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When it looked as if Toronto would get a Major League Baseball team

The ballpark at Exhibition Stadium was ready, but in April 1976 there was still uncertainty over whether a team would be playing in it.

U.S. president Gerald Ford's wishes were a potential dealbreaker

Will Toronto get its baseball team?

45 years ago
2:03
In 1976, CBC reports that Major League Baseball wants a franchise in Toronto -- but the U.S. president could get in the way. 2:03

It was a certainty: Major League Baseball was coming to Toronto. Or was it?

"The politicians say so. The American media says so," said CBC reporter Suzanne Howden on April 4, 1976 as a group of kids were seen playing the game. "And besides, a $15 million expansion of the CNE stadium is almost completed and ready for baseball fans."

But Toronto didn't have a franchise yet, and the campaign for one seemed "jinxed," said Howden.

According to the Toronto Star, both the American League and the National League had earlier "wooed" the city's Metro Chairman, Paul Godfrey, to accept an expansion franchise.

But, as the newspaper reported two days before this TV report aired, two owners in the National League had voted against expansion to Toronto. 

'Meddling from the White House'

A new team for Toronto might soon be joining the Boston Red Sox in baseball's American League. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

Meanwhile, owners in the American League were still interested, granting a franchise to Labatt Breweries for a Toronto team.

"City fathers thought they had their team at last," said Howden, with rows of empty blue stadium seats behind her. "What no one expected this time was meddling from the White House." 

President Gerald Ford himself had told the commissioner for Major League Baseball, Bowie Kuhn, that Toronto couldn't have a team until Washington, D.C. got one.

Godfrey had reportedly been told that if the American League didn't promise a team to the U.S. capital by the next week, "the Toronto deal could fall through."   

'100 per cent'

Paul Godfrey talks to the Toronto media in 1976 about the chances the city will get a Major League Baseball franchise. (CBC News/CBC Archives)

"The question remains, now, will Toronto be in baseball?" said Godfrey to a group of reporters. "The commissioner has assured me 100 per cent Toronto would have a Major League Baseball team playing in 1977.

"What he didn't assure me is which league it would be in."

Howden said the American League had pledged to expand to Toronto "in spite of pressure from Washington."

"That may happen, but many Torontonians ... are no longer holding their breath."

The Toronto Blue Jays played their first game in the city, as predicted, in April 1977.

Toronto Blue Jays GM Peter Bavasi on Front Page Challenge

Digital Archives

44 years ago
7:10
Play ball! And guess that general manager... 7:10

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