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The Kid

How Sidney Crosby Became the Most Important Player in the History of the Game
edition:Hardcover
tagged : hockey, sports
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Woman Enough

Woman Enough

How a Boy Became a Woman and Changed the World of Sport
edition:Hardcover
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Hello, Friends!

Hello, Friends!

Stories from My Life and Blue Jays Baseball
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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Excerpt

The Bat Flip

 

October 14, 2015, will always be remembered for the bat flip and a cherished moment in my Blue Jays career at the microphone. Yes, that was the day that Jose Bautista in the 7th inning of the final and deciding game of the ALDS against Texas finished off one of the most famous and bizarre playoff innings in major league history. An inning that took a phenomenal 53 minutes to play. 

Texas had taken the lead in the top of the inning on a throw back to the mound by catcher Russ Martin that hit the bat of Shin-Soo Choo in the batters’ box. Roughed Odor was allowed to score from third base after the ball was initially ruled a dead ball. Texas took a 3-2 lead. The crowd went berserk. In the bottom of the inning three softly hit ground balls amazingly led to three straight Texas errors loading the bases. It reminded me of the old adage in baseball: “Theres no such thing as a routine ground ball.

With the infield drawn in, a little pop up out behind second base resulted in a force out at second as a run scored to tie the game 3-3 leaving runners at the corners. Up stepped Jose Bautista off right-handed reliever Sam Dyson. On the 1-1 pitch Bautista hit the biggest home run of his career. As the ball sailed toward deep left centre field I simply said: “Yes! (pause) Sir! (pause) THERE! (pause) SHE! (pause) GOES!” The thunderous applause filled our crowd mic for a full 40 seconds. Bautista paused for a moment as he watched the ball fly over the wall. As the crowd erupted, Bautista then tossed his bat high over his shoulder toward the Rangers first base dugout. His famous – or infamous depending on which side you came down on – bat flip was the exclamation point.

People have asked me many times since, how I felt about Jose’s bat-flip. I tell them I feel exactly the same way former Blue Jays pitcher and later Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart felt about it:

 

In today’s game, what Jose Bautista did, that’s acceptable. I’ve got to tell you, there’s no better professional than he is. There’s no better guy and no better teammate than he is. So I don’t think it was to show up the other side. I don’t believe that. I just think that’s how they play today, and displays of emotion when you do something great – especially on that platform in that moment – that’s just today’s game.

 

The season would end on a Friday night October 23 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City with a heart-breaking 4-3 loss in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. In that game Bautista hit two home runs and drove in all three runs. His two-run home run in the top of the 8th inning dramatically tied the game 3-3 only to see the Royals score a run in the bottom of the 8th and then hold on to win it in the 9th as the Blue Jays left runners at 2nd and 3rd.

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The Greatest Athlete (You've Never Heard Of)

The Greatest Athlete (You've Never Heard Of)

Canada's First Olympic Gold Medallist
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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Excerpt

Chapter 1: The Biggest Race of His Life

“It is not the size nor build nor physique nor qualities of inherited ancestry that determines a track and field champion. The boy of slender build and of apparent constitutional weakness may turn out to be another George Orton, invincible in the distance runs.” — Donald W. Hendrickson, 1909

Imagine you are three years old. You love to run and jump and play with your friends. But the doctor has just told your parents that you may never be able to walk or use your right arm again because of a terrible accident. You lie in bed, paralyzed, while your friends play outside. You dream of someday running again. Fast. Faster than all your friends. Faster than everyone in the world.

On a brutally hot July afternoon in Paris, a slender, curly-haired man with a shrunken arm is running in the Olympic 2,500-metre steeplechase. He had predicted in the newspaper that he would win the gold medal in this event, but he is in fourth place, and victory seems unlikely. The year is 1900. George Washington Orton is the most decorated distance runner in the world, having won over 120 championships in the United States, Canada, England, France, Belgium, Holland, and Germany. At age 20, he had earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto. When he was 23, he became one of the youngest to earn a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. He looks more like a scholar than a world-class athlete. He is five feet six inches tall and weighs 120 pounds. He squints a lot, like he needs eyeglasses.

A week earlier, the English track and field championships had been held at Stamford Bridge, home of the London Athletic Club. In 1898, Orton won the two-mile steeplechase there, demolishing the field by 80 yards and becoming the first North American to win the coveted title. It took 24 years before an athlete from outside Great Britain won the steeplechase again.

By 1900, Orton was already a racing legend in Great Britain, and large crowds had come to see him and the other North American track and field stars in advance of the Paris Olympics.

But in the windy and damp conditions of Stamford Bridge, it was English champion Sidney Robinson who won the steeplechase that year, with Orton finishing a distant fourth. It was a painful defeat for Orton, who was in rough shape after a gut-wrenching 10-day ocean voyage from America.

He vowed to get better and defeat Robinson and the others at the upcoming Olympics.

Orton had been hired as a special correspondent by the Philadelphia Inquirer under the byline “George Orton — the famous Pennsylvania athlete.” One of his assignments was to provide an insider’s look at the Olympic track and field events and predict the winners of each discipline. He mostly chose North American athletes to win, believing them to be superior to the Europeans. And when it came time to preview the 2,500-metre steeplechase, Orton didn’t beat around the bush. “Orton has more speed than the others,” he wrote, “and, as he is a good jumper, he should win, if in condition.” It was simple and succinct. He predicted victory, but in the third person, as if he were talking about someone else.

But Orton is not in condition on this day. Not even close. He hasn’t been right since leaving America nearly four weeks earlier. Forty-five minutes earlier, he had finished a close third in the 400-metre hurdles, becoming the first Canadian to win an Olympic medal, although he may not have been aware of the significance of that feat at that moment. While his opponents in the steeplechase were resting up for their big event, Orton was hurdling against the world’s best.

The Olympic track and field events that year were contested on the grounds of the Racing Club of France, in the Bois de Boulogne, a huge park located in western Paris that is two and a half times the size of New York’s Central Park. It may have been perfect for picnics, but it was a terrible choice as the venue for the Olympic Games.

As Orton pointed out, “The grounds are very picturesque, but not as well adapted for athletes as they might be.” He was being very kind. The biggest problem was the track itself. There wasn’t one. The French had refused to install a cinder track in their municipal park. There was no way they were going to tear up their beautiful grass for foot racing. Instead, they laid out an irregular-sized 500-metre oval (standard size is 400 metres) on uneven grass. Orton pointed out that the track “leads around beneath the trees” and its condition was so poor that “no less than four sprinters broke down.” The steeplechase course was especially brutal. Jumps consisted of authentic stone walls that couldn’t be moved, thick hedges that were difficult to vault, and imposing water hazards. Even if one could successfully negotiate the water jump, a soaker would await you on the other side. The hurdles for the steeplechase were one metre high and fashioned from 30-foot-long telephone poles that had been stripped. None of the obstacles could be knocked down, unlike those in the hurdles events, which would fall fairly easily upon contact.

Conditions for the field events were hardly better. The last few yards of the running broad jump approach featured a six-inch incline. There were reports of some jumpers having to dig their own pits. As well, the venue was not spectator friendly. The Bois de Boulogne was at least a mile from any tramway and far from the nearest railroad station. “This inaccessibility affected the attendance greatly, which was disappointing considering the caliber of the runners and the importance of the events,” wrote Orton.

Gaining a good view of the track was another issue. Most spectators had their sightlines obstructed by a large grove of trees that made up the far end of the race course. Those who were fortunate enough to have the latest invention — binoculars — had the best view of the action. Orton may have predicted victory in the newspaper, but he confessed two weeks later that he was anything but confident the day of the Olympic 2,500-metre steeplechase.

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Gridiron Underground

Gridiron Underground

Black American Journeys in Canadian Football
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook
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