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Ted Rogers Gets a Statue at Rogers Centre

A new statue honouring the late media mogul was unveiled at Rogers Centre on Tuesday.

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You’ve got to give some credit to Ted Rogers: the late media mogul didn’t pretend he was a rabid baseball fanatic. “I have to be careful how I say this,” he wrote in his 2008 autobiography Relentless, “but I am not really a sports fan.” As he settled into his ownership of the Blue Jays, Rogers found himself “getting more and more interested in sports, from both a business standpoint, in that I mean a branding standpoint, and just as a fan. I go to every one of the Blue Jays home openers and some other games, where I get to meet and shake the hands of a lot of wonderful fans.”

On Tuesday, current Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed observed that Rogers would now be able to continue greeting fans, thanks to a bronze statue unveiled during a ceremony outside Rogers Centre before the night’s Blue Jays-Dodgers game. Located near Gate 6, beside Bremner Boulevard, the 12-foot bronze monument was sculpted by Siegfried Puchta, whose works include the firefighters’ memorial in Queen’s Park. It depicts Rogers holding the files that, according to his widow Loretta, he always carried.

While Rogers’s business acumen and philanthropic efforts should not be discounted, placing a memorial to him at the home of a team he owned for less than a decade seems slightly off.

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The ceremony, which included a performance by The Tenors, a religious blessing, and shout outs to attendees like former Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, portrayed Rogers as an awe-inspiring visionary. It’s true that Rogers restored the team to local ownership when he purchased it from Interbrew in September 2000. But, as Canada.com pointed out over the weekend, a more appropriate place to memorialize Rogers would be at the company’s headquarters at Bloor and Ted Rogers Way. A cynic might think the statue’s placement was just another branding exercise.

When sporting venues sprout statues, they usually honour athletes who excelled for the home team or made a great historical impact. Honourees who played roles off the field tend to be franchise builders (like Gene Autry in Anaheim and Ewing Kauffman in Kansas City) or beloved broadcasters (like Harry Caray in Chicago and Ernie Harwell in Detroit). By those criteria, if Rogers Centre administrators commission more statues, future subjects could include the likes of day-one employee and current Blue Jays president/CEO Paul Beeston and Hall of Fame broadcaster Tom Cheek. As for which players and managers should be bronzed, we’re open to suggestions.

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Even so, Rogers’s statue offers the possibility of a new tradition for the Blue Jays. During the official photo-op following the ceremony, we noticed one of Rogers’s grandsons rubbing the statue’s foot. Perhaps, like generations who have shined the foot of the memorial to Timothy Eaton, currently sitting in the Royal Ontario Museum, this kid hoped a little polish would bring good luck. We imagine fans flowing into the park, stopping to give a little rub for a home-team victory, perhaps even uttering Rogers’s signature phrase, which is inscribed on the statue’s base: “The best is yet to come.”

Additional material from Relentless, by Ted Rogers with Robert Brehl (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2008).

Photos by Jamie Bradburn/Torontoist.

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