A lot of time has passed since April 7th, 1977, when Anne Murray sang the national anthem on that snowy Thursday afternoon. For those fans who watched that game on their old boxy television sets, or were actually sitting in the cold bleachers at Exhibition Stadium, I’m sure they remember that picturesque moment and how the field had to be squeegeed clear like it was yesterday. Toronto brought their eh to baseball on that day. And it didn’t take too long for the Jays to deliver Canada two World Series championships in ’92 and ’93.
It’s true that the team does not have as deep of a history as certain MLB clubs like the Cubs, Red Sox, Yankees, White Sox, Cleveland, or Braves to name a few. But, the franchise has reached a point in time where certain events and players from the past have significant meaning to the organization and the fans. Many Jays fans, who were lucky enough to experience the championship runs of ’92 and ’93, love to share their ‘I remember when’ stories.
Last year when I interviewed Mark Shapiro, I asked him how he felt about celebrating some of the iconic Jays with some sort of bronze statue ‘row of excellence’ outside the Rogers Centre, and here’s what he had to say:
We did statues at Progressive Field in the last five years. We kind of added one statue every year, as we renovated the stadium, and I really like that, ya know, kind of celebrating the icons of the team. I feel like the Blue Jays history is just getting deep enough now that you’ve got those types of players that you want to celebrate. Ya know, you don’t want to do it too early in your history because you’re going to keep getting great players, but we’re getting to that point, and I think that I would welcome that, and it would be a good addition when we start to think about the exterior. I would imagine that once we start our renovation, the interior will be the first place we start though.
The Jays are at that point in time where the Blue Jays history is deep enough. The organization is really only a few moons away from turning fifty, as time continues to do its time thing and push us all along. Hopefully by then, another World Series banner will hang forever in the place we all call Dome.
Unfortunately, the fact that Shapiro said that once they start their renovation, the interior will be the first place they start isn’t exactly promising for this whole statue thing in the present moment that a lot of Jays fans hope for, including myself. It also doesn’t help that the interior renovations are moving at a dawdling Rogers pace, which I’m sure is making Shapiro a bit restless.
Now, when that statue time does eventually come, how will the front office decide on who they immortalize? I think that the Jays have more iconic moments than they do players, so statues that celebrate those moments and some of the greatest players makes sense to me.
I think that a statue of George Bell on his knees with his hands raised to the sky celebrating the final out in the drive of ’85 should be considered. And I think that most fans would agree that there should be a statue of Alomar with his two fingers to the sky after hitting that momentous homer off the Eck. Clearly, the touch ‘em all Joe homer and José Bautista’s bat-flip should be turned into bronze, as well.
Now, as for the players, it’s obvious that a Roy Halladay tip of the cap statue should lionize the greatest player in Jays history. But, there are other players as well who deserve to be a part of this ‘bronze project’. Certainly, a Dave Stieb statue would make a lot of sense and some kind of plaque to celebrate Tony Fernandez seems appropriate. But, where would you build these statues outside the Rogers Centre? And at what Gate?
A couple of weekends ago, I decided to put on my Leslie Knope Parks and Recreation hat and my Ron Swanson moustache and walk around the Rogers Centre and take pictures of different areas where the Jays could possibly dedicate a space honouring the great iconic moments and players from the past. For the sake of knowing where each gate is, here’s a diagram of our concrete box that I pulled from the Jays’ official MLB site.
Now, the best place for these statues would be outside Gate 6/6A because this is where there is a ton of foot traffic from the CN Tower, Ripley’s Aquarium, the Rec Room, and the Steam Whistle Brewery. And also because it provides the perfect amount of space. However, there is just one bronze problem in the way…
Yup, good ol’ uncle Ted.
I have a hard time seeing Rogers remove this statue. And the players who actually built this stadium (with a little help from tax payers dollars) shouldn’t stand alongside Ted. The Ted Rogers statue infuriates people for good reason because he didn’t do a heck of a lot for the Jays or the fans. But, there he is standing proud, smiling, and holding some important documents under his right arm while tourists from other countries walk by and wonder who the hell he is.
Now, from the perspective of the city, a series of statues representing the most iconic Jays moments and players would clearly become a tourist destination on Bremner Boulevard where a statue of Ted Rogers just isn’t. But, I just don’t see a statue project at Gate 6/6A happening. Unless Rogers finds an appropriate location for uncle Ted, somewhere far away from the stadium.
It’s too bad that certain executives decided to put this loathed statue there because this would be the best location for some bronze statues that we actually want to see. For now, uncle Ted stands tall to remind all of us Canadians about how much money we give to his media corporation during every overpriced bill cycle and Jays season. He wasn’t a megalomaniac, but a statue like this smells like megalomania. I’m being a bit dramatic and hyperbolic, but you know what I mean. Anyway…moving on.
Gate 4 offers some nice surroundings and is adjacent to the CN Tower, but it is definitely not the best place for any sort of future bronze statue project because there just isn’t enough space. And also because this area is perfect as is.
However, Gate 11, the western side of the Rogers Centre, is pretty much dead space. And there’s a lot of it, too.
It would be cool if the organization utilized this location and built a ‘Blue Jays Park’ and added some grass, some trees, a garden, a few benches, maybe a water fountain, a birdbath, and, of course, some bronze figures. Blue Jays Park could have historical plaques that tell the story behind each iconic moment or player. This space really is a blank canvas and one that desperately needs some attention.
It would be a nice place for fans or tourists or whoever to relax and enjoy on a nice day or, of course, before a ballgame. I’m not sure how much a project like this would cost, but if they turned this dead space into green space that would be pretty awesome and better than the bleak concrete spot that it is today.
A little imagination and some money can go along way. And that’s what this location needs because it’s depressing in its current state. It reminds me of an empty parking lot at a closed-down plaza in Welland, Ontario. But, what do I know? I’m not Leslie Knope.
Another idea I had while I was walking around the Rogers Centre was building statues on those concrete pads up the stairs along Gate 12.
That could work.
The only problem is that this spot is limited because there are only so many concrete pads to build statues on top of. But, it would look cool though, that’s for sure. Imagine seeing Bell, Stieb, Alomar, Carter, Halladay, and Bautista statues as you walk up these painful concrete steps – not too damn bad at all. Walking up those steps though, always bad.
Now, if the organization didn’t want to spend money building Blue Jays Park outside of Gate 11, and they didn’t want to use the concrete pads for statues along Gate 12, they could do something with the park outside of the Marriott.
Again, more dead-ish space around the Rogers Centre. This park is quietly tucked away and rarely used for anything. It could be an ideal touristic baseball destination for fans and the city. However, I’m not so sure if this park is the perfect place, as I think that doing something with all that space at Gate 11 makes the most sense. At least, that’s what my Ron Swanson thinking stache is telling me.
After walking around the Rogers Centre with a critical eye, it’s clear that certain sections of the exterior desperately need work, specifically on the western side of the stadium. Since Shapiro said that the interior will be the first place they start on renovations, that means that future exterior projects won’t happen for some time. But, there are definitely some cool options available when the time actually comes.
Unfortunately, for the city of Toronto and Jays fans across Canada, Rogers gains absolutely no revenue by building statues and parks. But, the overall customer satisfaction should be enough reason to embark on something like this for the fans.
It’s the fans who make the Jays franchise what it is, who tune into every game they broadcast every season, who buy their merchandise, who pay the cost of admission at the gates, and who spend over ten dollars on a tall can of bad beer at a game. Mark Shapiro is committed to shifting the culture of the Jays organization, but it’s also important to shift the culture for the fans, as well. A future ‘Blue Jays Park’ project would be a way to give back to the fans who have given so much over the years.