The Ballad of Ace Bailey and Hockey's First All-Star Game
Today the NHL All-Star Game is seen as a lighthearted, potentially frivolous event sandwiched between the first and second halves of real, meaningful hockey. These exhibition games are loose and high-scoring; the league’s best, always dressed in bold new uniforms, have some fun and put on a show for the fans while avoiding injury. But, what you might not know is that the very first NHL All-Star Game, held way back in February of 1934, actually came about as a fundraiser for a notable Maple Leafs player who suffered a life-threatening injury during a game earlier in the season against the rival Boston Bruins. Local Torontonian Irving “Ace” Bailey was actually on the St. Pats when Conn Smythe bought the team and transitioned into the "Maple Leafs" identity in 1926. Ace was a key figure in the these early years, leading the league in goals and overall points in 1928-29, and finding cup glory in '32. Back to that fateful game on December 12th, 1933. Toronto's Red Horner dazed Bruins' tough guy Eddie Shore with a heavy hit. Intent on revenge, Shore thought he was skating at Horner, but instead slammed into Ace Bailey. Bailey flew through the air and landed on his head, suffering a fractured skull. Shore himself was knocked unconscious in the melee that resulted. Both players were carried off the ice, where Shore regained consciousness. He was able to reach Bailey, who briefly came-to himself, and attempted to apologise. Bailey was able to respond with "it's all part of the game" before again passing out. Bailey was rushed to hospital with a fractured skull, where neurosurgeons worked through the night to save his life. His injuries were so severe that doctors gave him only hours to live but, luckily, Ace survived – and recovered quickly enough to attend his benefit game two months later. His playing career, however, was sadly over. Held in Toronto between the Maple Leafs and a team of the top players from the rest of the league, the benefit was held to raise money for Bailey and his family, but in the process, the first All-Star Game was born. The players were presented with their special jerseys by Frank Calder, Lester Patrick, Leaf officials and Ace Bailey himself. Goalie Charlie Gardiner stepped out first to receive his number 1 uniform, and was then followed by Shore, who wore number 2. The crowd of over 14,000 fans at Maple Leaf Gardens went silent as Shore skated up to Bailey. After a moment, Bailey extended his hand towards Shore, and the crowd erupted in loud cheering as the two shook hands. That day Conn Smythe also declared that no other current or future players should wear bailey’s number 6, making it the first retired number in NHL and sports history! Bailey worked as a timekeeper at Maple Leaf Gardens for almost 50 years, from 1938 to 1984. On April 1, 1992, Bailey's number was re-retired by the Maple Leafs (in '68 Ace asked for it to be un-retired so Ron Ellis could wear it); that same day Bailey had a stroke, and he passed a week later at the age of 88. Our new and exclusive vintage-jersey-inspired shirt draws from the diagonal-text sweaters worn for the benefit game, and features a super soft cotton with appliqué diagonal lettering and embroidered logo. Check them out here!
2021 Holiday Shipping Deadlines
Here's the dates to order by to receive by Dec 24th*, by location. Please be sure to indicate in your order notes if you need it by Dec 24th. Toronto: Shop online and get your gift by Christmas, guaranteed. Choose local pick-up and come by anytime before Dec 24th at 3pm to pick-up your order. Can't make it to the Distillery? Choose local delivery or Mile1 Accelated Courier for next day delivery—order by Dec 21st! Ontario: Standard: Dec 13th. Xpresspost: Dec 15. Priority: Dec 20th. Eastern Canada: Standard: Dec 10th. Xpresspost: Dec 14. Priority: Dec 19th. Western Canada: Standard: Dec 10th. Xpresspost: Dec 14. Priority: Dec 19th. Eastern USA: Standard: Dec 10th. Xpresspost: Dec 13th. (Note to to customs delays we cannot guarantee delivery timing). *Please note due to shipping carrier delays we cannot guarantee delivery timing on any orders. Please note custom orders (including some prints) take several weeks.
120 Years of Feuding – Dodgers and Giants, Old Foes, Have First Postseason Meeting
Believe it or not, tonight will be the very first meeting between the Dodgers and Giants in the postseason. They have been rivals for over 120 years, on two coasts, and have given us epic games with infamous dust-ups, but it’s never been quite like this – with postseason glory on the line. And yet, when the Dodgers and Giants were just making the move from New York back in ’50s, some wondered if the rivalry would be the same in California. Here’s what Roger Kahn had to say in the January, 1958 issue of SPORT: “The pennant race of 1951 [between the Dodgers and Giants, which ended in a best-of-3 play-in series, technically still part of the regular season] was a struggle built upon almost 60 years of baseball feuds and, no matter what happens next season, it is going to take a little while for the rivalry’s new roots to look like the old. But while there are Giants to play Dodgers, and partisan fans to care about what happens, there will be fireworks.” In the 60+ years since that move, these two teams have proved Mr. Kahn right; there have been fireworks. But there’s sure to be a heck of a lot more over the next few days! Want a recap of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry up to this point? Check out this great video by MLB Network!
75th Anniversary of the First Issue of SPORT Magazine
As of this September, it has now been 75 years since the first issue of SPORT magazine hit newsstands across North America. New York Yankees superstar and future husband of Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, was debut cover boy alongside his son, "Little Joe." The sports media landscape was a whole different world back in 1946. The first televised baseball game had arrived only seven years prior. Video coverage of the World Series would have to wait another year. Most families didn't have their own TV set in the '40s, and thus many would head to bars and other shared spaces to catch some baseball action. By the end of the decade, televisions were flying off the shelves, and fans across North America were seeing live action previously reserved to ticket holders. SPORT was also on the cutting edge of sports media at the time. There had been other successful publications before, most notable The Sporting News, which was known then as the "Bible of Baseball." But even by the '40s, few had featured large colour spreads like SPORT. Now-famous photographer Ozzie Sweet took many of the early shots for SPORT, as did other leaders in the trade. The magazine came out monthly, which led to longer, more in-depth articles as well; George Plimpton and Grantland Rice were major contributors. The timing of SPORT's birth was important for another reason: based out of New York, SPORT was on the pulse of American sport at the time, as the three N.Y.C. baseball teams – the Yankees, Dodgers, and Giants – were reaching great heights. But not only that, the late '40s saw Major League Baseball integrate, and SPORT was on the forefront of reporting on early African-American stars like Jackie Robinson and Larry Doby. Its well-researched, behind-the-scenes pieces allowed fans to better understand, and connect with, these groundbreaking stars. By the '50s, SPORT was so popular that the heads at Time magazine came calling. They made an attempt to buy SPORT out, but, ultimately unsuccessful, Time decided instead to make their own publication, Sports Illustrated, which ended up debuting eight years after SPORT did, in 1954. Meanwhile, SPORT remained relevant in the '60s and '70s, featuring megastars like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Jim Brown, Wilt Chamberlain, Muhammad Ali, and more. By the '80s, however, SPORT began to fade, lacking the financial backing of its competitors. It still ran monthly and featured some notable players of the time, such as Wayne Gretzky and Michael Jordan, but, after seeing ownership switch hands multiple times, by 2000, SPORT's 54-year run came to an end. Today, SPORT lives on through our gallery, as we proudly work to maintain and promote its extensive photo archive.
A Look Back at Vinsanity
He retired a bearded journeyman, extending the end of his career by becoming a role player for a range of teams; after leaving the Raptors, Vince Carter played for the Nets, Magic, Suns, Mavericks, Grizzlies, Kings, and Hawks over the course of 16 seasons. Carter is actually the first and only NBA player to play 22 seasons in four different decades. He never wanted his playing days to end, but this 2021 season was the first without Vince Carter since 1998-99. It was different at the beginning, though; Carter was no role player. Immediately upon taking the court for the lowly Raptors, “Vinsanity” began and descended upon the league. This guy could dunk. He did so with Jordan-esque flair, soaring through the air before forcefully slamming the ball home. Carter had the moves to do it on his own, whether in the paint or from the field. He drained mid-range jumpers, threes, and buzzer-beaters. By season’s end, the Rookie of the Year award was his. The next couple of seasons, Carter took things further; in 2000, during the All-Star break, the man they called “Air Canada” threw it down in his now-legendary Slam Dunk Contest debut. These gravity-defying dunks had his league mates on the floor in hysterics. As soon as Carter finished, he went ahead let everyone know that the competition was, in fact, over. During the regular season he averaged 25.7 points per game and lead the Raptors to their first-ever playoff appearance. The next year, Carter raised his PPG to 27.6 while the Raptors captured a franchise record for wins. They won their first playoff series, against the Knicks, and moved on to the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Carter and the Raptors went toe-to-toe with Allen Iverson and the 76ers, in a series dubbed the “Superstar Wars.” Both carried their respective teams, scoring at will; in the third game in Toronto, Vince bagged 50 points and tied the record for three-pointers in a playoff game. It was a fevered, high-scoring battle, which unsurprisingly went to game seven. In the final seconds of that final game, Carter had the ball and a chance to win it for the Raptors with a buzzer-beater. Alas, the shot rimmed out, one of the few misses that series for Vince. From there, things began to go downhill between Carter and the Raptors; the team gave their star a big extension, but injuries started to take their toll, limiting his minutes significantly. Carter missed 22 games the next season, 2002-02, and then, following an off-season surgery, played only 43 games over the 2002-03 season. Without him, the Raptors started to fall out of contention; soon, the front office began thinking about rebuilding with young talent. A couple of months into the 2004-05 season, Carter was traded to the Nets. While he would continue to play an important role for a number of playoff teams, Vince Carter was never quite the transcendent figure he was with the Raptors. And though the relationship between Carter and the Toronto fans has not always been rosy since his departure, the last few years have seen that relationship heal somewhat; during the Raptors' 20th Anniversary season, while playing in Toronto with the visiting Grizzlies, Carter got an extended standing ovation. It mended that divide, and was truly well deserved – the Raptors' early years would undoubtedly have been less fun without him!
Fergie Jenkins, Canada's First Baseball Superstar
While Canada has a long history with the game of baseball, hosting semi-professional clubs and outsourcing talent as early as the 1870s, there still have only been just over 250 players from North of the border to have played in the majors. And it wasn't until the 1960s that a superstar emerged: Ferguson "Fergie" Jenkins, from Chatham, Ontario. Growing up, Jenkins was a multi-sport athlete, taking part in baseball, hockey, basketball, and track. He got his break as a teen, meeting a local named Gene Dziadura, a former minor league shortstop and now-scout for the Phillies, who encouraged Jenkins to focus on, and helped him with, his pitching. Unsurprisingly, the Phillies ended up signing Jenkins. But after just one season with the big league roster as a relief pitcher, he was traded to the Cubs. By Jenkins' second season in Chicago, he had reached 20 wins, held his ERA under 3.00, and was an All-Star. He would end up posting six straight 20-win seasons from 1967 to 1972. After eight years with the talented yet under-performing Cubs, Jenkins requested a trade and moved on to Texas. His first year with the Rangers was stellar, as the Canadian reached a league-best 25 wins and had a sub-3.00 ERA for the last time in his career. After that, Jenkins spent eight years hopping between Texas and Boston, before finishing his career up with the Cubs. In 1991, Fergie Jenkins became the first Canadian player to be voted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. It would take 19 more years for a second to join him. Jenkins is also remembered as one of the "Black Aces," a group of 12 Black pitchers with at least one 20-win season in the majors. The Chatham chucker is tops when it comes to that milestone, bringing seven to the table. Love Fergie? You have to watch this amazing documentary by the National Film Board, which follows his 1972 and '73 seasons. Some incredible content! Also, check out our new Fergie tee by 500 Level!
Pee Wee, Bryan, and Me: The Journey of a Long-Lost Glove
This past June I got married in Stanley Park on a rainy Vancouver day. It was a wonderful little ceremony, and in the days following, we did a staycation honeymoon downtown. Because of COVID restrictions I had hardly been out of my own neighbourhood in what felt like years, and so just walking around a busy city centre, even my own, was exciting and new. I was looking for some sports-related thing downtown to keep as a memento, as I often do on trips. We sought out a vintage shop on one of our walks and there I quickly found an old left-handed baseball glove in the small sports equipment section. I'm a lefty so this immediately peaked my interest. After a quick scan I found a name in the glove's "pocket," that of Pee Wee Reese, a teammate of Jackie Robinson's on the Brooklyn Dodgers. Harold "Pee Wee" Reese, who earned his nickname playing with small – a.k.a. "pee wee" – marbles as a kid, didn't play baseball until his senior year of high school. He himself was small and thus did not attract much attention with his play. After graduating, Reese spliced cables for the local phone company and played on an amateur church team. Luckily, while in the league final at the minor-league Louisville Colonels' park, he was noticed and soon signed by the Colonels' team owner. In Reese's second year with Louisville, the Colonels gained a major league affiliate, the Red Sox. He impressed the Sox' owner as well but, with player-manager Joe Cronin wanting that starting shortstop position, Reese was traded to Brooklyn. The Dodgers promoted Reese in his first season with the franchise and he never looked back, eventually moving with the team to Los Angeles for the 1958 season, at the very end of his career. Reese is best known for his time in Brooklyn; for being their starting shortstop during the glory years, and for being one of the first to welcome and embrace Jackie Robinson publicly after he joined the Dodgers and broke the MLB colour line in 1947. Reese is said to have embraced Robinson on-field in Cincinnati in that first season together, as a display of friendship and acceptance. And while some debate whether this did indeed happen on the field, the pair were good friends. In 1955, Pee Wee, Jackie, and the Dodgers finally bested the Yankees in the World Series after multiple attempts. Brooklyn celebrated like crazy, but only two years later the Dodgers would be moving westward to L.A. Reese did play the first season there, but only 59 games, and then retired. In his 15 seasons with "Dem Bums" of Brooklyn, the shortstop was an All-Star 10 times. So, now that we know Pee Wee's story better, let's go back to the glove. As you may have noticed, this glove I found looks a little more modern than the ones from Reese's era; the "fingers" are longer and slimmer, and there's more webbing between the thumb and first finger. Some of the other makings have worn off, but it seems to be a Japanese-made glove from the '60s, possibly by a company called Cambridge. Turns out the glove isn't particularly valuable, or comfortable, really, but it was a mere 10 bucks so I couldn't say no. There's a name and address on the strap of the glove, which was partly obscured by the price tag at first. Upon getting back to our hotel, I pulled that tag off to reveal: BRYAN ROBERTSON 585 EAST 53RD AVE. VAN, BC. Immediately I know that address is very similar to my childhood home's, which was 535 E 45th. Turns out this guy lived between Fraser and St. George streets just like me, only eight blocks over. A quick google search brings up an obituary under that name, and I see the celebration of life was at Mountainview Cemetery, which is right by my old place. Must be him. Funnily, I look a lot like Bryan; full face, kind smile, moustache, dark-brown receding hair. From the obituary and the comments left below, it seems he was a great guy. He worked for BC Tel for over 20 years, was an audiophile that drummed in a band, had a memorable laugh, and was a friend to all – a "larger than life" character that left an impression with everyone he met. Sadly, Bryan was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease in his early 30s. He passed in 2015, much too soon, at the age of 57. One commenter remembered good times spent at the Burrard Bar, which is very interesting because our staycation hotel was The Burrard; it's an old motel from the '50s that was renovated a few years ago and turned into a vintage-inspired boutique hotel. There very well could have been a bar there back in the day, and if so, Bryan may have spent time in the very same building. What are the odds of that?? I've thought about getting the glove freshened up and broken in by a repair specialist – it would be pretty special to use it for one of my own ballgames. But it does say in the obituary that Bryan was survived by a son, and so my new mission is to get in touch with him; I'm sure he'd love to get a hold of his dad's long-lost glove! That's who it would mean the most to. So, Tyler, if you're somehow reading this, please know your dad's glove is in safe hands; for now it sits proudly in my office, waiting to be reunited with a Robertson. And if that reunion doesn't happen for whatever reason, know that I will cherish the glove and happily carry on the memory of Pee Wee and Bryan. Two great guys, one special piece of history. Do you know the Robertson family? Please contact James at email@example.com to get Bryan's glove home!
Did the Writer of Film Bull Durham Borrow from Satchel Paige??
In the film Bull Durham, a realistic and smart comedy about the charming grind that is minor league baseball, a number of philosophical baseballisms are said. One of them, given to young fireball pitcher Nuke Laloosh by wily veteran catcher Crash Davis, is this: Well I think the writer of Bull Durham, Mr. Ron Shelton, may have gotten his inspiration for that pearl of wisdom from legendary pitcher Satchel Paige. I was putting together an Instagram post today – Satchel was born on June 6, 1906 – and used a quote: All of a sudden the connection clicked! The two quotes are so similar, my bet is definitely that Shelton, while writing and looking for inspiration, came across Paige's wise words and adapted them for the screen! My understanding of the quote(s)? Baseball is much like life; yes there are highs and lows, but it’s really all about the process. (And many of life's issues are out of our hands anyway.) We just have to show up each day, that's the most important thing. Wise indeed. Thanks for the incite, Satchel, and Happy (Heavenly) Birthday!
George Armstrong: A Unifying Hero
George Armstrong, beloved former captain of the Maple Leafs, personified the complicated history of Canada. Being of Indigenous and Irish-Canadian descent, he grew up aware of two distinct realities. Armstrong was not subjected to the residential school system directly, but members of his family were were. "George saw the impact [his cousins] would have went through because [he was] living at [their] house during the summer when they weren't in residential school," says relative and Cambrian College professor Ghislaine Goudreau. "And so even though he didn't grow up with a lot of the culture, he saw the impacts of that. And I think it affected him a lot." At the same time, Armstrong had the same dream as many Canadian children: to wear the Leafs' emblem on his chest. He worked his way through the ranks and joined the organization for the 1950-51 season. Armstrong was a regular for the Leafs by '53, and by '57 he was captain, a position he would hold for 13 seasons. While still subjected to "casual" racism – being nicknamed "Chief" by fellow players, the media, and fans, for example – Armstrong’s abilities on the ice, and his mixed heritage, allowed for a level of respect and tolerance that much of his Indigenous family did not receive. Armstrong, because his lived experience was unique, found himself caught between two worlds, and therefore did not feel comfortable being known as a spokesperson for his people. But in captaining a team as legendary as the Maple Leafs, he inadvertently did a great deal for many Indigenous Canadians. "He was the captain of the last Leafs team to win the Stanley Cup," says Waubgeshig Rice, writer and journalist and member of Wausauksing First Nation. "He’s immortalized in hockey history in so many ways; to know that even as a young kid was really awesome, and it was a major point of pride as a hockey player, fan, and Anishinaabe person." And so, this Canada Day, we celebrate George Armstrong’s great achievements, but also sit with the pain and loss he and his family endured. We acknowledge this country’s difficult past and present, while also looking forward to a more unified future, something Armstrong himself, through his actions, worked towards.
This Pride We Celebrate Billie Jean King!
Billie Jean King is one of the greatest and most significant tennis players ever, regardless of gender; the former World No. 1 fought her way to 39 Grand Slam titles, six of those at Wimbledon. She beat Bobby Riggs in "The Battle of the Sexes" match. She founded the Women's Tennis Association. The USTA National Tennis Center in New York City was renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in her honour. It's certainly safe to say she is a titan of the sport. While her achievements on the court are ___ historic, Billie Jean King's work as an agent for social justice is just as important. Since the beginning of her career, she has campaigned for equal prize money for female tennis players. After winning the US Open in 1972 and receiving $15,000 less than the men's champion, King threatened to not play the following year if this gap was not addressed. In '73, the Open became the first major tournament to offer equal pay to male and female competitors. She also worked to promote and back the first women's professional tour. King's belief in, and work towards, gender equality came naturally; speaking on her sexual orientation, however, was more difficult. She married a man, Larry King, in 1965 and had presented as a straight woman to that point; it wasn't until 1981 that King's ten-year relationship with her secretary, Marilyn Barnett, came to light, when Barnett herself sued the Kings for half of their income and their Malibu home. At this point, King felt she had no choice but to speak out: As she explains, King lost all of her endorsements – which were especially important for a female athlete with good tournament pay not guaranteed – within 24 hours of confirming her relationship with Barnett. Considering the announcement made her the first female athlete to come out, this response was sadly to be expected. Many, however, did praise King for her courage in speaking out and for telling the truth. Larry King was supportive through this period, and the couple remained married until 1987, when Billie Jean began a relationship with fellow tennis player Ilana Kloss, with whom she is still with today. Though King had essentially outed herself to the world by acknowledging her relationship with Barnett, it wasn't until she was 51 that she would discuss her sexuality with her parents: "At the age of 51, I was finally able to talk about it properly with my parents and no longer did I have to measure my words with them. That was a turning point for me as it meant I didn't have regrets any more." Today, Billie Jean King is a gay icon, and has received widespread recognition for her advocacy work. King was elected to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2000, she received an award from GLAAD for "furthering the visibility and inclusion of the community in her work." President Barack Obama awarded King the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, and in 2013, she was one of the first inducted into the National Gay and Lesbian Sports Hall of Fame.