By: David Harrison (@pokerdave04)
Growing up as a baseball fan in Canada in the late eighties and early nineties it was a pretty magical time. The whole country from coast to coast had a serious case of Jays fever which peaked in 1992 and 1993. Thanks to a young exciting ball club and the spread of fandom through social media like Twitter and fan blogs and pod casts like Back in Blue those days may be returning. Man, I hope so.
With the Jays building toward contention again hopefully it will also lead to the rebirth of Jays nation across Canada. I was 11 years old when the Jays won it all in 1992 and if you were there to see it you’ll likely remember that the Jays were everywhere. An 11-year-old Jays fan in 2012 would have his or her mind blown if they could see how awesome it was to be a young fan in the 80′s and 90′s. Not only were we winning but you could get a ton of “free” Jays stuff.
Now, it wasn’t exactly free, but when you’re a kid and your parents don’t mind helping you get everything Jays, it’s free to you. Kids today probably have no idea what it means to send three UPC proofs of purchase and a few bucks shipping and handling to get something awesome in the mail. When the Jays were contenders there were tons of offers like this.
Anyone’s parents drink Maxwell House Coffee when they were growing up? Mine didn’t, but we still picked some up and got some package labels from friends so I could send in five UPCs to get an autographed Pat Borders baseball! I still have that ball in my office displayed next to a Pat Borders card I was able to get signed by Mr. World Series MVP himself later that same year. If you had a few more UPCs (it was 10 I think) you could also get a signed John Olerud bat. If they had that deal today I’d clean out the coffee shelf at Sobeys and order both of them. “Hope you like coffee everyone because we’re having it with every meal for the next five years!”
The Pat Borders ball was just the beginning of the free stuff. After the 1992 World Series win Kraft Canada offered up a Blue Jays commemorative World Series wall display. I can’t remember what you had to do exactly, but I think it was something like getting UPCs from peanut butter and Kraft dinner and whatever other Kraft food were popular with kids in the 90′s. The wall display was actually pretty cool. It folded out with recaps of all six games on one side and a series review and SkyDome field pic on the other side. Not bad for a few jars of peanut butter and, as always, shipping and handling.
Food companies were jumping all over the baseball bandwagon in the early 90′s and Post Cereals made sure to get their piece. They filled their boxes with baseball cards in 1991 with Kelly Gruber, Dave Stieb and John Olerud representing the Jays. Also included in the set were future Jays Dave Winfield and Rogers Clemens and a few one-year wonders like Bobby Thigpen and Kevin Maas. Remember Kevin Maas kids? No? He had a couple good seasons with the Yankees before he disappeared off the face of the earth. Anyway, you could be a sucker and buy box after box of Honey Comb or Alpha-Bits hoping to collect the entire set, or cut off a few box tops (I think it was five?) dump them in an envelope with shipping and handling and get the whole set and a collectors booklet to display them! You just had to contain your excitement while waiting the 4-6 weeks it took to arrive.
Holsum bread also got in on the card craze with baseball cards in packages of hot dogs and hamburger buns. The cards were small round disc with a player picture on the front and stats on the back. Holsum was too cheap to pay for licensing right for team logos though as every player’s hat is completely black or blue, or whatever the team color was with no logo visible. We must have eaten a ton of dogs and burgers those summers as I have dozens of those cards and you only got one card per package. A few Jays to make the cut were Gruber, Carter, Alomar, Key and Henke.
You didn’t always have to buy certain products and cut off UPCs to get some cool Jays stuff. In the 90′s a quick trip to the bank could earn you some Jays swag. Remember when CIBC was the official bank of the Blue Jays? (Fun fact: CIBC was a minority owner when Toronto was awarded the Jays in 1977). In the 90′s some branches of CIBC had Jays posters and a few also had collector pins. I was able to get a Joe Carter poster with the CIBC logo in the corner and a buddy of mine had one with Pat Borders. A little Google image search also turned up posters featuring Gruber, Henke and Alomar.
Who used to go to Shoppers Drug Mart every spring to pick up the new Blue Jays Calendar? I don’t know when they started printing the calendars but the oldest one I have is from 1991. I have one for every year up to 1999 when I assume they stopped doing it. The 1991 edition had full color photos of the best Jays players, while most years after had drawn pictures (some good, some awful). The 1999 calendar was the worst with prominent Jays on movies poster with the worst puns imaginable as the tag line. One example for you is Darren Fletcher’s poster – “3 Balls. 2 Strikes. 1 Man. – Full Count!” Groan.
This blog post is starting to get long so how about I run through the rest real quick. Who ate an ice cream sundae out of a mini Blue Jays helmet? I did and I still have the helmet. Who bought three packs of blue jello to get the Blue Jays Logo jello mold. I did, and eating it was like having a huge Jays cake made of Jello. Whoever said there’s always room for Jello never used this mold. Anyone ever buy the Blue Jays cake mix with original Jays logo decoration? I had it at my 12th Birthday party. Anyone buy the Frosted Flakes with Tony the Tiger wearing a Jays uniform and celebrating the 1992 World Series? I didn’t even like Frosted Flakes and for some reason I’ve got two of them.
Finally, who rocked out to the Jays Album? Either release from 1990, 1991 or 1992 counts. I’ve got all three on cassette and the collectors edition on CD. I listened to those tapes so often I can still remember the words to Wham Bam Blue Jay Gang. Yes, I know I have a problem.