Discover Toronto Baseball History in the Toronto Reference Library Special Collections Department

July 25, 2018 | Beau

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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!

Bryces Base Ball Guide

The second-oldest was this 1898 poster advertising two games between Bowmanville, Ontario and the Toronto Athletic Club.

Poster two games of base ball

Many of the original photographs I laid out for the presentation have also been scanned:

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.

Blue Jays programs
A yearbook for the Jays' first season, and the program for their first game on April 7th, 1977.
Baseball Cards
A collection of official baseball cards featuring Jays players from 1977 to the mid-'90s.
Blue Jays World Series ticket
A ticket for Game 5 of the 1992 World Series, which the Jays lost 7-2 before clinching the series in Game 6 in Atlanta.
OK Blue Jays 45
A 45 copy of the "OK Blue Jays" song, which was recorded in 1985 at Eastern Sound Studios, just around the corner from the library where the Four Seasons stands today.