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Geddy Lee talks baseball, cardboard cutouts and The Natural in new Macleans interview

Mon, Oct 5, 2020@4:43PM | comments

Due to COVID-19 restrictions this past summer during the MLB season, the Toronto Blue Jays were denied permission to host games at the Rogers Centre by Canadian public health officials concerned about cross-border coronavirus spread. Instead they found a temporary home at Buffalo's Sahlen Field, the regular home of Jays Triple-A affiliate the Buffalo Bisons. To make the place feel a little more homey, the Jays offered fans the opportunity to purchase cutouts of themselves to place in the stands. They also filled out some spots with celebrity cutouts, including Rush's Geddy Lee, who is a regular staple at Jays games in his season seats behind home plate. Macleans magazine posted an article today recalling another time that cardboard cutouts were placed in the stands at a stadium in Buffalo - during the filming of the 1984 baseball classic The Natural. The magazine spoke with Geddy Lee about that film and his baseball fandom for the article:

... Lee is a long-time Jays season-ticket holder whose baseball fandom stretches back to his Toronto childhood. "I was a terrible skater. I never really made the grade as a hockey kid," he tells Maclean's. Instead, Lee watched the Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team-a top minor-league squad at the time that now plays semi-pro-and traded cards with his friends. Eventually, he let the sport go, but reconnected with it years later when Rush was enduring gruelling arena tours.

"I would wake up in a Holiday Inn in Iowa, or wherever, and beg the kitchen to send me up some scrambled eggs," he recalls. "You could almost always find a game to watch [on TV] while eating your breakfast before you became functional and went down to the gig to do your sound check."

As he gained rock superstardom, Lee's baseball fandom approached cult proportions. He's known for a serious memorabilia collection, including a signed baseball from all 32 players who've racked up 3,000 hits in their careers.

When The Natural was in theatres, Lee was in the middle of an American tour. He recalls sitting in the second row of a Wichita Aeros minor-league game on June 14, 1984. Rush was in town for a show the next day, and a fireballer named Brad "the Animal" Lesley dedicated a strikeout to Lee-"This one's for the Necromancer," the pitcher barked from the mound, referencing one of the band's prog-rock epics. Lesley whiffed the batter and won the game.

Rush moved on to Kansas City for its next show, and after the season, the Aeros left the Midwest for new digs: in 1985, they became the Buffalo Bisons, the Blue Jays' farm club that now plays at Sahlen Field.

"Baseball loves its myths," observes Lee, whose likeness witnessed his hometown Jays clinch an unexpected playoff spot on a chilly September night. They had managed to topple the fearsome Yankees, Ferrante's favourite team. The collector only chuckled when he heard cardboard was once again in vogue in Buffalo. "I thought of The Natural immediately," he says. "What's old is new again." ...