The patron saint of the Toronto Blue Jays may be the Cyanocitta cristata, but actual Blue Jays are few and far between in the city of Toronto. More often than not, you’ll see the unofficial mascot of Toronto’s waterfront; the seagull.
In between scouring for food and being a general nuisance, you’ll occasionally see these birds down by the ballpark. Unfortunately for one seagull, his insatiable love for baseball cost him his life.
For this week’s edition of Acid Flashback Friday, we take a look back on that fateful day on August 4th 1983 when Dave Winfield socked a seagull with a baseball at Exhibition Stadium.
The video below featuring former Blue Jays president Paul Godfrey and the Blue Jays batboy Jeff Pinchuck. In it, Pinchuck explains his side of the story in this whole mess.
Winfield insisted it was merely an accident, as he was simply tossing back and forth with the batboy when a seagull suddenly flew into the path of the ball. And as the photo above indicated, Jeff Pinchuck had to drape a towel over the seagull.
The police had a different story though, as the batboy had to turn over the seagull as forensic evidence afterwards and they actually sought out Winfield after the game to charge him with cruelty to animals.
Following the game, a bevvy of Toronto Police officers issued a warrant for Winfield’s arrest. As ridiculous as the charge was, Winfield cooperated with the authorities and went downtown; he was booked and bail was set at $500 dollars.
Winfield was issued to appear back in court on August 12th, and the maximum sentence could have been six months in jail. Luckily, the very next day all the charges were dropped and Winfield was a free man.
Due to the incident, Winfield missed the Yankees bus to Hamilton that night to catch their flight home. The good sport that Pat Gillick was, he drove Winfield personally to Hamilton so he could join his teammates.
Perhaps the best quote of all came from Winfield’s manager at the time, Billy Martin:
“They say he hit the gull on purpose? They wouldn’t say that if they’d seen the throws he’d been making all year. It’s the first time he’s hit the cutoff man.”
It’s ludicrous to think a baseball player would ever be charged with cruelty to animals for accidentally hitting a bird with a baseball, but it actually happened in Toronto in 1983. I don’t remember Randy Johnson getting arrested for this, do you?
Nine years after the tragedy, Winfield joined the Blue Jays roster; as one bird replacing another in the circle of Blue Jays life.