Baseball players actually loved Toronto's famously-hated Exhibition Stadium
Old-timer baseball fans in Toronto will regale the younger generation with horror stories about the fan experience during the Blue Jays' first dozen seasons at the former Exhibition Stadium, but one of the team's legends has come out as an outspoken defender of the stadium's legacy almost a quarter-century after its demise to the wrecking ball.
Most people today will tell you that Exhibition Stadium was a band-aid solution to another band-aid solution, and hardly worthy of the fledgling MLB franchise it supported from 1977 to 1989.
It was cold, uncomfortable, exposed to the elements, and infested with seagulls. Its layout was clearly not designed with baseball in mind, and the fan experience was lacking at best.
Some have even co-opted the former Cleveland Stadium moniker of "The Mistake on the Lake" to refer to the lost stadium, a term Blue Jays legend and former outfielder Jesse Barfield argues against.
Many people called this the mistake by the lake. But for me, this was my home for most of my career, and I was so thrilled to play there!🇨🇦 pic.twitter.com/eYB7r8I18X— Jesse Barfield (@JesseBarfield29) February 17, 2023
Barfield, who spent 1981 to 1989 with the Toronto Blue Jays, was present through the majority of the team's Exhibition Stadium era, and he's spent years asserting that, despite your miserable memories of the windswept stadium, it wasn't all that bad.
To me, Exhibition Stadium was not the mistake by the lake. It was our home, and it was the Big Leagues and I am thankful for that! pic.twitter.com/pjXH9Iidck— Jesse Barfield (@JesseBarfield29) July 23, 2020
Other past MLB names have joined in defending Exhibition Stadium as a great place to play baseball, including former Kansas City Royals pitcher Mark Gubicza, who played in the 1985 ALCS against the Jays and would go on to win a World Series that year.
It was so much fun facing you guys as well! I loved the way you guys played! We knew we had to bring our A game, you guys played sound fundamental baseball. And people know how much I love and admire George Brett! In my opinion, he was the best all around hitter EVER! 👊🏽🙏🏽👍🏽 https://t.co/rhrJg6VVty— Jesse Barfield (@JesseBarfield29) February 17, 2023
Former MLB pitcher and current television baseball analyst Dan Plesac (who would play for the Jays in the late '90s SkyDome era) remembers Exhibition Stadium more for its inhospitable conditions than positive things like the volume of raucous fans.
Coldest Damm place I ever played Jesse … and Co Stadium was cold …. Night game at the X in April it late sept ? Coffee and hot chocolate time !— Dan Plesac (@Plesac19) February 17, 2023
But many fans have taken to the comments section in agreement that Exhibition Stadium was, despite the prevalent narrative on the multipurpose facility's failed legacy, actually pretty awesome.
This was my favourite stadium. It holds so many memories!!— Heather Woodyard (@puffingrrl_h) February 17, 2023
The cold, miserable conditions by the lake, and frequent rain delays, are actually remembered kind of fondly by some.
It was my 2nd home for most of my teen yrs. It was uncomfortable, cold, falling apart & I loved it! I have great memories there too @JesseBarfield29! I loved the antics during a rain delay & drinking hot chocolate under a blanket, listening 2 Tom & Jerry.— Carolyn Cook (@loveTObluejays) February 18, 2023
Even the ballpark's roaming food vendors have a special place in fans' memories.
Anybody on here remember the Giant Hot Dogs guy. He’d continuously yell out, “Hot dogs! Giant hot dogs!”— Mark Suits (@marksuits) February 17, 2023
Exhibition Stadium would survive another decade after the Jays' departure for the dome. Demolished in 1999, its footprint remains visible today in the shadow of BMO Field. You can even still run the bases where Jesse Barfield used to snipe runners with cannon-like throws from right field.
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