July 1, 2022
By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
John Gibbons managed the Toronto Blue Jays for 1,582 major league games over parts of 11 seasons.
Only Cito Gaston has spent more time in Toronto as a big league manager.
So on Canada Day, I think we can safely anoint Gibbons an honourary Canadian.
And that’s a title I think he’d embrace given the fond memories he has shared in the first nine episodes of Talking Points, a weekly series sponsored by Bodog Canada that features Canadian actor/producer Stu Stone interviewing Gibbons.
“That’s another thing about Canadians,” Gibbons said during the June 20th episode of Talking Points. “You don’t necessarily get a lot of these jerks that we get down here in the states, guys slapping guys or guys wanting to fight everybody if something goes bad. The Canadian players that I’ve known – I’m sure there’s maybe an exception here and there – they’ve handled themselves with class . . . So I tip my hat to Canada.”
This was just one of several comments Gibbons has made about Canuck players on Talking Points and it seems appropriate on Canada Day to take a look back at some of his most Canadian quotes.
On former Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), who recently announced his retirement and will throw out the first pitch at Rogers Centre today:
“He was hard-nosed and all you had to do was look on his bubble gum card and every team he played on in damn near his whole career was a playoff team . . . You’ve got to have great pitching to get to the playoffs and win, but you’ve got to have a damn good catcher to lead those guys. So that’s what makes his career more impressive. Yeah, he was on those winning teams, but he was the captain of those winning teams because he was behind the plate.”
On the toughness that Martin added to the Blue Jays’ 2015 and 2016 playoff teams:
“He was a good hard-nosed Canadian, a tough Canadian . . . You know we had some boppers – Jose [Bautista] and Eddie [Encarnacion] and some other guys – but I didn’t think we necessarily had that grit that you needed,” Gibbons told Stone.
Gibbons added that the Canadian catcher brought an intensity and an “edge” to the Blue Jays’ clubhouse.
“You can have all the great players in the world, but if they don’t have that edge about them . . .. And Russell brought us that toughness. He gave us that backbone we needed,” Gibbons told Stone.
On why he allowed Martin to manage the last game of the 2018 regular season:
“Number one, I like Russell,” Gibbons told Stone. “I liked everything about him. I loved what he did for our team. He was crucial for those two years. But I also felt if there is a guy out here who wants to go into managing . . . he’s the guy. He’s perfect. He’s a catcher. He’s smart. He’s done everything . . . So now let’s put this on his resume.”
On Canadian infielder Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.) who Gibbons managed on the Blue Jays in 2013 and 2014:
“We had one [Canadian] on our team that should’ve been a frickin’ All-Star every year but this [pointing to his head] got in the way . . . I’ve never seen anybody with more talent than that kid had,” Gibbons said of Lawrie.
On Canadian slugger and new Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.):
“Morneau, he was an MVP. He’s at that Larry Walker kind of level . . . He was one of those guys you feared when he came to the plate. He wasn’t just a slugger, he was a good hitter . . . He was just an elite player and even more importantly – well, maybe not more importantly in the baseball world – he was just a first-class guy. He did everything right,” said Gibbons.
On Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) who Gibbons managed as a Blue Jay in 2007 and 2008:
“Stairsy was a legend, man. He did it forever,” said Gibbons during the June 20th episode.
On becoming a hockey fan while in Canada:
“I’m a novice hockey guy, I really became fascinated with the sport while I was up there. I didn’t really know anything about it but the toughness, the competitiveness and the passion that the Canadian fans have . . . It’s tough guy’s sport, you know. So I really like that. Baseball can be kind of a soft sport. Sometimes you get some candy asses. I’ll put it that way . . . Hockey you can’t do that. So that always thrilled me. I followed the history of the Leafs and it was like they were snake-bitten,” said Gibbons for the May 20th episode of Talking Points.
On all of the Canadian Blue Jays fans that travel to Seattle Mariners home games when the Blue Jays are in town:
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s the most incredible thing . . . Unless you see it, you can’t really imagine what we’re talking about here. Before the game, when you go to the ballpark, the streets are all in [Blue Jays] blue . . . they all come down from the West Coast up there,” said Gibbons in the May 31st episode.