Jays fans to boos it up, a little But Orioles hardly are a hated rival in placid Toronto

July 27, 1993|By John Eisenberg | John Eisenberg,Staff Writer

TORONTO -- So, you say you always wanted to take a trip around the American League? Just ask a collection of Toronto Blue Jays fans to name the one team they really want to beat.

"I guess the Yankees," said Gabe Ross, an advertising salesman.

"The A's and Royals, for beating us in the playoffs," said Ryan Kirke, a student at Queens University.

"The Red Sox, and sort of the Tigers," said Chuck McLuskie, a train conductor.

But . . . what about the Orioles?

"No, I don't hate them, not at all," Kirke said.

"I actually kind of like them," said Matt Byrnes, another student.

He likes them! (Is this good?)

So, the All-Star Game flap hasn't turned the Orioles into king villains in Toronto, as it has the Blue Jays in Baltimore? "No way," said Stormin' Norman Rumack, a nighttime host at The FAN, Toronto's all-sports radio station.

With the Orioles here to play the Jays tonight in their first meeting since the boohaha at the All-Star Game two weeks ago, Rumack, attempting to gauge the fever, asked callers to his program Sunday night to name the team they disliked the most.

The Orioles got two votes.

Two Orioles haters in 150 minutes of nonstop callers.

"I got tons of Red Sox and tons of Tigers and a lot of A's," Rumack said. "But the Oriole thing just isn't there. All that passion down in Baltimore isn't happening here."

In fact, at the Sports Cafe, a downtown sports bar with bats for door handles, fans expressed amazement Sunday night when a visitor from Baltimore explained that Camden Yards fans were booing the Jays on the out-of-town scoreboard and wearing T-shirts treating Jays manager Cito Gaston with, well, less than total respect.

"Get a life, people," said Ross, the advertising salesman, who has clients in Baltimore. "Don't you have jobs?"

Not that the All-Star incident hasn't stirred heat here, too. On Saturday, the Toronto Sun printed a full page of letters -- several from Baltimore -- pointing fingers in both directions. An ongoing topic among sports-page editorialists has been whether fans should boo the Orioles tonight. Some say yes, some no.

The consensus seems to be that there probably will be extra booing tonight, but not that much, and mostly at the start of the game. And it will die out quickly.

"Maybe some people will get into it, but not too much," Rumack said.

Kirke, the student, is going to the game. He doesn't plan to boo.

"The best insult would be to ignore it completely," Kirke said. "Not stoop to that level."

It could have gotten hot had Mike Mussina pitched for the Orioles tonight, as was originally -- and deliciously -- planned. For those who have been on the moon, Mussina nearly incited a riot in the ninth inning of the All-Star Game by warming up in the bullpen even though he had been told by Gaston, the American League manager, that he wasn't going to pitch. Baltimore fans were, and are, furious at Gaston's refusal to pitch Mussina.

But Mussina suffered a back strain last week and Orioles manager Johnny Oates postponed his next start until Friday against the Red Sox at Camden Yards.

"I had been encouraging listeners to bring diapers and pacifiers with Mussina's name on it," Rumack said.

That was before Mussina said Sunday that he planned to apologize to Gaston tonight for warming up without the manager's consent.

"After I saw that, I decided I was going to tell my listeners not to boo the Orioles at all," Rumack said. "Just another game."

Even if Mussina had pitched, there was little chance of any organized or sustained reaction in SkyDome. Blue Jays fans are a notoriously bland lot.

"This [All-Star incident] never would have happened in Toronto because you can't boo from the parking lot," Toronto Star columnist Dave Perkins wrote after the game.

"They're just not belligerent in any way," said the Twins' Dave Winfield, a popular ex-Jay.

"It's an extremely conservative, white-collar crowd," Kirke said. "The real fans can't get tickets. They're in the bars and at home. They'd be booing the Orioles."

Any real, long-standing, venom-spewing fan hatred in Toronto is reserved for opponents of the Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League. Hockey has the old-line rivalries in Canada.

"The [Montreal] Canadiens, man," Ross said, "and the [Detroit] Red Wings. That's serious stuff."

When it comes to baseball rivals, the fans have their various bTC dislikes -- mostly teams that have beaten the Jays in the playoffs or tight pennant races -- but it's without any real heat.

The Orioles are even halfway admired for their no-frills, no-nonsense, overachieving style, a hockey style favored by Canadian fans. "They play grinder baseball," Rumack said. "People like that."

Of course, the Orioles have never beaten the Jays for a division title. That might change things. Maybe, in the end, so will the All-Star incident. Toronto fans certainly won't enjoy the shower of boos the Jays will get when they next come to Baltimore.

"If they were playing each other in Baltimore this week, I think I would pay to watch that," Winfield said. "But in Toronto, it's not going to be the same. What's going on, it's just a Baltimore thing."

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