Discover Toronto Baseball History in the Toronto Reference Library Special Collections Department
Last Saturday, July 21st, I gave a Discover Special Collections talk about the history of baseball in Toronto. It was one of the presentations we host in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Centre on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library at 2:00 pm on the first three Saturdays of every month. There are different topics every week, always featuring rare and historical items from our many collection areas, which include books, ephemera, art, manuscripts and newspapers.
When I posted a link about the then-upcoming program on the Blue Jays subreddit, a few people pointed out that I'd inadvertently scheduled the talk for an afternoon when the Jays were in town playing the Orioles (they won 4-1, yay!) and as a result they wouldn't be able to make it. To make it up to the fans who were over at the dome cheering on the Jays, here are a few of the items we had out for patrons to have a look at.
The oldest was an 1876 copy of Bryce's Canadian Base Ball Guide. Bryce's guides are considered to be the first significant publications which laid out the rules (which were very different in many ways from the modern game) and bylaws of the then-new sport. The entire guide has been scanned and added to our Digital Archive, so you can read the whole thing from anywhere with an internet connection!
The second-oldest was this 1898 poster advertising two games between Bowmanville, Ontario and the Toronto Athletic Club.
Many of the original photographs I laid out for the presentation have also been scanned:
- the University of Toronto baseball club (1887)
- Hanlan's Point Stadium on the Toronto Islands (1919)
- a view of Hanlan's Point Stadium from behind home plate (190-?)
- Diamond Park, at the south-east corner of Liberty St. and Fraser Ave. (190-?)
- Opening Day of the Eastern Baseball League at Diamond Park (1907)
- a game being played in High Park (1922)
- a game on a vacant plot of land on the north side of Deforest Rd., between Kennedy Ave. and Runnymede Rd. (190-?)
- the demolition of Maple Leaf Stadium, at the foot of Bathurst St., on the south side of Lake Shore Blvd. (1968)
- two chilly fans waiting for the Blue Jays' first game to start on April 7th, 1977
- Doug Ault hitting the first home run in Blue Jays history on Opening Day, 1977
- Joe Carter leading the celebration after the Jays won their first World Series in 1992
Most of the other items were part of a larger collection of Blue Jays ephemera and memorabilia donated to the library by a fan back in 2015.