Sunday, March 10, 2013

"OK OK Blue Jays" - a book about the 1983 Toronto Blue Jays

I found on a dusty bookshelf a book I haven't looked at in a long time. I was fascinated, and made a bunch of lousy scans of it and decided to post them. First, here are the front and back covers:

As advertised, it's basically a compilation of articles by The Sun's John Robertson chronicling the entire 1983 Toronto Blue Jays season. Some of you young Jays fans may think that the fun part of the team's history began with its first division title in 1985, but in fact 1983 was the team's real breakthrough. From 1977 to 1981, the Blue Jays finished last, and in 1982 they finished next-to-last. In 1983, the Blue Jays shocked the baseball world by leading the division well into summer, before a tough August in a very tough American League East got the better of them and slowly pushed them out of serious contention.

Modern day whiners about the fact that the Blue Jays are "stuck" in the tough AL East should consider the old fun times, when 87 wins by Milwaukee earned them the honour of finishing 5th in the division. And there weren't any damn wild cards.

Also note that the big boost in attendance gave the Blue Jays a record season attendance at Exhibition Stadium, but a far cry from what they would eventually draw at the SkyDome, and would even be short of some supposedly disappointing totals the Jays have drawn in recent years.

Now, I have to admit that while I currently exclusively reserve by enthusiastic fandom for the Toronto Blue Jays, in 1983 I was an about-to-turn-12-year-old who was a young baseball fanatic that dedicated his adoration to the Montreal Expos; while mildly cheering on the Boston Red Sox as my American League interest. (I think having a team in each league felt more harmless back then - I grew up in a time where we didn't talk of "Major League Baseball"; there was the National League, and the American League, with different presidents, rules, umpires, and styles. And I was convinced the National League was just plain superior - after all, they had won a whole bunch of consecutive All-Star Games! Proof, I tell ya!)

Anyway, back in the day in Nova Scotia, many people were Red Sox fans, as they were the team you could watch the most often on TV - maybe 3 or 4 days a week, if you were lucky. My Expos were on about once a week I think, on CBC; my brother and I spent most of our evenings listening to Dave Van Horne and Duke Snider call Expos games on the radio. I think I remember the Blue Jays being on CTV from time to time, called by Don Chevrier and Tony Kubek; with sideline/dugout reports from Fergie Olver, who we thought was hilariously bad. He probably was.

Anyway, I digress- the point was that to my young eyes, the Red Sox appeared more "big league" than the Blue Jays, and I think CTV's ham-handed broadcasts may have influenced that thought. Anyway, I guess it's natural to care more for a team you get to watch more, especially when you're young. So when I received the book that is the subject of this post as a gift, I remember not being super-excited at first, because it was "just about the Blue Jays". But I ultimately devoured the book as I did every other baseball book I could find in my junior high school library.

And now I am shocked to observe that 30 years have passed. Tsk tsk. So, in honour of the 30th anniversary of the Toronto Blue Jays' first ever winning season, here are scans of iffy quality of all of the colour photographs found in the centre of the book "OK OK Blue Jays: The Story of the Amazing Jays - 1983 season". (There are other black and white photos throughout the book, but are small and low quality, so I didn't bother.)

Dave Stieb! Jim Acker! Rance Mulliniks! Buck Martinez! etc. etc. Also note the crowd shot of no team shirts or jerseys, and only a couple of team hats. Different times. Enjoy the rich 1983 goodness.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Yunel did

Anyone who follows the Toronto Blue Jays online chattering classes (tweeters, bloggers, and columnists) knows by now that the team's shortstop Yunel Escobar played in Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox with a Spanish homophobic slur on his face. Drunk Jays Fans has got it covered here; the original photo by @James_in_TO (with commentary) is here. Suffice to say the media shitstorm is probably just getting started.

This made my Twitter feed was an interesting place today. Not to put words in anyone's mouths, but among the opinions I picked up (I'm paraphrasing here):

  • He's an idiot and should be suspended for the rest of the season.
  • He should be traded.
  • I'm ashamed to be a Blue Jays fan.
  • The entire team, including coaches and manager, are also to blame as they allowed him on the field.
  • He should apologize.
  • It was stupid, but let's not crucify him.
  • Let's reserve judgment until we know all the facts.
  • This isn't an uncommon word for Hispanics to use in a joking manner.
  • Pretty much all athletes/ballplayers are immature so what are you gonna do.
  • It's no big deal.
I'm sure a lot of these opinions are coloured quite a bit by what you thought about Yunel Escobar as a ballplayer, a person; as well as how big a fan you are of the Toronto Blue Jays.

My immediate reaction was to do some quick research on the Spanish word in question, as many were saying it doesn't translate directly to the detestable English word f****t. One presumes it may have some different connotations, but from everything I've seen, it either means "f****t", "p***y", or something like "girly-man".

My take is: he absolutely does NOT get a pass on if he should come out with an explanation that the word doesn't mean "f****t" to him; or it was just a joke; or whatever. I'm convinced it's a homophobic word, but if you're not convinced, you still have to admit it's either misogynistic, crude, insulting, or whatever. I tweeted that I'd be fine if my Blue Jays got rid of him. I mean, this is MY team - I shouldn't have to root for someone who says stuff like that.

He absolutely gets no pass from me by the fact that he's a pro athlete, and locker rooms are notorious places of immature humour and casual homophobia. Hell, exactly because he's a public figure, I'd say he has to present himself to a higher standard than the average person, not lower. The Toronto Blue Jays are owned by Rogers Communications - I'm guessing Rogers wouldn't want their cable repair technicians and cell phone salespeople to have something like that on their faces when they go to work and interact with their customers. 

Earlier this summer, Cam Janssen of the New Jersey Devils created a similar media firestorm for himself and his team when he made some stupid homophobic comments on a radio show, after getting baited by the crude hosts of the program. At the time, there was an immediate online reaction to vilify him. I may have joined in the bashing of him on Twitter, and felt quite right about doing so. Fortunately, Patrick Burke of You Can Play had a one-on-one talk with Janssen, which led to a (I think) heart-felt apology. I was immediately impressed with Burke and YCP's approach - instead of bashing, they went for engagement, education, and understanding. The casual homophobia in sports has been entrenched for a long time; it's not going to go away by insulting transgressors in public or in the media.

Those of us who believe ourselves to be forward-thinking and associate with other forward-thinking people tend to get surprised and forget how much subtle bigotry is still out there in 2012, whether it's explicit or latent; racism, sexism, homophobia, or whatever. I have to remind myself that I grew up in a place and time (Nova Scotia in the 70s/80s) which was not very culturally diverse, and those who grew up with me surely remember the sort of awful words that were used in the playgrounds and in the streets, but seemed like no big deal at the time. Indeed, who among us doesn't have a parent, uncle, or grandparent with some iffy world views? Should we not love them? We have to have some consideration for the environment they grew up in, and hope to influence where we can.

Which brings me back to our baseball-playing Cuban refugee Yunel Escobar. And I probably risk breaching a stereotype myself here, but I do know some Caribbean cultures do tend to homophobia. We don't know the environment that he grew up in. We DO know with almost 100% certainty that every pro baseball team locker room he's been a part of has probably laughed at or ignored gay jokes. So, you can understand a little that he might be DUMB about these things.

But that only gets you so far. I know my employer would fire me on the spot if I did anything close to that, and I don't face the public in my job. He and the team have a small chance to try to make this right.

So suspend him for the season; trade him; or show us you're really trying to learn something. I'd be good with any of that. But for God's sakes, don't sweep it under the rug. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Change & brains

Over the last number of years, I've generally made an effort to spend my coins as I accumulate them. I don't like using a giant jar of change as a savings program, and I don't like rolling coins, and I don't like having my pockets or the top of my dresser overflowing with dirty round metal thingies.

Except for pennies. I generally don't bother carrying pennies around to try to spend them; I'll toss them in a bucket and either give them away or take them to the rip-off counting machine at the supermarket. I'll be glad when Canada finally gets rid of the penny, whenever the heck that is supposed to happen.

Over the past couple of months, I've made a change (in my behaviour), and started using cash more instead of debit for purchases, and deliberately won't spend any $1 or $2 coins. At the end of the day I throw all of my loonies and toonies in a jar. I do this because the kids are taking the bus more often these days, and being teenagers, tend not to be as organized, so now they can make change or borrow change from me when they need it. Durham Region Transit cash fare is $3, so when a fare is needed, one toonie and one loonie are removed from my jar.

I noticed at one point that my jar appeared to have rather more than toonies than loonies, and thought nothing of it other than randomness doing it's work. However, over time as the total number of coins in my jar have grown, I still saw more toonies. My mind wandered on the train ride home yesterday on this puzzle: Should I really expect my jar to have a roughly equal count of loonies and toonies?  I realized my mind had subconsciously made that assumption at some point, but was it valid? 

Well, if the things I buy with cash from day to day have a fairly random price, what would I expect? When you get change from a retailer, the value in coins you get back is between $0.00 and $4.99. Normally, you'd expect this to break downs as follows:
  • For change between $0.00 and $0.99, you get 0 loonies and 0 toonies.
  • For change between $1.00 and $1.99 you get 1 loonie and 0 toonies.
  • For change between $2.00 and $2.99 you get 0 loonies and 1 toonie.
  • For change between $3.00 and $3.99 you get 1 loonie and 1 toonie.
  • For change between $4.00 and $4.99 you get 0 loonies and 2 toonies.
So, if you receive change 5 times in a day, once in each of the above scenarios, you would accumulate two loonies and four toonies. When I thought of this on the train yesterday, this blew my mind! After thinking forever that loonies and toonies were roughly equinumerous, I concluded that was way wrong. Surely we use about twice as many toonies as loonies, right? And how smart was I to figure this all out all on my own with no paper, calculator, or anything - just staring out the window on the train!

Today, a few things happened...
  1. A merchant gave me $4.35 in change. She gave me 4 loonies. I may have stared at her for a moment in disbelief.
  2. I googled how many loonies and toonies the Canadian Mint makes. It fluctuates from year to year, but on average the number produced for each are very similar.
  3. I counted the coins in my jar. I currently have 17 loonies and 19 toonies. Eyeballing it after counting, it still looked to me that there are way more toonies than that small margin indicates.
So what have I learned?
  • Barstool or train-seat logic often rests upon a zillion assumptions that are probably often wrong in a way you just didn't think of;
  • Things that are bigger and shinier are probably more eye-catching to your brain;
  • "In the long run" is an important concept in math & stats that needs proper respect. A few weeks and a handful of coins are not sufficiently large numbers for much of anything;
  • Actually counting stuff and real data are kind of important; and most importantly:
  • I am not, in fact, a genius.
On the bright side, I may think about a way to construct a future job interview question about this. I manage a small team with little turnover so haven't had a huge number of opportunities to conduct interviews, but when I have done them I've tried to throw in a few brain teasers. Not because it's that important to the particular target job that the candidate have a great deal of raw skill in math or logic puzzles, but because it's fun, and instructive to see how someone reacts when put on the spot, and see a little bit about how they think.

I like estimation questions. I've asked a couple of simple and mundane ones, but I've seen a few suggested interview questions I haven't tried yet, like "How many gas stations are there in Europe?", or "How many airplanes are in the air above Canada right now?"

In a past job competition, I asked a simple math question: "What is thirty divided by one-third?". Half the people quickly answered "Ten"; a couple took a long time and a pencil and paper to answer "Ten"; a couple actually got it right; and a couple of people completely and utterly panicked.  Fun stuff.

Years ago, when hiring for call centre positions, a colleague used to ask "Is the VCR in your living room blinking 12:00 right now?" I thought that was a perfect question for the job.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Apparently, I still own this domain name...

I suppose I should do something with it. I don't believe I currently a hankerin' to do any actual real writing, but you never know. Probably something somewhere will either amuse me or piss me off sooner or later, and then BAM! - instant wisdom will occur.

For now, my goal is to survive boring, sanity-testing winter. There isn't even any damn snow to try some cross-country skiing. Another goal is to continue to successfully buttress scheming attempts by the other members of my family to bring home a cat. I used to actively hate cats, now I simply show them the same disdain they show me. I'm also allergic to many types of cats (but not all), so that would be risky and stupid anyway. Also not a big fan of the pan of excrement in my home.

Perhaps I need a hobby. Suggestions?