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Toronto Blue Jays Are On A Red-Hot Streak


Time for sports.


SIMON: Last night, the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5 to 3, and with that win, Toronto closes in on their first playoff spot in 22 years. By the way, the Cubs clinch a playoff spot for the first time since Julius Caesar. Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine joins us now from Toronto the Good - this year in the American League. Howard, thanks for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott. Oh, that Chicago hyperbole - Julius Caesar wasn't around in 2008. It wasn't that long ago, was it?

SIMON: (Laughter) He's always around for some of us. The Blue Jays are playing World Series ball.

BRYANT: They are playing some great baseball and the town - it's great. It's really nice to be up here. I hadn't been up here since 2003 when I was covering the Red Sox. And the Toronto Blue Jays hadn't been in the playoffs since 1993. They're getting really close. It's nice to see a town, just like with Pittsburgh, just like with Kansas City, that is alive with baseball, that cares about the sport. And that they - they're not one of those teams that is now saying, oh, we're eliminated on opening day. They're in it. They're - they can win, and they hit the ball like nobody else. Believe me.

SIMON: And, I mean, there was even some talk that they might - the Blue Jays after - although they won two World Series a number of years ago - might actually leave town and now they're back and there's even talk that Montreal might get a team back.

BRYANT: Well, let's not forget that Canadians view labor very differently than Americans. And after the 1994 strike, baseball in Montreal virtually went away and then they ended up leaving and moving to Washington. And here in Toronto, let's not forget that this was one of the franchises that was getting 4 million fans a year and then after the strike, baseball disappeared for a long time and it's nice to see that it's back. And they're going to finish at about 2.6-2.7 million this year, so the fans are coming back.

SIMON: Another note about baseball, but certainly in a different direction, we had to say goodbye to Yogi Berra this week. People used to say he looked more like the guy selling beer at Yankee Stadium than he did an athlete. But, look, he was the American League's Most Valuable Player three times. That's as many times as Mickey Mantle. And of course, Yogi Berra was quoted almost as much as Winston Churchill. Can I share my favorite with you?

BRYANT: Absolutely.

SIMON: Yogi said, we made too many wrong mistakes. That's also very wise, isn't it?

BRYANT: It's very wise. And one of the reasons people like to say how much they hate the New York Yankees, but one of the reasons to love the New York Yankees is because the Yankees do something better than anybody else in sports. And that is that they maintain their history. When you walked into Yankee Stadium, you saw everything that that organization had ever done. When you covered the Yankees as I did, you would go into the clubhouse, you'd go into spring training and you'd see all those guys. Rizzuto was there and Reggie's there and Yogi was there. And at 90 years old, Yogi had been there all the time. It wasn't just that he was a great player. He was always present. You could see him in the clubhouse with these 22 year olds. There's Derek Jeter walking by Yogi Berra. And that is what we're all about. It's really terrific. My favorite Yogi-ism was also true - nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded.

SIMON: (Laughter) Howard, next book in your "Legend" series is out. The first was about baseball. This one is about football. We're a few games into the season. How do you tell middle school kids about the greats of football when you also have to tell them how much damage we now know that the game could inflict on those who play?

BRYANT: Really big challenge, Scott, and I love the book "Legends: Football." It was one of my - it really was a favorite to write, and I was surprised how much I liked it because it reminded me how much I love the sport. But at the same time, it was reminding me that - in the forward, I talk about how much I loved playing and playing with all the different kids and we would all get our shirts ripped off and get crushed by each other and that was the beauty of being kids and playing football. But today, that takes on a very, very different connotation. Today, we know about concussions and we know about trauma and what this is going to do not only when you turn 60 or 70, but what it does to you already when you're a teen. And so that changes the dynamic. It changes the sort of the intimacy of the game, but it's also a reality. But at the same time, it's a viewer sport now and not a playing sport for a lot of people.

SIMON: And how long does it survive depending on that?

BRYANT: Well, it depends on economics, and I think that's the sad part of it.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, but that doesn't mean no one should pick up your book. I'm looking forward to it. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

BRYANT: Oh, my pleasure, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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