Looking back at the start of Jays baseball in Toronto

With the new baseball season here once more, people’s spirits are lifted even if the weather is not what we expect for playing ball. However, the weather this week is very similar to when the Jays started in the big leagues.

The Blue Jays’ first game was played April 7th 1977 and left many wondering if putting a major league team in Toronto was such a good idea. The weather is freezing cold and the entire field is covered in snow. Players and fans alike wonder if it will be a “snow-out.” But groundskeepers vacuum up the snow, and after an 18-minute delay the umpire shouts “Play ball!” in front of 44,000 delighted fans. The Blue Jays won the game, outscoring the Chicago White Sox 9-5. Jays first baseman Doug Ault became an instant hero by hitting two home runs.

The manager was Roy Hartsfield, Bill Singer was the starter for the Jays, however, Jerry Johnson who came in as a reliever got the win. John Scott was the lead off batter but he struck out. The first hit went to Doug Ault when he hit his first home run.

Other notable items of interest from that day and season include:

Anne Murray, dressed in a red parka, sang a rather hurried version of O Canada before the first pitch.

CBC broadcast the game with Tom McKee as host and Don Chevrier doing the play-by-play.

Fans were chanting “we want beer” because Exhibition Stadium was the only major league baseball stadium that did not serve beer.

In their first season, the Blue Jays sold 9,000 season tickets, an American League record for a rookie club. More than 1.7 million fans attended games that first year.

The Blue Jays’ record in their first year was 54 wins and 107 losses, a result almost identical to that achieved by the Expos in their inaugural season. The Jays finished last in the American League East.

The Seattle Mariners were the other expansion team in 1977.

Exhibition Stadium was built for football in 1958 and modified for Blue Jays baseball. It could hold 43,737 baseball fans. The stadium had several drawbacks: the only covered section was over the left-field general admission seats (ironically, the cheapest in the park); the open end of the field faced windy Lake Ontario; and the metal seats were particularly uncomfortable in cold weather.

In 1989 the Blue Jays moved to the newly-constructed SkyDome.

Exhibition Stadium was demolished in 1999.

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