DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" ""> Tossing Pebbles in the Stream: 04/01/2013 - 05/01/2013 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream

This blog is my place to sit and toss pebbles into the stream. The stream of Life relentlessly passing before us. We can affect it little. For the most part I just watch it passing and follow the flow. Occasionally, I need to comment on its passing, tossing a pebble at it to enjoy the ripple affect upon Life's surface.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lessons Not Learned

This last weekend Toronto celebrated the 200th Anniversary of the  Battle of York during the War of 1812.  Before it was called Toronto the main settlement in that part of Ontario (Upper Canada) was know as the town of York. The land for this settlement had been purchased from the Mississauga of New Credit aboriginal band.

In 1812, York was a community of 600 or 700 people.  It  had both government administrative offices and private home and business. It also had a fort, Fork York, where a garrison of British soldiers was located. There were also navy ships in the harbour.

It is interesting to keep in mind how small this community was.  Any yet, everything was small by today's standard. The British has 6,000 troop in the Canada's and  the Maritime colony's to protect them.  The Americans mustered 7,000 militia (as the did not have a standing army and had to reinstate retired officers from the Revolutionary War, dust them off, and have them lead this attempt to occupy the rest of British North America.

The Battle of York was an attack by about 2,000 American troops who crossed Lake Ontario. from Sacket Harbour, New York, in order to capture Fort York, defeat the British troops there and (as it turned out) lay waste to the town of York. For the Americans it was a success, virtually the only success they had in the war, until they defeated the British at New Orleans (a few days after the war  was officially over.)  There was a first attempt to frustrate their advance on the Fort by a small group of Mississaugans (about 50). The British has problems organizing a counter offense and the forces decided on a retreat to Kingston, Ontario (A larger garrison and Fort).  Before abandoning the Fort the blew up the munitions left behind.  This killed several American soldiers including Zebulon Pike the leader, for whom Pike's Peak is named .  A truce was signed and the American troops burned down the government building and stole items from the government and private homes.  (It was not until 1934 that the Mace from the parliament was returned. ) To their credit the officers were shocked that soldiers had stolen books from the library. They recovered as many as they could and returned them to York.  This year the town of Sacket Harbour returned a few books of the type and vintage of one's stolen 200 years ago. After about a month's stay the American troops returned to the US side of the lake.

Fort York as it is today. It had been rebuilt after it was destroyed in 1813. It is now jammed between the Gardiner Expressway and the rail lines.  I have never visited it in spite of growing up in the Toronto area. I must put it on my bucket list.

In support of the invasion of Canada the Americans thought that it would be easy and the many British subjects (Canadians) would welcome them and the British would be easily defeated.  They misjudged the willingness to of the British North Americans to defend their home and country. The Native population believe their best interest was served by siding with the British. They were hoping for a territory of their own in what is now North Central United States from Ohio or Wisconsin.  They were lead by a great leader Tecumseh. The British soldiers were professionals and not just volunteer militia. The were well lead by General Brock as skilled leader. The settlers were fighting for their home and farms, always a strong motivation. Black former fugitive slaves had their own reasons to resist capture by the Americans and remain part of British North America.  And the French, who might be thought of as a fifth column in British North America were largely loyal to the British because the Establishment French class has prospered under the British and did not trust the Americans.

There was some sympathy for the Americans that might have been worked with if the Americans has not behaved so badly. The sacking of  York (Toronto) and  Newark (now Niagara on the Lake) strengthened the resolve of the population to resist the American invasion.. It turned out that the United Empire Loyalists who fled the United States after the Revolutionary War  and settled in Upper Canada, had little interest in becoming part of the United States.  The British were outraged at the destruction of these towns which inspired them to attack Washington. DC and burn the White House down.

The Battle  of York is an example of how not to invade a country if you hope to be accepted as an occupying army by the locals. Army in dealing with civilians and their property need to be polite and respectful. The history of  victorious armies raping and pillaging as a right for winning the war is the wrong behaviour if you hope to stay. Most armies of invasion seem to ignore this lesson. The Americans in Vietnam and Afghanistan and Iraq failed to behave well enough to gain long term acceptance by the local population. 
To their credit the invading forces Argentina, in the War of the Falklands, were instructed to treat the local people well as they were to be seen as Argentinian citizens.  For the most part they behaved themselves, unfortunately the Islanders were never going to accept being anything other than British. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Wonderful Teenager

Yes there are wonderful teenagers.  So often we seem to focus on the troubled teens who are experiencing angst in those transition years to adulthood. Fortunately, my three grandchildren seem to be mastering these teen years as are Lynn's two grandchildren.  How blessed we are.  As one who was an unhappy teenager most of those years who carried it into adult hood I am envious. 

My grand daughter, Olivia, is quite a remarkable teenager who seems to relish and thrive on being who she is in her teenage years. She is making the most of all the opportunities she has.  She is happy  and it seems very self motivated to succeed in everything she does.

Olivia is an outstanding student and athlete.  She graduated from elementary school a couple of years ago winning all the academic honours available.  She has always been involved in sports activities in the community playing alongside her brothers in hockey, soccer, swimming etc. Her  interest in sports was further nurtured when she entered the high school where she is now.

Olivia and her brothers have taken their elementary education at a french language public school. While her brother Dylan has switched to the English section in their high school, Olivia continues to take classes in the French language.  It seem she identifies closely with the French community in which her mother is rooted. As one who has never mastered French in spite of 8 years of formal study and a life long interest in the language, I see this recovering of her family French heritage the greatest of her accomplishments.  English is her first language but more correctly she has achieved  the Canadian ideal of being fully fluent in the two official languages, comfortable in both cultures.

Olivia in her school, L'école Secondaire Publique Northern Secondary School, maintains a 90+ academic average, a truly remarkable achievement level.  She does this without any great pressure from her parents. 

Olivia , as well, is very active in the sports programs at her school which she relishes and achieves success in comparable to her academic success.  I was reminded of this recently when my son sent me a notice that she will be publicly recognized for having been chosen as the Female Athlete of the Year at her school.  Last year was the first time  that a Grade 9 student achieved this. Her name will be listed in the West Nipissing Hall of Fame, en française, Le Temple de la Renommée  (I love that it is called a temple in french).  She continues to reap the reward of studying and playing hard.  How she must be enjoying her teenage years.

Olivia and her partner  Andrew Gendron most recently won the top honours in the mixed  doubles in badminton.  Here they are with their coach and teacher  Madame Leroy.

This is  a picture of Olivia, her father, Parker, and her brother, Dylan, last year, when both  were honoured for their athletic involvement.

Every year Olivia at school plays basketball and volleyball where she has been chosen to be the Captain of these teams.  (It seems she is popular as well as  successful.  She has been the regional champion in badminton. In track and field events she throws the javelin and the discus.  Honours came her way by being voted the MVP  in badminton and volleyball.  She has received the T & F coaches award. Also, as  I mentioned before now chosen  the Athlete of the Year.  I have no doubt that this level of achievement will continue for the rest of her high school career.

I look forward to all that Olivia will achieve in the future. I have no doubt she will continue her studies  at the university level  always finding a place for athletes which she so much enjoys.

All of her family is very proud of her and please she continues to develop into a lovely person  who will go on in life as an adult achieving much. and making a difference.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Jackie Robinson Day

This day is a wonderful occasion  supported by Major League Baseball  to yearly recognize the life and contribution to baseball of Jackie Robinson. This we need to remember. For people like myself who is old enough to remember some of the early years of the integration of baseball and the outstanding African American players whose play we admired and celebrated,  who is interested in history, particularly,. American history and the black experience and  knows first hand the progress North  American has made in overcoming institutional racism. this occasion might  not be necessary.  Given the limited way history is taught and how easily events fade into the past, this day is an opportunity to remember  a time of real progress in sport and culture.

Jackie Robinson's story is an inspirational one. His life was lived always resisting the racism he faced. He is best know for his role in baseball. He was chosen to be the pointy end of the spear  which opened up baseball to black players.  He was a great player  which help the cause of the integration of baseball, by winning over fans. After baseball he was a successful business person and continued to resist racism in the US. all his life.

I think about a lot of things associated with baseball this day.  Jackie Robinson's life and sports career foremost. There is also Canada's role in the career of Jackie Robinson and the integration of baseball, for which we have some reasons to be proud.  I think also of the men who supported him included the like of Branch Rickey, who chose him to take on the difficult task of being the first back player in major league baseball. recognizing that he was not only a great player but a man of character, Leo Durocher who challenged the player who resisted playing with Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, who openly befriended Robinson and helped him through trying times and the governors of  major league baseball who stood up to teams that threatened to not play against the Dodgers if Robinson played. For years many of the owners of major league baseball were deeply racist. The time to overcome this was long past.  I also think of the black community in the US, which loved baseball. The teams of the Negro League were one black institution that unified their communities.  For the sake of the integration of baseball the black community game up it's beloved league.

Canada was a different culture than the United States, prior to the integration of baseball.  We certainly had our share of racism and even some institutional forms of racism but as a culture Canada was more accepting of ethnic minorities. Certainly our laws mostly opposed  racism.  Baseball has a long history in Canada, going back to the 1880's.  The first game of baseball was played near St. Mary's Ontario, which is one of the reasons the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is in that town. Minor Professional baseball had flourished for many years as teams and league came and went. Black players throughout its history had played for Canadian teams. US black players came north to play for Canadian teams along with Afro Canadian players.  After the integration of baseball black players from the defunct negro league came north to finish out their careers. Many went to the Western Canadian league.

The International League, a Triple AAA minor professional league was the most successful.  There were great teams Some are listed on the MiLB list of 100 top teams. The Toronto Maple Leaf team is listed five times.

It is no mystery as to who Jackie Robinson was sent to the Montreal Royal Triple AAA team to prepare him to join the Dodgers.  Canadians can be proud to how the Robinson's were treated in Canada. Montreal embraced them and they lived for that difficult year in an atmosphere without the racism they experienced in the US. particularly in Florida, during the spring training.  The Robinson's always spoke gratefully of their treatment in Montreal.  Black players were not novel for the Royals team. They has had black players before, in fact there were two other black players on the team with Robinson.

There is a rich history of baseball in Canada. In particular, there is a history to learn about of wonderful black players who played on Canadian teams.

This is a statue to Jackie Robinson in Montreal, outside the Olympic Stadium.  I like this because it shows Robinson humanity and the admiration of a couple of children for him.

This statue recall the incident when Jackie Robinson was being verbally abused from the stands and Pee Wee Reese put his arm around him in support. 

Friday, April 05, 2013

Baseball Postscript

 This is my second posting on baseball. I feel I want to say more.

There is a great expectation for the Blue Jays to have a great season. They have a team that can have a great offense and a very strong pitching staff. 

Well two games into the season and there is little sign of much offense. Pitching is good but not spectacular.
Toronto lost game one to Cleveland 4 to 1 and the second game 4 to 3. Certainly not time to lose faith but disappointing to be sure. When are they going to show some outstanding offense.

To buoy my spirits I decided to watch  on my computer, the Triple A affiliate of Toronto, the Buffalo Bisons, in their opening game. There starting lineup is familiar, made up of exciting young players that played with the Blue Jays in spring training in Florida/ Most played some with the Blue Jays for part of their season last year.  The Bisons have a very strong team and should do well in the International League.

With Toronto Triple A team in Buffalo, there will be a lot of Canadians going to the Bison games. The baseball is good and of a high standard, the park is great, the prices are within people's means and while in Buffalo you could do some cross-border shopping  and even get some Buffalo Hot Wings.  Why wouldn't Canadians within 1 1/2  hour drive go to a game. (More Canadians have passports that Americans so border crossing is possible)  It will be interesting to see if the Bison team draws better than the 7,500 average attendance  a game this year.  With a lovely stadium with nearly 20,000 seats, the largest in the International League, there is lots of room for expansion of the fan base.  I hope so. I even hope to go myself even though I live 7 hours away.

This is the Peace Bridge between Buffalo, NY and Fort Erie, Ontario, over the Niagara River.  For the opening of the baseball season it was light up in the Bison (red) and Blue Jays (blue) colours.  There was a near capacity crowd for opening day (over 15,000) many from Canada I am sure. The Toronto Blue Jays Brass was there and Robbie Alomar, the former Jay and Hall of Fame member tossed out the ceremonial ball.

The Bisons, unlike the Jays, did not disappoint. They put on a great offensive show. and won the game against Rochester, 12 to 7.

This is Coca-Cola Stadium in downtown Buffalo. It is a classic baseball park. With about 20,000 seats (Buffalo hoped to get a Major League team at one time.  Maybe, still in their hearts  the do but Buffalo is having tough economic times for now)  The game is played outside in the elements and on grass, unlike in Toronto where it is played inside with no weather elements under the remarkable retractable roof and on artificial turf.
The Buffalo stadium was built only for baseball while the Toronto facility has multi uses: football, concerts, monster truck rallies etc..  The Coca-Cola Stadium is a gem of a ball park.

The Skydome, now the Rogers Center (home of the Blue Jays) is the low egg shaped edifice on the left. The phallic CN Tower looms erect over it and all of Toronto.  One has to assume that together they are symbols of the vitality of the continued development of Toronto. now a World Class city, no longer refered to as "hog town". 

After I listened to the Bison ball game in the afternoon, I steeled myself to listen to the Blue Jays' third game against Cleveland Indians.  They surely have to break out with some offense soon.  I hoped so and the Blue Jays did not disappoint this time. they won the game  10 to 8 against a Cleveland team that seemed determined to win the third game in the series.  Let this be the end of the jitters for the team. Tonight the Boston Red Sox come to town for a three game series.   Interest is high!

In my last post I mentioned how much I enjoy the quality of the radio broadcasts of the Blue Jays games.
First there was Tom Cheek who was there in the beginning of the team in 1977 and broadcast 4,306 consecutive games, home and away, until  shortly before he died.  He was there for those early years when the team played in Exhibition Stadium, sometimes in the snow as well as the glory years of 92 and 93 when the Jays won the World Series, back to back. He also was there for milestones  of the careers of great players for the Toronto team and many quirky events tossed in, such as the day  Dave Whitfield accidentally killed a seagull with a ball being tossed to a batboy.  Now his former sidekick and colour commentator, Jerry Howarth, does the play by play along with Jack Morris, a former pitcher.  He has been part of the Blue Jays organization for 32 years. 

Below is an interview with  Jerry which I found interesting. He explains how he came to become a baseball announcer and join the Blue Jays. He also explains how he came to become a born again Christian.  I never knew this about him. He never refers to it on air, to his credit. I have always been uncomfortable with sports teams  that where their religiosity on their sleeves.  Jerry seems to be a very modest man with a straight forward kind of charm.

Finally, I enjoy learning about the Canadians that play in Major League baseball.  Canada has a long history in baseball.  Hockey so dominates our national psyche that we ignore other sports.  There have been some great Canadian baseball players.  I remember Ferguson Jenkins and more recently Larry Walker.   Currently Joey Votto, from  Toronto, is one of the best Major League players.  The Toronto Blue Jays have almost always has one or two Canadian players.  Brett Lawrie is the only one currently on the roster although there are a handful in the organization among its 7 affiliates. I am always disappointed that they have not had more at one time. After all these years and being the only Canadian based team, I would have thought they would have sought out and signed more players. They certainly do try to support baseball across the country. It would be nice if they had more farm teams in Canada. Currently they have the Vancouver Canadians at A level team. There is an effort in Ottawa to create a baseball team there at the double AA level and have it a Blue Jay Affiliate. Years ago, for a short while they had a rookie league team in St. Catherines.  In Montreal there has been an empty spot in the spots culture there since the Montreal Expos, in the National League was relocated to Washington, DC.. There is considerable interest in baseball in Quebec where there are three team in the unaffiliated Can/Am Association League.  If there is ever an expansion of Major League baseball I hope Canada might be considered and that the Blue Jays would welcome more teams.

This is my last baseball post until or at least  when the Blue Jays get into the World Series.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

 Play Ball!  Go Jays Go!

I am all excited. Major League Baseball begins today in Toronto with the Blue Jays playing the Cleveland Indians.  This is a year of great hope and expectation. Could it be the beginning of a repeat of the 1992 and 1993 seasons when Toronto Blue Jays won back to back World Series?

This past year I decided to follow the Blue Jays after years of not doing so after the station that broadcast the games locally ceased to broadcast the games.   I  still cannot get the games on TV and actually prefer to listen to them on the radio.  On radio you share in the announcers exitement and knowledge of the game and it's history. Toronto has had great  play by play announcers throughout its history. Tom Cheek broadcast from the first day of their existence.for 27 years for 4,306 consecutive games.  He is now in the Baseball Hall of Fame. When he died his sidekick, Jerry Haworth, took over and his been the announcer for 32 years to this day.  Here is the whole broadcast team

2012 was a very difficult years for the Blue Jays. In spite of having some exciting baseball players, they suffered from more injuries than any team can recover from.  The organization has developed great depth in its minor league team  which supplied young talent to fill in;. mainly from the AAA team in Las Vegas but they could not replace proven major league players. 

This year holds great promise.  Over the Winter the team made some big time trades to get major players. The Roger Broadcasting Company which owns the team, the Rogers Centre ballpark and the broadcasting rights (radio and TV) to all of Canada, decided to spend some money to make major changes.  On paper it looks great.
The starting pitching rotation is outstanding. The most exciting pitcher is R.A. Dickey who pitches the most interesting pitch, the knuckle ball.  All but one of the five starting pitcher is new.and proven successful major league players.  In the field, there are major changes as well.  It seems the most exciting new player is Jose Reyes, a shortstop, who is not only an outstanding player but also charming and full of fun. Another player worth watching is Melky Cabrera, a great player with something to prove. He was convicted of using drug enhancing drugs last year and it seeking a new start and redemption.  His effort in Spring training is any indicator he will achieve this and be a great player with Toronto.  There is no reason the best player from last year will not repeat this year: There seem to be few if any weaknesses in this years team. Besides better pitching their is potentially better hitting. There are more left handed pitchers this year that can be strategically important. Toronto has a great running group of players what can steal bases and occasionally beat out an otherwise routine out.

Toronto's farm system still has great depth.  The AAA team is now in Buffalo, The Buffalo Bisons, instead of in Las Vegas. This will make it easier to call up players when needed. With the players on this team the Bison's should field an exiting team this year.  They have a lovely ballpark to play it. It is only 1 1/2 hour drive from Toronto, good for players call up and fans to take in some games in Buffalo to enjoy some players who will be Toronto Blue Jays future.

My son, the teacher, is playing hooky today to go to Toronto for the opening game. He is in good company, he is going with his friend and Principal of his school. (I guess the two of them are taking sick days).  Lucky fellas. I left a message for Parker to take an extra day and stay to take in the opening day game in Buffalo, on April 4.  I doubt he will but I thought it would be a great idea. This year I would like to go to a game in Buffalo as well as some in Toronto.

Memories. . . . . . .

Joe Carter was involved in the wining play in both the 1992 and 1993 World  series.  He was playing first base., in 1992,  when the pitcher Timlin picked up the bunt and tossed him the ball for the final out against Atlanta. In 1993, Joe Carter hit the winning home run for which he will always be remembered.  Here is a tribute to Joe Carter by the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame in which his memorial home run is shown.  Joe Carter is still doing promotional work for the Blue Jays and giving back by working with kids interesting in baseball. 

Here is Tom Cheek announcing Joe Carter's winning home run. 

Sadly we all grow older.  Here is an aging group of players from those 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays. Older yes, but what memories they have left us and surely what memories they share as part of those great teams.

Tonight a new season begins full of hope.  There will be wonderful moments in many games but the DREAM is that there will be great moments to rival the last time the Toronto Blue Jays, Canada's baseball team, won it all in World Series games.

Go, Jays Go!

I am off to find my blue Blue Jays logo jelly mold.  Time to celebrate!