TORONTO STAR WRITER CHRONICLED THE BLUE JAYS
It was said Blue Jays spring training didn’t officially get under way in Dunedin, Florida, until Neil MacCarl showed up.
By the time the Jays arrived as an expansion team in 1977, the Toronto Star journalist had plenty of experience in baseball, reporting on the World Series since the 1950s and covering the old Toronto Maple Leafs of the International League.
Neil MacCarl passed away Friday 5 August 2011 of pneumonia. He was 83.
He was thrilled when Toronto was welcomed into the Major Leagues and the Blue Jays started playing at the old Exhibition Stadium, recalled his son, Scott Winhall.
“He was very happy covering the Jays,” said Scott. “But he never took sides. He always said the Jays were the home team, but if they lost, they lost, if they won, they won. He was never upset about the outcome.”
MacCarl followed the Jays’ fortunes from the very start, beginning with the American League expansion draft at the Plaza Hotel in New York City on 5 November 1976.
He crowned his sportswriting career by covering the Jays’ 1992 World Series
championship against the Atlanta Braves.
It was the capper to a 43-year career at the Star that began in March 1949 after
graduating from journalism at the University of Western Ontario and a short stint reporting for the London Free Press.
“Naturally, it was my fondest dream come true when the expansion Blue Jays arrived in 1977,” he reminisced in the Star back in 1992.
“For the past week, I’ve had the privilege of covering a World Series right in my
hometown, in my final assignment for the Star before I retire. Who would have thought that would be possible when I started working for the Star in 1949, when we didn’t even have Sunday sports in Toronto?”
Former Star sportswriter Allan Ryan reminisced about his departed colleague: “The first World Series I ever covered was in 1978, the Dodgers and Yankees. Neil was already out in L.A. for the opener and it was an 11th-hour call by the Star that I should join him. Neil had it all under control. When I got to the hotel there were hundreds of baseball folks milling about and while I couldn’t see Neil, I could definitely hear him. This is what the man loved, shooting the breeze — and loudly — with baseball guys. Neil never gave me any grief other than the playful.”
MacCarl earned several honours during his career, including serving as chairman of the Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
He was the initial winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987, which has also been bestowed on the late Star columnist Milt Dunnell, Joe Crysdale, Hal Kelly, Dave Van Horne, Tom Cheek and Ian MacDonald.
MacCarl leaves his son, Scott; Scott’s wife Phyllis; his daughter Callie Wenger and her husband Roger; his niece Kim MacCarl and sister-in-law Doreen MacCarl.
He was predeceased by his second wife Mary and his brother Ralph.
There will be a visitation Friday 12 August from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Humphrey Funeral Home, 1403 Bayview Avenue.
A funeral service will be held Saturday 13 August at 11 a.m. in the Humphrey chapel.