Archive for the ‘Rogers Centre’ Category


Sad news to precede today’s Daily Duce, as yesterday we learned that a recognizable character from the Rogers Centre, and all manner of Toronto sports venues has passed away: Ralphael Platner, aka “Ralph the Program Guy.”

According to Random Jays Stuff, the bespectacled program seller who would also walk the stadium aisles in his familiar shorts, selling flags, foam fingers, and pennants, “missed most of the 2014 Blue Jays season due to a prolonged illness. I found out today that he recently succumbed to the illness at the age of 67.”

Mark Hebscher has some terrific remembrances of the man he knew as “Ralph the Party Crasher” — a moniker that date back to Hebscher’s bar mitzvah, one of many, apparently, that Ralph crashed “for the food” — and who he calls “Toronto’s witness to sports history,” for the fact that Ralph attended thousands upon thousands of games in the city, in addition to many, many concerts, dating back to the Beatles at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1964. “I used to see him at Mosport,” he remarks, illustrating the breadth of what Ralph had seen. “He probably attended/worked 10 thousand events over the years, and made money at every one of them.”

Random Jays Stuff points us to a small 2011 Globe and Mail profile of him that paints him as one of the city’s legendary characters. “His encyclopedic recall of facts and ability to remember certain fans from decades ago have gained him notoriety among those who attend sports events in the city,” they explain. And they give examples:

“Did you know a plane crashed a week after Kennedy was killed? Nobody remembers that,” he says.

On Nov. 29, 1963, Trans-Canada Air Lines flight 831 crashed, flying from Montreal to Toronto, killing all 118 people on board.

“Three days before Kennedy was killed, Donald Summerville, the mayor of Toronto, died of a heart attack. He was playing in a charity hockey game, I think.”

On Nov. 19, 1963, the newly elected mayor did, indeed, die during such a game at George Bell arena.

Mr. Platner also has the great party trick of being able to tell you the day of the week on which your birth fell. He pronounces that May 2, 1969, was a Friday. How did he do that?

“Well, because of Kent State,” he begins modestly. “That was May 4, 1970, so I just worked it out from there.”

Amazing stuff. Must have been a real unique guy to talk to, for those who took the trouble to get to know him.

I must admit that I was not one of those people — not that it would have necessarily been easy, since, as Hebscher puts it, “Ralph was always in a hurry. … I never saw him in a seated position. He was always standing, or walking, or running.” — but he was certainly a familiar part of the ballpark experience. It’s going to be strange to think of him not being there when the Jays return to Rogers Centre next April, and I hope we all take a moment to do just that.

R.I.P. Ralph.


Image via Random Jays Stuff.


Interesting stuff this morning from Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star, who spoke to R.A. Dickey on the eve of his final start of the season, which will be tonight at Rogers Centre. The weather forecast currently says it will be clear, 16 degrees Celsius, with a light wind– a perfect early-autumn evening– and yet, if Dickey gets his wish, the dome will be closed.

Kennedy notes that Dickey “ stopped short of saying he wants a say on when the roof will be open or closed next year,” but for tonight, the pitcher says that it’s his “hope they will so it’ll give us one more measurement before the year’s up.”

“Ultimately (team brass) will want that information,” Dickey tells Kennedy. “I would think that winning is the thing they place the most emphasis on.”

They might… they might…

But they might not risk pissing off the paying customers who’ve already suffered so much this year and may be unimpressed with the idea of spending a nice fall evening indoors. In a way, though, tonight may be the perfect test– the Jays have the almost-plausible pretext of cold to use to quash whatever anger the closed roof might engender. If this upsets fans, imagine asking them to sit indoors on those sticky plastic seats, squirming in futile attempts to escape soaking in their own sweat, in the oppressive humidity of a mid-July afternoon.

In that sense I’m for it. And the fact that it’s even a conversation is rather interesting– we’ve always wondered just how much control the Jays can exert over their own roof, and this suggests it could potentially be quite a lot. Unfortunately, as far as the core point of the exercise goes– the little extra nugget of data Dickey hopes get– I just don’t think it really matters.

As Kennedy correctly asserts, “even after a full season it’s still a small sample, which includes plenty of non-roof-related variables, namely the quality of the competition and the quality of Dickey’s knuckleball.”

I wrote about this last week, as well, explaining that, crucially, “the bulk of Dickey’s indoor [home] starts came when he was at his healthiest– in April and early May, and again in late August and September. Almost the entire run of mid-season starts when Dickey was struggling with his velocity due to an ailing back is included in the data for his outdoor starts.”

Obviously, though, Dickey knows himself better than we do. If he thinks that he should have been better during that less-than-stellar mid-season run, and that there were factors other than his health that may have been at play, then sure, give it a crack with the roof closed. Even if he just thinks there’s some kind of tangible Dome Effect and that helps him, by all means, close the fucker up!

Shit, I keep thinking back to the interview I noted in a Daily Duce this week, between pitching coach Pete Walker and Scott MacArthur of, where we were told that at some point early on he had “some things that he was tipping,” and the game against Boston where he threw batting practice for an inning before settling down– an inning which, if you remove it from his sample of closed-roof starts, brings his closed-roof ERA for the season down to 2.79. Or, at least, it brought it down to that point as of September 19th.

But obviously there are some huge, huge variables here. And data sets that are woefully small, and still quite volatile– as the removal of the single inning against Boston, which drops Dickey’s ERA a full run, demonstrates. So… yeah, I’m just not sure how badly I’m into stewing inside the oppressive humidity of the closed dome in mid-summer for some superstition. And right now, that’s all it is.

If it works, though, I guess. Can’t be much more miserable in there than it has been this year, right? HEYO!


Last evening I was involved– and by “involved” I mean was included on, despite a total lack of participation on my part, not that I’m complaining!– in a conversation on Twitter about why grass in the Rogers Centre and having the Argos play in the Rogers Centre are mutually exclusive things.

The answer, of course, is that they have to reconfigure seats to set the facility up for football, meaning that a grass baseball field wouldn’t cover the entirety of the football playing surface, and football-compatible grass field would be covered over by seats when the stadium is in its baseball configuration, and all but destroyed– not to mention whatever damage to the grass would occur while rotating the field level seats from one setup to the other (if that was even somehow possible).

But that answer is irrelevant to what I’m posting here– as is my contention that the suggestion that came up in the conversation about switching Rogers Centre to be setup as originally intended, with home plate on the third base side and enough space to play football between left field and the first base line, is a ridiculously expensive and wholly unfeasible proposition– because look at that fucking thing at the top of the page!

It comes from a site called Stadium Page, which in its SkyDome section has pictures of the models that were created in 1985 by the four firms that had been selected as finalists to design the building, and– hoo boy!– they had some pretty curious ideas when it came to stadium design back  then. Apologies if you’ve seen it elsewhere before, but this was all new to me (or maybe I’m just too hung over to remember seeing it before)…

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Trying to correctly read into the numbers posted by R.A. Dickey when pitching either inside or outside at Rogers Centre this season is maybe not quite as tricky as hitting the “capricious animal” that is his bread and butter, but it’s pretty damn tricky.

Plenty was made, when the Cy Young winner was acquired by the Jays last winter, about knuckleballers’ affinity for the neutral conditions inside a domed stadium, which seemed to be borne out by Dickey’s incredible performance in a June 2012 start at Tampa, in which he struck out 12, walked none, and dazzled with his knuckler to a complete game victory. But as we all know, the pitcher has struggled badly in his home park, largely because of his propensity to give up home runs in it– he’s given up 21 of his 31 home runs this season at home.

We now have nearly a full season’s worth of data on how he’s done as a member of the Blue Jays, and I’ve used the game logs and box scores at Baseball Reference to go back through it, separating his starts into ones where the Rogers Centre roof was closed at the start of play, and those where it was open (whether the roof moved after play began is not noted). The differences are rather eye-popping, but for two key reasons that data is rather unreliable.

For one, this experiment forces us to parcel out the data into quite small samples, and naturally that’s going to make it much hard to claim that it demonstrates a pattern being established.

For two, the bulk of Dickey’s indoor starts came when he was at his healthiest– in April and early May, and again in late August and September. Almost the entire run of mid-season starts when Dickey was struggling with his velocity due to an ailing back is included in the data for his outdoor starts.

So, maybe this is pointless. But let’s press on, with those heavy, heavy caveats in mind, and have a look at the actual numbers:

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running2It’s one of the dumbest things you can do at a baseball game. Forget the extreme likelihood of it being alcohol-fueled. Forget the potential for personal ramifications. Forget the disruptive attributes. Forget the long line of questionable characters who went before you, and with whom, you are henceforth linked.

As a spectator who dares to tread on the stage of the spectacle, your actions are informing 50,000 people – many of whom paid a not-insignificant amount of money to be there – that it is ALL about you. You are altering their experience into a moment of selfish gratification for your own personal attention starvation. You are stealing their time, their focus and their gaze. You are a thief. You are that guy.

Personally, I hate you. I despise you with more energy than is remotely reasonable. I watch you zig-zag around the field, hopeful that a violent blow will befall you that physical pain and existential questions to resonate throughout your body and being. That’s just me.

Fortunately, there are many who are not like me. There are others in possession of a – most likely – healthier attitude toward fans traversing the boundaries of common sense and the field of play. They can laugh at such things.

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Oh, SkyDome

The Rogers Centre turned 24 years old this week, having opened on June 3rd, 1989, and completely fittingly, apparently this is reason to both celebrate (somewhat) and malign the old girl.

At Grantland, Jonah Keri began ranking ballpark experiences from throughout the Majors, with our little concrete mausoleum coming in way down at number 21. That’s actually ahead of both of the new New York stadiums in his mind’s eye, but… that doesn’t mean the bottom-third ranking looks pretty.

Then again, he doesn’t entirely hate the building, noting that it’s “perfectly pleasant when the roof’s open, and isn’t far from the bars and restaurants lining vibrant King and Queen Streets in downtown Toronto. Still, neither[ it nor Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field is] a stadium around which you’d want to plan a big road trip.”

It’s really not such a bad review, actually. And not entirely off base, either, though I’d suggest that some mention of the atrociously ugly layer of thin felt on top of the leg-destroying concrete wouldn’t have been out of line.

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Me either! But for those of you who do, we’ve got a rather serendipitous one from the 100 Level over the weekend. Kinda odd that someone just happened to be filming in the exact spot at the precise time here, but… that sure is a whole lot of liquid to have had… uh… on ones person (or, rather, in one’s person) if you’re going to fake a thing like this. Also, there’s like $50 worth of Rogers Centre-bought booze he’s wasting there!

And the YouTube description definitely tries to throw us off the scent that the man with the camera and the film-ee knew each other, as it simply says, “Fat bastard puking his guts out.”

Of course, YouTube wouldn’t stop there, as someone calling himself “capnbeefcurtains” quips, “that is a lot of barf. well done.”

Indeed. Hold onto your hats below the jump…

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