My first MLB game as captured by Topps

Knucksie making life difficult. Note this picture is from a home game for NY and the record was set in Toronto.

On Oct. 6, 1985, I went to my first big-league game (I’d seen a number of minor league games in Calgary).  My best friend had gotten tickets and his dad was going to bring us down to Exhibition Stadium to see the Blue Jays take on the New York Yankees.

The day was chilly – only a handful of degrees above freezing.  Jacket weather for sure.  I had a new Jays cap I was wearing and my friend had – of all things – a tan ball cap emblazoned with a large logo promoting Ontario Pork.

We discussed how to stay warm and he pulled a bun from our lunch and stuck it on his nose, quipping (in his best Jays announcer voice)  “Now there’s a young man with an Ontario Pork hat and a bun on his nose.  Hmm.  Must be a Yankee fan.”

The Jays had clinched the AL East the day before, so almost all the regulars sat this one out.  The roster we saw looked a lot more like the Syracuse Chiefs than the Blue Jays.  The outfield had Lou Thornton in right, Rick Leach in left and Ron Shepherd in centre.  A kid named Cecil Fielder was at first.  44,422 fans watched a young John Cerutti making his second or third career start.

On the mound for the Yankees was Phil Niekro.

Our seats were a handful of rows back near third base.  “You’ve got to keep your head up here,” my friend’s dad said, “a foul ball can come in really hard.”  Almost on cue, Don Mattingly crushed one that hissed right over our heads and crashed into the seats about 5 rows back.  I’d never heard a sound like that.  I had a glove, but decided I probably wouldn’t use it except in self-defense.

Cerutti got knocked around by the Yankees and Niekro was at his best.  The knuckleball was dancing and the Jays/Chiefs weren’t doing much with it.  The most memorable Toronto hit of the afternoon was a Jeff Burroughs single for which he seemed to run to first without lifting either foot off the ground.  He stood on first, chuckling as a cloud of dust settled around him.  “The high-powered shuffle,” we dubbed it.

The bullpens at the Ex were along the foul lines and at one point Ernie Whitt went out to warm up a pitcher (likely Jim Acker).  My friend called something out and Whitt looked at us like we had two heads.  We blamed the Ontario Pork hat.

Cerutti only lasted four innings, pitching three scoreless after giving up three runs in the first.  The Yanks got to Jim Acker for a pair in the 5th, and when Bill Caudill gave up two in the eighth to put New York up 7-0, my friend’s dad decided it was time to beat the traffic out.

We heard the last of the game on the radio – New York got one more and Knucksie pitched the 9th, recording his 300th win and a shutout to boot.

And we were there – for most of it, anyway.

OPC didn’t have the record-breakers in their 1986 set and it was a couple of years before I saw this Topps card.  I think it’s the only card I have from any sport that references something I actually saw in person.  The fact it was my first big league game makes it all the better.

and for old times’ sake:

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7 Responses to My first MLB game as captured by Topps

  1. shanediaz82 says:

    Great story, so cool to have your first game captured on cardboard!

    • 1967ers says:

      It was pretty neat. I don’t know how many years later I picked up the ’86 Topps set. Probably two or three. If OPC had had that card, that would have been pretty nifty. 🙂

  2. Chris says:

    I watched that game, too. But it was from the living room couch just over the border in Upstate NY, where I lived at the time. I was supposed to have gone to the previous day’s game in person with one of my friends, but the planned trip fell through.

    Looks like we were rooting for opposite teams, however.

    • 1967ers says:

      Well, the previous day’s game – though a classic (from my perspective) – would probably have been a bit of a downer, anyway. 🙂

      Did you ever get to the Ex? That was an interesting place to watch a ball game. I saw a couple from the left field grandstand (which was really the end zone of the football stadium) where you just might catch the outfielders’ heads over the top of the fence if you were lucky.

      Yanks still your team? I’ve never been able to pick up an affiliation from your blog posts.

      • Chris says:

        By the time I finally made it to Toronto, the Jays were in the Skydome. I never saw a game at the Ex. But as a baseball fan, I’d have still liked to watch the game and be a part of history, even if it was at the expense of the team I was rooting for.

        Yeah, I’m still a Yankees fan (and have been since 1978). But I try not to let it out too much in my posts. Like I said, I’m a baseball fan above all.

  3. Rob says:

    In fairness to Ernie Whitt, we did have two heads.
    And I think I yelled ‘Hey, Ernie, but I also have terrible tendency to make stuff up retrospectively. Which is where you chronicling is so important!
    Also, we need to catch another Jays game some time. I’ll have to wear my Denver Broncos hat as I don’t havevOntario Pork anymore. My only excuse is that it was a free hat….

  4. robert0 says:

    And imagine – we are still younger today than Niekro was back then!
    Great memories! 🙂

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