Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

On Writing, with Jeff Blair

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Full Count by Jeff Blair

For Canadian sports fans, Jeff Blair is a very familiar name. Sports columnist for the Globe and Mail and host of his own radio sports program (The Jeff Blair Show), Jeff has covered myriad sports for years, from the Olympics to his own personal passion, baseball.

Now, on the anniversary of the Toronto Blue Jays' historic back-to-back World Series wins, Jeff brings Jays fans Full Count: Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball (Random House Canada).

Today Jeff speaks to Open Book about Full Count, from why 2014 is the Blue Jays' year to watch to

Open Book:

Tell us about your book, Full Count: Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball.

Jeff Blair:

The book was not meant to be a dry, year by year analysis of the franchise. Frankly, that’s been done. The early years up to the team's back to back World Series have been covered. This book tries to put the early years in some kind of historical perspective, explaining why Joe Carter’s memorable home run off Mitch Williams was NOT the most important hit in franchise history while also chronicling why the team hasn’t been able to get back to the top. I always believe you write best what you know best; I know the ins-and-outs of the Rogers years, and wanted to try to tie it together.


What makes the Blue Jays a unique team?


They are a Canadian team, first and foremost. That’s why I devote part of the book to chronicling the systemic reasons for the rise of Canadian Major League players.


Given all the ups and downs of Blue Jays history, which you've followed closely, why is now the right time for this book?


It’s the 20th anniversary of back to back World Series championships. Coupled with the palpable excitement surrounding the franchise this off-season — and given the fact that the team's demographics are skewing younger and younger, I thought it would be a good idea to introduce people to some of the teams history.


You've covered such a wide variety of sports and even the Olympics during your career; what is it about baseball in particular that you find compelling?


The day to day rhythms of the game; the fact that there are very few off-days, which leads to the development of a singular narrative out of a group of disparate narratives. It’s the only sport where the defence has possession of the ball, and that requires a level of commitment that separates it from other sports.


There has been a lot of excitement around the team this season, and around new players. What do you think lies in store for the Blue Jays for the rest of the season, both in terms of performance and perception?


Can we just talk about 2014? Please? The Blue Jays need to spend the rest of this season getting their clubhouse culture in order, while trying to salvage the careers of Brett Lawrie, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.


What books might you recommend for fellow sports lovers? And what were you reading while you worked on this project?


I don’t read a great deal of North American sports books, to be honest. Paper Lion, by George Plimpton; Ball Four by Jim Bouton and Julian Rubinstein’s The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, would be among my favorites. I enjoyed Soccernomics by Simon Kuper. Ronald Reng’s book about the suicide of German goalkeeper Robert Enke, A Life Too Short, was profoundly moving and is a must read for parents AND teenagers. I tend to read in batches; when I was writing Full Count I was re-reading Iain Banks and Irvine Welsh. Phillip Kerr’s series of novels about German war-time detective Bernie Gunther are always a staple of my bed-side bookstand.


What are you working on now?


Mostly, my other two jobs — columnist for the Globe and Mail and host of The Jeff Blair Show, 9:00a.m.-noon on Sportsnet 590/The Fan.

Like Joe Carter, Jeff Blair has "touched 'em all" in more than 30 years of sportswriting and broadcasting. The Globe and Mail’s sports columnist and host of The Jeff Blair Show on Sportsnet 590/The Fan in Toronto has covered Olympics, World Series, Stanley Cups and earthquakes while working in Winnipeg, Calgary, Montreal and Toronto. But his first love is baseball, which he covered from 1989-97 as a beat reporter with The Gazette and has covered since then as a columnist with the Globe and Mail. Blair grew up in Morden, Man., and attended the University of Manitoba. He lives in Hamilton with wife, Shelley, and daughter, Emma Rose.

For more information about Full Count: Four Decades of Blue Jays Baseball please visit the Random House Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

Check out all the On Writing interviews in our archives.

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