CBC sent 26 people to cover the Blue Jays’ inaugural spring training in Dunedin, Florida. The network’s plans included an hour-long special to introduce the team, along with feature segments on <i>The National</i> and <i>90 Minutes Live</i>. To mark its <a href="http://torontoist.com/2008/09/historicist_television_comes_to_tor/">25th anniversary that fall</a> CBLT rebranded itself as “CBC Toronto,” a move which the <i>Globe and Mail</i> declared was “an admission of defeat in a campaign that’s gone on for years, to give CBLT an identity as a Toronto local station, not just a network outlet.”
Around 100 members of the Toronto media attended spring training, including CFRB’s trio of sports reporters. Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield didn’t mind the distraction. “I’d much rather have it this way,” he told the <i>Globe and Mail</i>, “then the other way with no reporters at all.”
<a href="http://torontoist.com/2010/08/vintage_toronto_ads_move_up_your_dial_to_ckfh/">CKFH</a>, whose primary format in 1977 was country music, served as the Blue Jays’ original flagship radio station. Sixteen other stations, including one in Buffalo, signed on to carry games. Calling the games were <a href="http://www.thestar.com/sports/bluejays/2013/07/29/blue_jays_bullpen_memories_of_tom_cheek.html">Tom Cheek</a> on play-by-play and Hall of Fame pitcher <a href="http://baseballhall.org/hof/wynn-early">Early Wynn</a> on colour. Before joining the Jays, Cheek spent three seasons as an alternate radio announcer for the Montreal Expos. Wynn lasted through 1980, and was replaced the following year by Jerry Howarth. Apart from a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s when CHUM held the rights, CFKH and its successor CJCL (Fan 590) has remained the team’s radio home.
Pizza Pizza’s signature phone number still wasn’t in place a decade after its original location at Parliament and Wellesley opened in 1967. Before becoming ubiquitous, Pizza Pizza earned praise for its pies. In a taste test of eight pizzerias conducted by the <i>Star</i> in June 1971, Pizza Pizza came in second: “Pizza Pizza raises its standing with style. The pie arrives in a box that’s zippered into an insulated black bag. The deliveryman uncased it with words like ‘Here is your delicious Pizza Pizza. Enjoy it in good health.’ Their motto, ‘When you think of pizza, think of pizza twice,’ is also catchy. It is expensive with “the works”—a dollar more than any of the others. It was also the largest by several inches and easily the best-looking entrant.”
<a href="http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/georges-jazz-room-emc/">George’s Spaghetti House</a> was a fixture of the Toronto jazz scene for decades. Founded by <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/06/17/doug_cole_founder_of_torontos_first_jazz_club_has_died.html">Doug Cole</a> in 1956, the venue's booker was multi-instrumentalist <a href="http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/moe-koffman-emc/">Moe Koffman</a>. Bourbon Street was a sister club which operated during the 1970s and 1980s. Playing at George’s this week in 1977 was trumpeter <a href="http://samnoto.jazzgiants.net/">Sam Noto</a>. Worn out from playing assembly line style gigs in Las Vegas during the first half of the 1970s, Noto relocated his family to Toronto. “Not only does he rank it as the jazz centre of North America,” Frank Rasky wrote in the <i>Star</i>, “but it’s the city that has enabled him to double his income, so that he now earns $44,000 a year. So it’s little wonder that his jazz creations sound so jubilant.”
With its proximity to Exhibition Stadium, <a href="http://torontoist.com/2012/02/its-all-yours-at-ontario-place/">Ontario Place</a> may have seemed like an excellent spot for families to prepare for the game ahead or unwind after the final out.
Foster Pontiac Buick was among the local car dealers who advertised in the debut scorebook. One of the earliest dealerships to establish itself in postwar Scarborough, Foster switched its affiliation from General Motors to <a href="http://www.fosterkia.com/">Kia</a> around 2009. After over 60 years at Sheppard and Warden, the dealership will move to Markham Road this summer.
“One of the most pleasant tasks for me as we are entering the 1977 baseball season,” wrote commissioner Bowie Kuhn in his introductory letter to Blue Jays fans, “ is to welcome all of you to the Major League Baseball family. Major League Baseball is exceedingly proud to include Toronto, one of the great cities of the world, within its ranks.”
Great way to stroke the egos of Torontonians aching to be seen as residents of a world-class city, eh?
Accompanying Kuhn’s letter in the inaugural Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine was one from American League President Lee MacPhail:
Now the youthful Blue Jays are off and flying on their own and it will be an exciting experience watching the development of this team. Your outstanding ownership and management will be working constantly toward building the contending baseball team that all Blue Jay fans will be proud of. Enjoy this first season of Major League Baseball at CNE Stadium. It will be fun. And the years ahead will be increasingly enjoyable.
As this year’s spring training unfolds and opening day draws closer, we’ve going back to the Jays’ debut season to present a gallery of the advertisers who cheered them on that year.
I remember the snow on the field and I remember Doug Ault [who hit the franchise’s first home run just before Woods stepped up to the plate] and I remember the excitement in the city. I was a young ballplayer very excited to be part of a building experience. It was a really neat feeling. But of course we played like an expansion team and I played like a guy who wasn’t quite ready for the major leagues.
All images taken from Toronto Blue Jays Scorebook Magazine Volume 1, Number 17 (1977). Additional material from the March 21, 1977 and September 15, 1977 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the June 5, 1971, April 2, 1977, and October 8, 1985 editions of the Toronto Star.