Monthly Archives: October 2015

Promoting Art Ross

Back in February, while I will still hard at work on Art Ross: The Hockey Legend Who Built the Bruins, Art Ross III (who, along with his wife and his sisters, have all been great supporters – and great helps – on the project) sent me a few clippings from Boston Bruins programs he found in a family scrapbook. This story below appeared almost 44 years ago, on November 19, 1961, just over seven years after Art Ross had retired from the Bruins. Several bits and pieces from this article made their way into my biography … but I particularly liked where Henry McKenna noted: “So you can see that trying to write about Art Ross in a single chapter is virtually impossible. A book perhaps, but hardly a single article.”


So, why has it taken so long for somebody to write this book? I offer a few thoughts on that, as well as why I wanted to be the one to write it, on the web site of my publisher, Dundurn. Rather than write it all again, you can have a look here if you’re interested.

As many of you know, I’ve been out and about lately promoting the book. We had a launch in Toronto last month, and another a few days ago in Owen Sound (where the local Sun Times was the first to review the book). Barbara and I were also in Maine a couple of weeks ago for a wonderful Ross family long weekend, and then we visited Boston, where I appeared on the pregame show of a Bruins broadcast, caught up with some of the Bruins staff who had helped me along the way, and chatted with a couple of Bruins reporters.

On the air with NESN’s Dale Arnold

If you’d like to see the interview I did, you have to be on Facebook, but this link should take you there. (The part with me starts 20 seconds in.) Otherwise, you can listen to the radio interview I did here in Owen Sound. In addition, there has been some great coverage from prolific American hockey writer and broadcaster Stan Fischler, and, most recently, this review from the Winnipeg Free Press. Upcoming is a radio interview with Dave Fisher on CJAD in Montreal. (Montreal friends, I’ll try to keep you posted on that one.)

At Ben McNally Books in Toronto, wearing a Montreal Wanderers sweater loaned to me by
Society for International Hockey Research president Jean-Patrice Martel. Art Ross spent most of his playing career with the Wanderers.

Let’s just say the Barnes and Noble at the Prudential Center in Boston
has a lot of signed copies to sell

Owen Sound
Signing for fellow SIHR member Lorne Bell at the Owen Sound launch at The Ginger Press

Oh, and by the way, if you’ve already read the book and if you liked it, feel free to offer comments and reviews on web sites such as Chapters/Indigo, Amazon, Goodreads, or Barnes and Noble. I don’t honestly know if it makes much difference, but it couldn’t hurt!

We’ve Got a Series Now…

The Blue Jays gave me an early birthday present with a big victory last night! Hoping for a similar present on my actual birthday today.

Me & Jorey
My nephew Jorey and me before the game last night.

I was more than a little worried that they’d be facing the same challenge as the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who were the first team in history to rebound from a three-games-to-nothing deficit in a best-of-seven series when they rallied to beat the Detroit Red Wings for the Stanley Cup.

Toronto media seemed pleased by that victory, but few seemed to note its historic significance. Perhaps that was because the Stanley Cup Final had only expanded to a best-of-seven in 1939. Then again, the World Series had been a best-of-seven (and sometimes a best of nine!) since the beginning in 1903, and nobody had pulled of this type of comeback there … and wouldn’t until the Boston Red Sox rallied to beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship series.





Matty and Me

My first professional writing job came 30 years ago this month when, with the Blue Jays in the playoffs for the first time, I wrote a month-long “World Series Flashback” feature for the Toronto Sun and CHEX Radio in Peterborough.

Friday of this week (October 9) until Wednesday of next week (October 14) marks the 110th anniversary of probably the greatest pitching performance in baseball history. In games one, three, and five of the 1905 World Series, Christy Mathewson pitched three straight complete game shutouts in the space of six days. He tossed a total of 27 innings, while allowing just 13 hits and striking out 18 against only a single walk. Mathewson’s New York Giants defeated the Philadelphia Athletics four games to one.


In an era when baseball players were mostly roughnecks and hooligans, Christy Mathewson was a true gentleman. College-bred, tall, handsome, honest and articulate – not to mention one of the greatest pitchers in history – Mathewson helped make baseball respectable. Had there been a World Series MVP award in 1905, there’s no doubt who would have won it. Had I been alive at the time, I don’t think there’s any doubt who my favorite baseball player would have been. (I’ve always been a fan of great pitching.)

If you’ve read any of the articles I’ve posted on this web site over the past year – or anything I’ve written over the past 30 years – you’ve got a pretty good idea that I love sports history. As a boy, I played hockey and football and loved the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Argonauts. I was a horrible baseball player, but I’d watch the Expos on TV and began following the World Series in 1972 when I was still only eight years old. I saw my first live game in 1973 and was watching on TV in 1974 when Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth with his 715th home run. Still, I didn’t really understand baseball and didn’t care much about it. It wasn’t until the Blue Jays came along in 1977 that everything changed.

I knew that both my parents had gone to minor league Maple Leafs baseball games when they were young. My mother, especially, loved baseball, and was the reason why my family got (and still has) our Blue Jays season tickets. I was first hooked late in the summer of 1976. There was a tent that year at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto hyping the city’s entry into the American League. In it, they were showing the official film of the 1975 World Series. Like so many people, I’d been captivated by that series the previous fall, and this was the first time I’d ever seen one of those “all access”-style films. By the time the Blue Jays took the field on April 7, 1977, I was more than ready to fall in love with baseball. Soon, every radio in the house was tuned to the Blue Jays broadcast. (Not a lot of television in those days!)


With friends who were just as crazy for the fledgling team – and the most inexpensive tickets easy to come by at just two and thee dollars (sometimes less) – it was fun to follow the Jays even if they lost 100 games every season. We also picked pennant contenders to root for and tease each other about, but what really took my interest “to the next level” was my discovery of baseball’s rich history. That began with two things in 1978.

One thing was that my mother bought us Big-Time Baseball by Maury Allen. “A potpourri of major league happenings between 1900 and 1978,” says Google Books. “Includes records, anecdotes, photographs, and biographical information.” My brothers and I devoured it! (And, really, many of the books on hockey I’ve written for children haven’t been all that different from it.)

Big-Time Baseball is where I first learned of Christy Mathewson, but where I came to really know him was as the star pitcher on my own team in Superstar Baseball … the Sports Illustrated/Avalon Hill board game my brothers and I ordered by mail and received at the Christmas holidays in December of 1978. As the box says, Superstar Baseball lets you manage the greatest players of all time (though it’s an admittedly strange mix of all-time megastars and quirky oldtimers). In addition to the number and letter codes on the front of the player cards that let you play the game, the backs of the cards contained career numbers and interesting write-ups about the players’ careers. I read them all, and then started reading all I could about baseball history.

Christy cards

Perhaps Superstar Baseball isn’t the greatest of the dice-rolling/simulation games (I played ABPA Baseball and Football with my friends). Still, my brothers and I played it till we wore it out, ordered another, bought the second player set, and wore them out too. Almost 40 years later, we still play it when we have the time together, and are often joined now by my brother Jonathan’s son.

Over the years, we’ve traded players so many times it’s impossible to keep track of who’s had who, but David has always had Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson on his team, and Jonathan has always had Honus Wagner and Bob Gibson. My all-time all-timers are Rogers Hornsby and …Christy Mathewson.

Me and Matty

If you’ve got a story about what hooked you on sports, or sports history, I’d love to hear it. Please feel free to comment. And GO JAYS GO!