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: