George, Lloyd, Tom, Tony, Fred …

Pinch hitting in The 500 Level today is Allen Ford, a former member of the grounds crew at old Exhibition Stadium (also affectionately referred to as ‘the mistake by the lake’). Today, he gives us his take on some former Jays …

Being a groundskeeper for a major league team has a lot of benefits. Not the least of which is the lifetime guarantee that no matter the party or gathering, you’ll always have at least one or two sure fire stories to throw out.

Of course, I spent one of those in my first post, so I’ll have to save my Ozzie Guillen for another time.

Once you bust out a story though, there’s always, always a Jays fan that wants to know what such and such a player was like.

Here then is my completely biased review of some of the 1988 and 1989 Toronto Blue Jays who I recall fondly — and not so fondly.

Tony Fernandez – A quiet guy, yet easily the hardest working player on the field. Batting practice and infield were never taken lightly by him.

Jimmy Key – An arrogant SOB. Never had time for us, and the clubhouse boys said he was a notoriously cheap tipper.  So when he came to us asking about preparing the mound in a certain way, we just nodded our heads and went about preparing it to suit other pitchers on the staff that we liked.

Ernie Whitt — Easily rivaled Key on the SOB scale. Don’t be misled by the good guy stuff.

Buck Martinez — I can only recall how I used to look at his jello midsection and pudding thighs and wonder, ‘how the hell is this guy a professional athlete?’

The Crime Dog, Freddie McGriff – A nice guy whose personality was every bit as smooth as his swing.

Willie Upshaw — Another nice guy who went about his business without ego. I remember early in my first season sitting in the dugout with my lunch when Chugger sat down beside me, looked at my sandwich, and said, “Can I have some of that?” I was absolutely speechless. Here was the great #26 asking me for my lunch!!! What a cool job this is.

Shaker Mo’ and Jesse Barfield — I mention these two together not because they played the outfield together, but because they always seemed to be coming or going from some bible meeting. Yet nice guys all the same. Lloyd signed a ball for me that read  “To the World’s Greatest Mom! Best Wishes, Lloyd Moseby”

Tom Henke – Just a good ol’ country boy who was always approachable and didn’t put on any airs. Once while squeegeeing off the tarp during a rain and lightning delay, Henke took a look at our metal squeegees and bellowed to us in his Southern drawl, “You boys might as well be out there with lightning rods on your heads!”

Dave Stieb – Dave Stieb is Dave Stieb, you know what I mean?

Todd Stottlemyre — Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Jose Nunez – Made Todd Stottlemyre seem like Einstein.

Rob Ducey – How do you think a Canadian kid from Cambridge playing in the Major Leagues is?

Jerry Howarth and Tom Cheek — Tom was a nice guy who always carried himself with a certain dignity. The kind of person who you automatically respect. Jerry was a hard-working guy, but one you could always approach.

Garth Iorg — Maybe it was his name which always puzzled me, but he always gave me a sense that he never could quite believe he was in the Big Leagues.

Rance Mulliniks — Along with Tony Fernandez, another hard working guy who took BP and infield with the utmost seriousness.

I now come to my favourite player, one who polarized Blue Jays fans like none other, and played the game with style and swagger.

I am talking about your left fielder…

Number 11…

George Bell.

Simply put: George was nowhere near the villain the media made him out to be. With the hat tilted forward and stained with gel from his jheri curls, and his languid stroll and occasional lapses in the field, it is easy to see how the media could brand him as a problem. But I’ll vouch for the guy. Maybe I didn’t understand everything he mumbled, but at least he always made eye contact and had a nod for you. And he wasn’t above joking around by knocking on the door of the grounds crew room and surprising the unsuspecting person with a bat swinging by his head.

Now, what about some of the visiting players…

Allen Ford now lives and works in Ottawa as a graphic designer and still thinks about Fred McGriff’s sweet and languid stroke.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: