By Allan Perkins
In the late 1980s, the Blue Jays were supposed to play an exhibition game in San Juan, Puerto Rico to honor the late Hall-of-Famer Roberto Clemente. Dave Perkins – my dad and a Ryerson alumnus – was travelling with the team to cover the game.
He worked as a sportswriter for the Globe and Mail and, most notably, the Toronto Star. My dad travelled with the Blue Jays from 1985-1993 and worked in the business for 40 years. He studied journalism here at Ryerson in the early 1970s, back when the walkway between Jorgenson and Kerr Hall was a working street. He officially retired this past summer.
My dad always idolized Clemente and was honoured to meet his widow, Vera, that season for the baseball great’s tribute game. As the Blue Jays’ plane landed in San Juan, Vera personally greeted the players and reporters in a heavy rainstorm. The downpour continued for days on end, delaying Clemente’s tribute game. Organizers even tried to make the field playable by dousing it with gasoline and lighting it on fire. Needless to say, that didn’t work.
To pass the time, almost everyone drank and gambled in the hotel casino. As I learned from my dad, drinking and gambling are synonymous with sports writing. He played craps, and played well, raking in more than $3,400 for himself and another pile of chips for Blue Jays manager Jimy Williams.
The game was eventually cancelled after two days of waiting, but that is hardly the point: that trip was like a dream for my dad — it would become mine.
When I was younger, what appealed to me most about my dad’s job was the places he travelled. Whenever he went on assignment, he’d bring me back something: a toy car from London, a nesting doll from Moscow, or a stuffed kangaroo from Sydney. All of these things were reminders of where he’d been. I wanted to go to these places someday to prove my dad’s adventures were real. The experiences and the tales from his assignments are storied.
The moment I knew I wanted to be a journalist came when I was 11 years old. My dad brought me to a Toronto Raptors practice where I got to watch the team shoot around and do drills for about half an hour. I sat against the wall, helplessly lost in what I was watching. After practice, my dad went to work and started talking to Chris Bosh. I stood a few metres away and was completely mesmerized. This was Chris Bosh, who was, at the time, the franchise.
This summer, my dad and I were playing golf in Scotland with two of his friends. Amid the chatter, one of them casually asked where I was going to school next year.
“Ryerson University. First-year journalism,” I said.
“I warned him. He wouldn’t listen to me,” my dad said half-seriously.
His friends laughed.
Maybe I should have followed his warning and picked a higher-paying career with better hours and less work, but that isn’t what journalists do. Some risk their lives flying into war zones. They meet people associated with drug dealers to try to authenticate an incriminating video. They call back after they’re told to go perform an explicit act. In short, they stir the pot.
Travelling to Puerto Rico to report on baseball became a nomal routine throughout my father’s career. These unique and special assignmens meant a lot to him. Hearing stories about his travels and assignments are why I decided to follow my dad into this unpredictable business. It is a challenging, interesting and, for lack of a better word, cool business to enter.
I’m not a journalist because of my dad, but his influence probably helped. At this premature point in my career, I have not chosen a specific path. Sports writing seems ideal, but it would be a mistake to close off other doors this early.
Sports have always been a huge part of my life: I’ve played competitive baseball for 10 years and currently play on the inaugural Ryerson team. And there on the sidelines, watching almost every game whether I’m on the field or not, is my dad.
He has been all over the world and witnessed some of the greatest events in sports history. He was there in Las Vegas, a few rows deep when Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear. He was at all seven Canadian medal wins at the Albertville Olympics in 1992. He sat in the SkyDome press box when Joe Carter hit his walk-off home run to clinch the Blue Jays’ second World Series championship. He witnessed 13 of Tiger Woods’s 14 major golf championship wins, missing one while travelling to an Olympic Games.
He has been everywhere and I want to experience as much of that lifestyle as I can.
I went to the open houses, applied, submitted my portfolio and hoped I’d get into the same Ryerson journalism program that my dad graduated from 40 years ago.
Now, I am a first-year journalism student well on my way to following in my father’s footsteps.
Some would say I have pretty big shoes to fill. I do — he wears a size 12.