As the 2021 Toronto Blue Jays continue their quest for a playoff spot, I've been revisiting my roots with my hometown team. I've been a fan from the very beginning, and attended that first game in the snow on April 7, 1977. I was in Grade 10 at the time, and my friend Dan and I both got notes from our mothers allowing us to miss an afternoon of school.
I sat in Section 5, Row 5, Seat 27, and the ticket price was $3. To give you an idea of how lousy our seats were, I present the Exhibition Stadium seating chart:
This chart must be from the early '80s sometime, as you can see the price has gone up. Regardless, these are wretched seats. We're just behind the right-field fence; not terrible in and of itself, but because of the stadium's oddball configuration, we're facing the left-field bleachers, not the diamond. And yes, those aluminum benches weren't exactly comfortable on a zero-degree day in early April.
As befits an expansion team, the 1977 Blue Jays were abysmal and would stay that way for the rest of the '70s. Our heroes were zeroes, but hey, they were ours. A star-crossed Texan named Doug Ault was the franchise's first poster boy, belting two homers in the Jays' 9-5 win over the Chicago White Sox on Opening Day. (He retired in 1980 with a career .236 average and 17 home runs.) Ault was joined by luminaries like Otto "The Swatto" Velez, Sam Ewing and Jeff Byrd, who went 2-13 in his only season in the majors. That '77 team finished 54-107, 45 1/2 games behind the first-place New York Yankees.
Now, for years, I've wanted a powder blue (road) jersey from 1977, with the name and number of a favourite also-ran. I settled on lefty pitcher Jerry Garvin, a career Blue Jay (1977-82) who pitched fairly well in 1977, finishing 10-18 with a 4.19 ERA. Garvin won his first four starts in his rookie season and had a terrific pick-off move. I wanted to commemorate someone who wasn't famous—that part was easy; none of them were—but not completely obscure, either. Somebody who had modest success but wasn't a star, and spent his entire career with the Jays. I also wanted an original Blue Jay, selected in the 1976 expansion draft. Garvin fits the bill on all counts.
The best the Jays Shop (the official team store) could do was a home jersey, early '90s vintage, with player name and number. That wouldn't do. Alas, as I did my research I came to realize that the jersey I'm after never existed historically. Player names didn't appear on the jerseys until 1980. I didn't care. One of my zero-heroes was destined to live on in infamy, and Theodore Jared Garvin was my choice.
But where would I find such an obscure jersey? Obviously it'd have to be custom-made. I thought I had a lead with The Dream Shop, a one-man operation in Pennsylvania who clearly does meticulous and exquisite work. Unfortunately he needed me to provide a blank jersey of the right vintage in my size, which wasn't feasible. I didn't want to hold out for the slim chance that such a rare bird would pop up on eBay. Even if it did, it would've involved more effort and expense than I was willing to put in.
Enter the fine folks at Custom Throwback Jerseys, who were able to deliver a jersey that's very close to the real thing. Here it is (the blurring is an artifact of me not knowing how to use my new phone's camera):
I think you'll agree it's a great-looking uniform. The material is high-quality fabric (100% polyester, double-knit, says the website) and all the details are sewn on, not printed. Even though CTJ is located in Canada, they charge in US dollars, and if you're in Canada HST is charged, also in US dollars. Bit of a bummer, that, but for just over $250 Cdn., I own a very special relic from a bygone era of Blue Jays baseball. I'll wear it to a game for the first time next week, and the first Blue Jay nerd who spots it and knows who Jerry Garvin is gets a free bag of popcorn on me.