately Yours,” which had been used since 1972.

Early reaction to the new slogan was summed up by Star columnist George Gamester: “’Discover the Feeling!’ doesn’t sound like much for $50,000. But then ‘I Love New York’ probably didn’t sound earth-shattering when first proposed, either.”

While people on the street seemed to be happy with the new slogan, describing it as “catchy,” “neat,” and “memorable,” a vocal group from Metro Toronto Council wasn’t. Suburban politicians grumbled that “Metropolitan Toronto” was mentioned in small print and that municipalities like Etobicoke and North York were ignored in favour of the core city. Public representatives with wounded egos made the media know that they were mad as hell that the word “Metro” wasn’t included in the new slogan, even though Camp Associates had discovered that its inclusion confused test audiences outside of the region. According to North York Alderman Betty Sutherland, “If we’re paying for this, I think it should be geared towards Metro Toronto…If you’re coming to visit you’re coming to see more than downtown.” In his characteristically understated style, North York Mayor Mel Lastman claimed that “I never felt more insulted in my life.” He felt the slogan didn’t paint a positive image like Buffalo’s “Talking Proud,” but told visitors to “take a gamble and come to Toronto to see if it’s still a dull city.” Lastman wasn’t crazy about the new logo either, noting that if it appeared on television, it wouldn’t prevent viewers “from going to the bathroom.”

Along with Etobicoke Controller Chris Stockwell (who noted, “I’ve seen better slogans on a used car lot”) and Scarborough Alderman Kurt Christensen, Lastman urged Metro Council to reject the slogan. Among the suggested alternatives were “Metro: Experience the Magic” (suggested by Stockwell) and “You Ought to See Us Now” (rejected by Camp Associates, favoured by Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey). After three hours of debate at the October 23, 1984 meeting of Metro Council, “Toronto—Discover the Feeling!” was approved by a twenty-two to ten vote. Bad feelings lingered on—Christensen failed in attempts to reopen the issue, while Stockwell was irate when only two out of twenty-two pictures in a new tourist brochure showed suburban sites (the Zoo and the Science Centre).

The slogan remained in use for the rest of the decade. Its replacement, “Couldn’t you use a little Toronto?,” was also greeted with underwhelming enthusiasm by Metro Council’s executive committee when it was rolled out in 1989, with Metro Councillor Howard Moscoe proving to be the only member to openly defend the new slogan and its starlit skyline logo.

Additional material from the June 9, 1984, August 25, 1984, and October 24, 1984 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the March 1, 1984, June 9, 1984, October 20, 1984, October 23, 1984, January 1, 1985, and May 3, 1989 editions of the Toronto Star.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Welcome to the Hotel Toronto

Originally published on Torontoist on June 26, 2007.
Source: Toronto Life, November 1975.

Downtown Toronto experienced a hotel boom during the first half of the 1970s as modern skyscrapers and buildings like the new City Hall changed the face of the core. Among those that made their debut: the Sheraton Centre (1972), the Holiday Inn on Chestnut (1972), the Chelsea (1975), the Harbour Castle (1975) and, opening its doors 32-years ago this week, the Hotel Toronto.

Western International Hotels traced its roots to the early 1930s, when two hoteliers in Washington state joined together to form Western Hotels (the “International” portion was added in 1954 after its first Canadian location opened). United Airlines ran the company from 1970 to 1987, changing the name to Westin in 1980. This ad promises the usual amenities for weary 1970s travelers, such as colour TV and temperature control.

As for dining options, Trader Vic’s first claim to fame was its invention of the mai tai in Oakland, California during World War II. Its restaurants helped popularize tiki drinks and “Polynesian” food, though the vogue for both was sliding downhill by the time the hotel opened. Note the stern-looking chef, who may have seen one pineapple-based dish too many. The chain still exists, though most of its current locations are outside of North America.

In 1987, the hotel swapped corporate banners with the Hilton Harbour Castle and remains in business as the Toronto Hilton.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Source: Toronto Star, June 15, 1975. Click on image for larger version.

When the Blue Jays began play in 1977, the Hotel Toronto hosted the visiting teams, except for the New York Yankees, who preferred the Westbury on Yonge Street. In a 1979 guide to meeting guys around the city, the Star’s Lynda Hurst provided tips on how ladies could catch a glimpse (or more) of baseball hunks:

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Source: Toronto Star, April 7, 1979.

ktt 1976-08 trader vicsSource: Key to Toronto, August 1976.

As a tourist draw, Trader Vic’s was included in Mary Walpole’s regular advertorial roundup of Toronto restaurants in the Globe and Mail. For decades, Walpole wore out the dot symbol on the presses, employing a style that seems odd today. You’re tempted to wonder if this was done for aesthetic purposes, or if Walpole actually spoke/wrote like an excited telegram. We’re going to encounter a lot more of her advertorials (as well as writers in other papers, like Brett Halliday of the Sun, who employed a similar style) as we revisit these stories. I was often tempted to write a Historicist column about these writers, who carved out a corner in the dailies for decades but, because they were writing hyperbolic ad copy, may not have received much respect.

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Source: Globe and Mail, February 24, 1976.

More legitimate reviews viewed Trader Vic’s with mixed feelings. Categorizing it under “Tourist Trade,” a capsule comment in the Globe and Mail in 1978 observed that:

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Source: Globe and Mail, March 8, 1978.

On dreary winter nights, when the scent of sunny islands is the only promise of springtime, this Polynesian hideaway is the ideal refuge. Those whose spirits aren’t raised by bamboo alone can relax in the arms of a giant rattan chair, and let the soft lights and silky Hawaiian music wash over them while sipping the fragrant—and fresh—fruit concoctions for which Trader’s is justifiably famous throughout the world. (A word of warning—the velvet hand of the bartenders with pineapple, mango, coconut and lime gentles liquor to a lethal whisper, but it packs more punch than navy grog.) – Toronto Calendar, in its 3/5 star rating of Trader Vic’s, December 1978.

Trader Vic’s proximity to Simpsons made it easy to participate in promotions such as cooking classes.

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Source: Toronto Star, February 9, 1976.

Finally, a drink suggestion if you’re in a giggly mood during a romantic evening. You don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day!

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Source: Toronto Star, February 7, 1982.

Vintage Toronto Ads: A Baseball Prescription

Originally published on Torontoist on April 6, 2007.

Vintage Ad #58 - Tamblyn's Baseball Prescription

Source: Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Vol 1 No 17, 1977.

As a public service to fans planning to catch the Blue Jays’ home opener on Monday night, we offer a prescription for enjoying the game from the team’s debut season. Given the current weather, will the 30th anniversary opener be as snowy as the first?

You can debate whether Canada was still a child when Gordon Tamblyn purchased a drug store at Queen St. E. and Lee Ave in 1904. By the early 1930s, the chain had grown to nearly 60 stores, mostly in Toronto, where the companied relied on a fleet of bicycle couriers for deliveries. The company was later purchased by Loblaws, whose hand is evident in the design of the Tamblyn logo.

The company wouldn’t write prescriptions for much longer, as it was sold to British drug store giant Boots within two years of this ad. Several sales and name changes later, the stores evolved into the Rexall Pharma Plus chain.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

Vintage Ad #194 - G. Tamblyn 1934

Source: Toronto’s 100 Years (published 1934).

I wrote more about the Tamblyn chain in an article for Historica Canada at the time Loblaws purchased Shoppers Drug Mart in 2013. The ad above provides some more historical context. You can still find traces of Tamblyn’s existence; for example, take a close look at the entrance to Sarah’s restaurant at the corner of Danforth and Monarch Park.

As for the Blue Jays’ 2007 home opener, they crushed the Kansas City Royals in a 9-1 victory in front of 50,125 fans. Pitcher A.J. Burnett earned the win. The Jays finished third in the American League East that season with an 83-79 record.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Baseball’s Back at the Simpsons Dugout

Originally published on Torontoist on February 9, 2007.

Depressed by the current deep freeze? Here’s something to make you feel warmer – next week, the boys of summer (or at least the pitchers and catchers) report for spring training for the Blue Jays’ 30th anniversary season.
2007_02-09simpsons.jpgSimpsons was one of many businesses eager to show their support when the Jays prepared to take the field in 1977. The “Simpsons Dugout” concept almost sounds like the Olympic section at The Bay (also located on the second floor of the Queen-Yonge store), though it’s doubtful you can buy an Olympic ashtray. Note the happy family in their Jays finery, except for mom, who looks as if she can’t wait to tear her cap off.

Professional baseball has a long history in Toronto, dating back to the 1880s. The longest-lasting team was the Maple Leafs (1895-1967), who played in the Eastern and International Leagues. Under media mogul Jack Kent Cooke’s ownership in the 1950s, the team led the IL in attendance, winning four championships that decade. A Boston Red Sox farm team for its final three seasons, the team moved to Louisville after the 1967 season. Among the Maple Leafs’ home fields were Hanlan’s Point Stadium (several incarnations from 1897 to 1925) and Maple Leaf Stadium (built in 1926 at the southwest corner of Bathurst and Lakeshore, demolished 1968).

Major league baseball nearly made its TO debut in 1976, when the San Francisco Giants announced that January that a deal had reached to sell the team to a group primarily financed by Labatt’s, who intended to transfer the team here. A court injunction brought on by San Francisco mayor George Moscone delayed the deal long enough that buyers were found to keep the team in the Bay area. Within a month, the American League voted to expand to Toronto and Seattle for the following season.

Toronto was not the first major league team to carry the name “Blue Jays.” The Philadelphia Phillies officially changed their name to the Blue Jays in 1943, when new owner William Cox tried to shake up a team that had finished in last place six out of the seven previous seasons. The name never caught on with fans or sportswriters and was dropped after the 1944 season. Cox was gone before that, having been thrown out of baseball after the 1943 season when he admitted he placed “sentimental” bets on Philadelphia games.

The debut scorebook this ad appeared includes articles on previous major league expansions, the first American League game in 1901, the Baseball Hall of Fame, etc. Oddball feature: a guide on how to dine out in Toronto by longtime Globe and Mail restaurant reviewer Joanne Kates. Top ticket price in 1977? $6.50.

Source: Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine, Vol 1 No 17, 1977