1) Last week I received a questionnaire from the Sheriff’s office asking for some mundane personal information. The covering letter said it was because my name had been added to the jury pool here in Toronto. I’ve been down this road before, having been called for jury duty about ten years ago. Along with 99 other people, for a week I sat in a cafeteria-style room at the University Ave. Court House, only once being called into a courtroom for possible selection for a trial. It was a case of three young men charged with a series of armed robberies. A defense attorney used one of his preemptive challenges to disqualify me, meaning he didn’t have to give a reason, so I have no idea why he was keen to get rid of me. But as the trial was estimated to last six weeks, I was truly grateful. (Apparently these defendants were very bad dudes.) Only a handful of our pool of 100 were actually selected for a trial, so except for my brief visit to the courtroom I spent most of the week playing hearts and bridge with a former neighbour and three or four other bored potential jurors. I’m not looking forward to another summons. Then there’s the problem with the pay scale for jury duty in Canada. It’s zero for the first ten days, $50 a day for the next forty days, and $100 a day thereafter. A person on a jury for a six-week trial would receive $1,650. This is not even close to minimum wage rates, which in Ontario would be $2,700. for the trial. When you consider that the other main players in a jury trial (the prosecutors, defense lawyers, and the judge) all earn well into six figures per year, it’s clear that jury duty pay needs to be reviewed.
2) I lost another friend this week, and the Canadian entertainment scene lost a great artist and a fine man. Michael Burgess died at age 70 after a lengthy battle with cancer. The late Leonard Rambeau, Anne Murray’s personal manager, introduced me to Michael in 1989. Although he was never a client, over the years Michael and I spent a lot of time together based on our mutual interests in the entertainment business and our deep love of baseball and hockey. As famous as Michael was for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, he was equally well-known for his stirring renditions of national anthems at baseball and hockey games; which leads me to an accomplishment of Michael’s which can never be equalled. He was the first person to ever sing O Canada at a World Series game, which he did in Atlanta in 1992 before the Blue Jays’ game with the Braves. Michael was born in Regina but grew up in Toronto. He attended St. Michael’s Choir School. (Other renowned St. Mike’s alumni include the Four Lads, The Crew Cuts and The Diamonds.) Before becoming a full-time entertainer Michael studied for the priesthood for a time and then obtained a BA in English from the University of Ottawa. His early forays into the entertainment world included appearances on the popular TV shows Cross Canada Hit Parade and Holiday Ranch. The last time I saw Michael was over a year ago at an NHL Oldtimers’ luncheon in Toronto. He was clearly being ravaged by cancer, but was still the upbeat person I knew and admired. My two main memories of Michael will always be: his going to great lengths to bring us an appropriate gift when he visited us at our cottage in PEI; and, in all the years we were acquainted I never once heard him utter an unkind word.
3) Picking a side in the scrap between Washington Nationals’ players Bryce Harper and Jonathan Papelbaun is not a case of choosing between a great young talent and an established veteran. It’s a case of choosing between a young arrogant jerk and an old arrogant jerk.
4) The Toronto Blue Jays have to set their twenty-five-man roster for the American League Division Series beginning this coming Thursday. For me, twenty-one of them are slam dunks: Revere, Donaldson, Bautista, Encarnacion, Tulowitzki, Martin, Navarro, Pillar, Goins, Colabello, Smoak, Carerra, Price, Stroman, Dickey, Estrada, Osuna, Sanchez, Lowe, Cecil and Hendricks. The other four choices are not so easy. It’s probable the Jays will carry fourteen position players and eleven pitchers. This means they will have to choose two from among Kawasaki, Pennington, Pompey and Thole; and two from among Buehrle, Tepera, Loup, Hutchison and Hawkins. I wouldn’t name Thole to the roster because there’s no need to. The only time he will be needed is if Martin or Navarro gets hurt, and in that case he can be added as a replacement for an injured player. As popular as Kawasaki is, I have to go with Pennington. He’s almost as good a fielder as Kawasaki and is a superior hitter. I take Pompey because of his usefulness as a pinch runner when the situation calls for one. He’s also an additional outfielder should the need arise. The pitching choices are not so easy, they basically come down to choosing between Buehrle and Loup (because a second leftie behind Cecil is a necessity) and Tepera and Hawkins (Hutchison, having gone the way of Ricky Romerso, should no longer be a consideration). I have to go with Buehrle and Hawkins because of their experience, unflappability and wile; great assets in the post season