The unfulfilled promise of a baseball game in your pocket

BJ Birdy and Cito Gaston hawked these pagers

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In early 1994, telecommunications company Motorola and the Toronto Blue Jays launched SportsTrax, a portable pager (“wireless sports information monitor”) which allowed fans to keep track of games at home or on the road. The score, the inning, the team at bat, rain delays and more appeared on its screen.

SportsTrax was carried over the Cantel radio network, with the information being just two or three minutes behind actual play. The device retailed for $149, and viewers of TSN will no doubt recall this 60-second commercial:

Motorola had big plans for SportsTrax, and chose to pilot it with the Jays, thanks to their World Series glory. But then the 1994-95 MLB strike stalled momentum—and when Motorola tried the tech with the NBA, they were sued for copyright infringement. Motorola won, but the damage was done, and the idea was nixed.


1984’s CNE came in 3-D

The Canadian National Exhibition returns this Friday. While you’ve possibly heard the Jerry Goodis’s eternal “Let’s Go to the Ex” jingle on the radio this year, television spots for the CNE are few and far between. Back in 1984, the Ex made deals to match sponsor TV ad budgets. So, we got spots for the Becker’s Express, the Dominion stores’ Flyer roller coaster, the Molson Thrill Drivers, Labatt’s Waterfront Show, and Coca-Cola’s Soaps on Stage.

Also at the 1984 CNE, Citytv and Pepsi sponsored a 3-D Video Dome, with glasses dispensed at Becker’s. Boomerang was the film that featured an array of vaguely-threatening visual thrills, which ran about 10 minutes. It was the last gasp of the second wave of the 3-D format, popularized theatrically by Friday the 13th Part 3 and Jaws 3, and locally via Citytv and Global:


The phantasms of Toronto

September 20, 1989 was when Phantom of the Opera premiered at the Pantages Theatre, where it staged more than 4,000 performances. It was 30 years ago this month that we got our first glimpse at the masterclass on how to tease such a spooky show:


King of Miracle Food Mart

The supermarket chain, which originated with Montreal-based Steinberg’s buying the Canadian division of Grand Union, was sold 30 years ago to A&P Canada, which rebranded the stores to A&P, Dominion or Food Basics. But memories of 1983 Miracle Food Mart live on, thanks to Al Waxman at its deli counter:


As sure as the sun will shine

Shout Factory is releasing a new 4K scan of Jimmy Cliff’s cult reggae film The Harder They Come on Blu-ray. Amongst many other exciting extras, it includes director Perry Henzell’s follow-up No Place Like Home, for the first time on any video format. The Harder They Come first screened in Toronto in summer 1973, and played at Cinema Lumiere on College Street, west of Spadina. (It’s now a Home Hardware.)


Fit to handle this moustache

CBC Television ran a Bruno Gerussi lookalike contest in 1977, whose prize was an appearance on the The Beachcombers, starring Gerussi as Nick Adonidas. Our research indicates that Aaron Crockett played “Young Nick” in a two-part 1978 episode, “The Patriarch,” so it’s safe to assume that he won:


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