A lot of things contribute to help define a world class city. The skyline, transit, walkability and tourist appeal all add to a city’s stature as an international destination, but to many living abroad, cities are best known for their sports teams.
Over the years I have encountered many Americans who had heard of neither Yonge Street nor the CN Tower, but ask them who Joe Carter is, and a true baseball fan will vividly recall his legendary walk-off, World Series-winning home run in October of 1993. I was a mere child at the time, barely old enough to tie my own shoes, but that moment still remains a defining point in my life, as well as the lives of countless Toronto sports fans.
The excitement of the early 1990s would soon wane though. As the years progressed, the Blue Jays lost their competitive edge, and as a result, their fan base also began to decline. Even after telecommunications giant Rogers bought a majority stake in the team in 2000, many continued to question to long term financial viability of the franchise. With the relocation of the Montreal Expos following the 2004 MLB season, as well as mounting financial problems for the suffering Blue Jays, the future of Major League Baseball in Canada was looking grim to say the least.
Throughout the mid 2000’s, the Blue Jays organization, now the only non-American team in the league, were hemorrhaging money at an astounding rate, which eventually lead to the SkyDome being purchased by team owner Rogers in 2004 for a fraction of the original cost. Though many, including myself, haven’t adapted easily to the subsequent renaming of the facility, it is difficult to deny that if it weren’t for Rogers’ bold purchases of the franchise and stadium, there very well may have been a Brooklyn Blue Jays playing this season.
Just four years after the purchase and renaming of SkyDome, CEO Edward “Ted” Rogers passed away, and to commemorate his massive contribution to the team, a 12-foot bronze statue has now been erected along Bremner Boulevard, outside Gate 5 of the stadium that bears his name.
Yesterday afternoon, a few hours before the first pitch of the Blue Jays’ home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the statue was unveiled to much fanfare in an event hosted by CityTV’s Kevin Frankish and Dina Pugliese.
Many familiar faces were in attendance, including former Blue Jays Manager Cito Gaston, and current stars like Jose Bautista and R.A Dickey.
Flanked by RCMP officers, Canadian group ‘The Tenors’ performed for the crowd in the moments before the statue was unveiled.
The event featured by Rogers CEO Nadir Mohammed and various members of the Rogers family including Ted's children and his widow Loretta, all of whom were present to unveil the statue, revealing it to the public.
“Ted was truly an icon who transformed the communications landscape,” said Rogers CEO Nadir Mohammed, “He built Rogers Communications from the ground up into one of our country’s greatest success stories”.
It is worth noting that various other media outlets have taken an entirely different approach on this story, deriding the placement of the statue and its relevance to the team, but given the direction our team was heading before the takeover (read: south of the border), it seems very fitting that it stand guard at one of the stadium's busiest gates.
The 800 pound statue, which rests on a 400 pound granite base, was created over the course of seven months by German-Canadian sculptor Siegfried “Siggy” Puchta, a longtime friend of the Rogers family. Inscribed on the base of the statue, a famed quote by the late Ted Rogers reminds us of the optimistic entrepreneur that helped to keep Major League Baseball in Toronto; “The Best is Yet to Come”.