When he was a kid growing up in Toronto, all Paul Godfrey wanted to do was play baseball.
But being in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame someday didn’t cross his mind as even a remote possibility.
“I wasn’t a good baseball player, but I loved it,” said the Postmedia founder in recollection of his lifetime love affair with the game.
He would have to find another way to make an impact in what was then known primarily as America’s pastime.
He sure did that.
Thanks to people like Godfrey, the game is international. And the iconic political and media figure will now sit amongst the game’s greats in the famous hall in St. Marys, Ont.
The hall announced Tuesday morning that Godfrey was among six new members to be inducted. Russell Martin, Jimmy Key, Ashley Stephenson, Rod Heisler and Howard Birnie join Godfrey in the class of 2024.
As a kid, Godfrey didn’t realize he would have such a profound impact on the game in Toronto to a point that he would end up in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
“Like I said, I was not a good athlete,” he said.
But what he is good at is setting a goal and doing the work one needs to achieve it. And getting people to work together.
In Godfrey’s case, his dreams would be achieved off the diamond. He was a Yankees fan as a kid, but envisioned how great it would be for Toronto to have a team in the American League with them.
“I used to listen to the Buffalo radio station for the Yankees games and there was more static than games,” he said jokingly.
He wanted to change that. He wanted a team in Canada. No offence to Montreal, but he would have preferred the team come to Toronto.
“I always thought Toronto should have a Major League Baseball team,” he said.
And when Montreal got the Expos in 1969, he set out a path to do it.
In 1973, when the former North York alderman became the pre-amalgamation era’s Metro chairman, which was the top politician representing the six cities that make up what is now Toronto, he had his sights on bringing baseball here.
“There were three things I promised I would achieve as Metro chair,” he said. “One was getting an expansion team for the city. Two was to build a great stadium with a retractable dome so they could play in inclement weather. And the third was building a convention centre.”
He scored the hat trick. Actually, make that a grand slam.
The Blue Jays winning the World Series in 1992 was another one of his dreams come true – something the Montreal Expos were never able to do.
And it all started with a Toronto kid’s love for the game.
“I remember the media at the time saying Toronto getting baseball was a pipe dream,” said Godfrey. “But I didn’t think so. I saw the path to being able to do it.”
He lobbied the commissioner of baseball, business interests and premier Bill Davis and pushed for the upgrades for the old Exhibition Stadium with a view to eventually building a downtown stadium.
The rest, they say, is history.
And even though this Hall of Fame nod is coming 50 years after he first had this dream, Godfrey said it’s an honour to have it come at all.
“The truth is I feel like a kid again,” he said, adding that while he is “thrilled and honoured” to be part of the Order of Canada and the Canadian News Hall of Fame, being selected to the Canadian baseball hall is a whole other level.
It’s not like he thought it would happen, but he did have big dreams about the game of baseball and all of those have now come true.