(MLB) Toronto Blue Jays 8 Boston Red Sox 4 (29/06/2001)
Toronto’s CN Tower opened in 1976, and you have to wonder what the city’s tourist board used to lure visitors to the city before that. Not that it’s an unattractive city. It just keeps its charms hidden. The downtown area is full of skyscrapers thrusting upwards with impressive commercial phallicness, but it takes the CN Tower to lift it out of the mundane and give the place some focus.
One downtown attraction is the Hockey Hall of Fame. This museum is a shrine to the millions in Canada for whom the game is a religion, and being just over the road from my hotel was enough to tempt me in. Now I do have a casual interest in the game, watching many British League games in my younger days, but it became apparent very quickly that my knowledge of the NHL was incredibly limited. Seeing the actual stick used by a famous old star to win the Stanley Cup in the 1970s would mean so much more if you’ve heard of the player in question. The Stanley Cup was something I did know about though, and was quite taken aback to find it quite casually on display on a small plinth in the middle of the room. Not behind glass. No signs saying “Do not touch”. Just sat there, open to all. Even with only a mild interest in the sport, I felt a frisson of excitement at being able to touch this famous trophy. For real fans, they must have carressed it with a tenderness that their wives and girlfriends would have envied.
Despite having a touch of vertigo, I love towers, so even if I hadn’t been struggling for alternative “A-List” sights, the CN Tower would have been a must. Unfortunately the day I went was rather hazy, and viewing distances could only perhaps have been reduced if fog had descended. The dark tinted windows also added an unwelcome grey tinge to the view, making a baking hot summer’s day look like Birmingham in November.
One thing you could see very clearly from the CN Tower, almost directly below, is the Toronto Skydome, since renamed the Rodgers Centre. This is the home of the Toronto Blue Jays, one of the few other buildings from the city that’s widely known, and my venue for the evening.
I’m not really a fan of baseball, but I do like going to a sports event, particulary with a good crowd. I had heard Toronto’s team was very popular, regularly selling out their 50,000 capacity home. It turned out those days were long gone, and the announced crowd was below halft hat figure. And even that figure could be described as optimistic, looking considerably lower. And that is something of a shame. The Skydome might not have the old fashioned charm of somewhere like the Cubs’ Wrigley Field, but it’s an interesting enough, especially when the moveable roof is kept firmly resolutely open, allowing the evening sun to light the field, as well as giving a view of CN Tower, towering above.
Maybe it was the low crowd, but I couldn’t get into this game, despite it being a high-scoring affair. Or maybe baseball’s just not for me. I could never get a handle on all the stats which seem fundamental to appreciating the game. Many of these were displayed to my great incomprehension across the dazzlingly wide – 34 metres across – scoreboard opposite. In the last inning for the home side, with scores tied at 4-4, the scoreboard lit up in a frenzy as Toronto hit a home run with bases loaded. Doing this should be about the most exciting thing to happen is baseball, but coming after nearly three and a half hours of play, I just felt relief that extra innings would not be required to end the game.