Category Archives: Toronto baseball prior to the Blue Jays

Toronto’s Hanlan’s Point Baseball Stadium (demolished)

Fonds 1244, Item 6048

Hanlan’s Point Stadium in 1912, Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 6048.

My father and one of his brothers arrived in Toronto as young immigrants in 1921. Born in a small village in Newfoundland, which was not yet a province of Canada, there were many wonderful sights that amazed them in their adopted city. One of the most impressive was the city’s baseball stadium at Hanlan’s Point. The Toronto team had relocated to the new stadium on the Islands in 1897, so when my father and uncle arrived in the city, crossing the harbour to attend baseball games was a well-established and much-loved tradition. The Toronto Maple Leaf team was in the International League, a minor league that included Buffalo.

Each year at Hanlan’s, the first ball flew across home plate in May. Admission was 50 cents, which included the return ferry fare across the bay. The stadium at Hanlan’s burnt twice, in 1903 and again in 1909. When it reopened in 1910, the wooden stadium was replaced by a concrete structure containing 18,000 seats, and  was named Maple Leaf Stadium. The legendary Babe Ruth hit the first home run of his professional career in the stadium on September 5, 1914, the ball landing in Toronto Harbour. My father was aware of the history of the stadium and its importance to Toronto’s multitudinous baseball fans.

From the stories my father told me, and the reports in the Star newspaper in the Toronto Reference Library, I have been able to recreate a reasonably accurate account of his first visit to the Hanlan’s Point Stadium, an event that he remembered until the day he passed away. I knew the year it occurred, as it was his first year in Toronto—1921—and he also told me that it was on Labour Day.

In 1921, the weather over September’s Labour Day weekend was hot. On Sunday, the temperatures dipped to 83°F, but they rose again on Monday, September 5th—Labour Day. In this decade, on statutory holidays, newspapers were printed, but the laws forced merchants and offices to close. Thus, my father and his brother had the day off from their labours at the McNamara’s market gardens at Bathurst Street and Davenport Road. They were tempted to visit the Ex, as the Labour Unions were to march to the grounds in the morning, and there was to be a giant sports program in the afternoon. However, they decided to opt for a baseball game. It was an activity that was to become a lifelong passion for them both. The Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team had recently returned from a stretch on the road and was set to play a double-header against the Buffalo Bisons at the stadium on Hanlan’s Point.

Shortly after one o’clock, my father and his brother crossed the harbour on the Primrose, a single-stack, coal-powered ferry with side paddles. A few clouds eased the extreme heat of the afternoon, and the refreshing breezes off the lake further moderated the temperatures. The harbour waters reminded the brothers of their home in Newfoundland, but the skyline visible in the ferry’s wake reinforced the fact that they had indeed opted for a new life.

The city’s other ferries—the Trillium, the Bluebell, and the Mayflower—were also in service, because large crowds were anticipated for the games as Toronto was battling for second place in the International League. Since the game did not commence until 2 pm, my father and his brother mingled with the throngs at Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park. They milled about the mechanical rides, especially the rollercoaster. A ride called the Hurgle Gurgle featured a long, spiralling water-chute with a pool of water at the bottom, where the riders were soaked to the skin. In later years, the water feature was removed from the ride. Though many people were jamming the food stands and the cafeteria beneath the baseball stadium, the young brothers did not purchase anything, as they wished to save their money for snacks during the game.

After entering the stadium, they did not have long to wait, as at two o’clock the first ball rocketed over home plate. The loud crack of the bat resounded throughout the stands as the ball soared out into left field. The spectators roared their approval—Toronto was beginning the afternoon in good form. The stadium’s sightlines were excellent, even in the lower-priced seats, where my father sat with his brother. They had an unobstructed view that allowed them to follow the game closely and scrutinize every manoeuvre.

During their boyhood days in Newfoundland, neither of them had played sports in an organized league. However, they had often formed teams to play ball on the meadow near Man-O-War Hill, or, in winter, hit a ball across the frozen expanse of the harbour. A freeze-up provided a large, flat surface of ice, on which they could enjoy sports for as long as they were able to endure the frigid temperatures.

The experience at Hanlan’s Point was vastly different. The unified shouts of thousands of excited fans, all sharing the same sport and encouraging the same team, caused a surge of adrenaline that the brothers had never experienced. They fell in love with the antics expected of serious fans—yelling, hollering, and screaming at the players. They ate hot dogs while slurping watered-down drinks, and shouted at the players who did not perform well. The umpires became prime targets for abuse when the calls were not in the home team’s favour. It was difficult to know whether the ritualistic reactions of the crowd or the skills of the game were the most entertaining. Despite boisterous encouragement, the Leafs lost the game by one run, and, to add insult to injury, they dumped the evening game at 10 pm as well. The vibrant encouragement of the fans was unable to overcome a lack of luck and talent.

My father’s account of attending a game at Hanlan’s point sounds very much like attending a baseball games today at the Rogers Centre. Some aspects of spectator sports never change.

My father was saddened when attendance at games at Hanlan’s point eventually dropped due to the inconvenience of travelling across the harbour, especially on stormy days during early autumn and spring. The Toronto team departed for the mainland after the 1925 season to a new stadium on the lakefront at the foot of Bathurst Street. It was also named Maple Leaf Stadium.

However, the Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park continued to operate, though attendance began diminishing after Sunnyside opened in 1922. The stadium at Hanlan’s Point was finally demolished in 1937.  


The site of the Hanlan’s Point Stadium on the Toronto Islands.

CA  1908  a029254[1]

Hanlan’s Point amusement park in 1908. Canada Archives, a 029254

CA  1908.  a029251[1]

Hanlan’s Point Stadium in 1908, the wooden structure surrounded by the amusement park. In the background, across the harbour, is the Toronto skyline. Canada Archives, a029251.

Fonds 1244, Item 6046

The Toronto team in the stadium in 1910, the rollercoaster of the amusement park in the background. Toronto Archives, F1244, Item 6046.

Chuckman's, c. 1910 postcard-toronto-hanlans-point-stadium-and-grand-stand-note-buffet-sign-over-centre-doors-c1910[1]

The new concrete stadium, c. 1910. Postcard from

ONt. Archives, Aug. 12, 1927, Jasmine Ferry  I0014001[1]

The Toronto ferry the Jasmine beside the stadium on August 12, 1927. Ontario Archives, 10014001.


The Trillium at Hanlan’s Point on September 1, 1927. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 5215.

Stadium, illuminated, Hanlan's Point, (Commercial Department) – August 16, 1928

The stadium during a night game in 1928. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 6154.

Undated 1900.. TRL. e1-46c[1]

Undated photo of the stadium from the Toronto Public Library Collection, e1-46c

T.T.C. picnic, general view of picnic grounds, (Personnel Department) – August 17, 1929

A picnic in the stadium on August 17, 1929. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 7125. 

Grand Opera "Aida," stadium, Hanlan's Point, (Commercial Department) – 1936

The opera Aida performed in the stadium on August 8, 1936. Toronto Archives, S0071, Item 1150.

To view the Home Page for this blog:

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


   To place an order for this book: .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)


Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s former movie theatres will be released in June, 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 125 archival photographs and relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories.

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will be released in June 2016. For further information follow the link to  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link shown below:–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21.







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Toronto’s CNE Grandstand and Baseball Stadium


The CNE Grandstand in 1956, taken with Kodachrome film with my 35mm Kodak Pony camera from the top of the Ferris Wheel on the midway.

Toronto’s CNE Stadium creates different memories for different people, depending on whether a person remembers it as a baseball stadium, or as a grandstand where Canada’s most spectacular stage shows were held. When the CNE Grandstand performances ended in 1968, it was an indications that the annual fair was no longer the most important late-summer event in Toronto. The CNE continues to attract over a million visitors annually, more than any other fair in Canada, including the Calgary Stampede. However, its prominence in the life of the city has greatly diminished. Canada’s Wonderland, Rogers Stadium and the Ripley Aquarium are a few of the entertainment venues that now compete with the CNE.

Today, it is difficult to conceive of a world without the internet—Facebook, Twitter and blogging. When I was a boy, smart phones were confined to science fiction where the comic-book hero Dick Tracy sported a 2-way wrist-radio that allowed him to transmit messages. Now, the technology is a reality. However, the CNE commenced long before the era of the internet, at a time when agricultural and industrial fairs were important to disseminate information about the latest horticultural trends and technological advancements.

During the 19th century, fairs were held at various locations throughout the province, Toronto hosting them several times. In April 1878, on land on the north side of King Street West, near Shaw Street, a highly successful one was held, attracting over 100,000 people. It inspired Toronto’s City Council to seek a site for a permanent fair, to be held annually. In 1878, the city leased the western portion of the Garrison Reserve, to the southwest of Fort York. On March 11, 1879, the Provincial Legislature passed “An Act to Incorporate the Industrial Exhibition Association of Toronto,” to allow the city to incorporate a fair.

The first “Industrial Exhibition” opened on September 3, 1879, for one week, the price of admission 25 cents. There were 23 buildings, one of them a grandstand containing 5000 seats. During the next few years, it hosted various events, including horse races, sports, fireworks, livestock judging, and stage shows. The fair was so successful that in 1892, the grandstand was rebuilt and expanded, doubling its capacity to 10,000 seats. The same year, the fair grounds became the first in the world to be electrified, making it possible for the grandstand stage shows to be larger and more extravagant. Another advantage was that they could be held after sunset.

In 1906, the grandstand burnt to the ground.

Fonds 1244, Item 12    

Ruins of the grandstand in November 1906, following the disastrous fire. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item, 0012.

Aug. 9, 1928,  f1231_it1253[1]

The Grandstand that replaced the one that was destroyed by fire in 1906. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1231, Item 1253.

Fonds 1244, Item 1399

Auto race in the grandstand in 1926, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1244, Item 1399.

The architect G. W. Guinlock designed a new stadium for the Industrial Exhibition, which opened in 1907 with a capacity of 16,400 seats. Guinlock also designed the Government Building (now Mediaeval Times), Horticultural Building, Music Building, and the Fire Hall and Police Station. In 1912, the name of the fair was changed to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE). During the ensuing years, many of the grandstand stage shows were historical pageants—the “Burning of Rome-Nero,” “Empire Triumphant,” “Dance of the Squaws,” Siege of Lucknow (India) and “The Durbar of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.” The last historical stage show was “Britannia,” performed in 1941. For almost four decades, the grandstand remained the focal point of the CNE, until it burnt in 1946.

The architects Marani and Morris were hired to design another grandstand, the general contractor being Pigott Construction. It contained 20,600 seats. Facing south, it was 800 feet in length, the height of its roof soaring to 75 feet. As well as stage performances, it featured stock car racing, auto polo, rodeos, track and field events, circuses, concerts, and military extravaganzas such as “The Scottish World Tattoo. However, the most spectacular events were the grandstand shows, the largest ever held in Canada. Over 1500 stage performers were involved for a single performance, as well as a large orchestra. 

1950s, CNE archives  ad68fb7f-1f51-43c2-aa3b-ecd2a6f1f526[1] 

View of the north facade of the CNE Grandstand in the 1950s. Photo, CNE Archives


Miss Toronto Beauty Pageant in 1951 in the CNE Stadium, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, Item 1696.


Queen Elizabeth in the CNE Grandstand in 1957, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S1057, Item 4989.

RCMP Musical Ride, 1950s  f1257_s1057_it5746[1]

The RCMP Musical Ride at the CNE Grandstand in the 1950s, Toronto Archives, Fonds 1257, S 1057, Item 574.

The 1950s and 1960s were the golden age of the CNE Grandstand shows. Shorty after the new grandstand was completed, Leon Leonidoff was hired to produce the shows. He had trained in Canada and after relocating to New York, had a successful career producing  performances at the Radio City Music Hall. Employing his connections, he brought the famous “Rockettes” to the grandstand. He also booked famous American stars, along with their supporting casts, costumes and sets. Almost everything was American. In 1948, he hired the famous and outrageous comedy team—Olsen and Johnson. Many citizens of “Toronto the Good” considered them outrageous, complaining that their jokes were crude. The objections voiced about the comedians created so much free publicity that the grandstand was packed every night. The comedy duo continued at the Ex until 1951.

However, many felt that the grandstand shows should feature more Canadian talent and Jack Arthur was hired to fulfill this mandate. American stars continued to be employed as drawing cards, but the remainder of the casts were Canadian. As well, costumes were supplied locally, by Malabar Limited, and the stage sets were all constructed in Toronto. Jack Arthur’s wife, Midge, trained a group of dancers to replace the “Rockettes.” They were named the “Canadettes,” and were advertised as “the longest line of show girls in the world.” Alan and Blanche Lund, a famous Canadian dance team, created the choreography and the immensely talented Howard Cable took over the musical arrangements. Hugh Hand was the mastermind behind the wondrous fireworks displays.

The grandstand shows became spectacles that showcased Canadian talent, featuring Canadian themes. In 1955, Marilyn Bell  appeared on the stage, as that year she had successfully swam the English Channel. In 1959, the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway was the theme. In other shows, Max Ferguson portrayed his self-created character “ old Rawhide.” Celia Frank danced with the National Ballet. Concerts included the opera star Teresa Stratas, and Wally Koster, a star of the TV show, “Cross Canada Hit Parade” performed.

Hollywood stars that appeared during the golden years of the CNE Grandstand shows included Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante, Roy Rogers, Dale Evens, Bill Cosby and Danny Kaye. Jack Arthur was also responsible for the creation of an enormous moveable stage, at a cost of $500,000. Jack Arthur retired in 1967, and the last great stage show was in 1968. Its theme was “Sea to Sea—The Iron Miracle,” written by Don Herron.

As the dawn of the 1970s approached, the grandstand shows were no more. However, those who attended them will never forget their grandeur.


This photo of a performance at the CNE Grandstand was taken in 1956. It is another photo that was taken in Kodachrome film with my 35mm Kodak Pony camera.

However, the CNE Grandstand’s fame did not end with the termination of its stage shows. In 1959, the seating capacity was expanded by constructing a south stand and a new section of seats. The facility now possessed 12,472 more seats, and it became the home field for the Toronto Argonauts football team. In 1962, the Grey Cup was held in Toronto, with Hamilton and Winnipeg the participating teams. The conditions on the field were so foggy that it could not be verified that the final touchdown was converted, and the the Tiger-Cats lost the game by a single point. The game became known as the “Fog Bowl.” 

In 1975, construction commenced to reconfigure the stadium to accommodate baseball games, the seating capacity now 54,254. In 1976, Toronto received a major league baseball franchise in the East Division of the American League. The team was named the Toronto Blue Jays. They played their first game in the CNE Stadium on April 7, 1977, against the Chicago White Sox. Toronto won the game, the score being 9-5.

However, because the stadium was located close to the lake, weather conditions were unpredictable. Also, there was a desire for a multipurpose stadium. As a result, construction on a new stadium, with a retractable roof, commenced in 1986. The final game played at the CNE was on May 28, 1989, and the Blue Jays moved into the Sky Dome on June 5, 1989. Their first season under the dome was not particularly successful, attracting only 1.7 million fans. However, the Blue Jays went on to win the World Series in 1992 and 1993.

In 1999, the seats at the CNE Stadium were sold and the structure was stripped of anything that might be recycled, only the concrete and steel girders remaining. Explosives were employed to implode the CNE Stadium. A half century of entertainment history ended.

Note. I am grateful for the information contained in: “Once Upon a Century – 100 Year History of the Ex,” by John Robinson, published in 1978 by J. H. Robinson Publishing Limited.


CNE Stadium in the 1980s at the height of its popularity as a baseball venue. Ontario Place is visible in the background.


To view the Home Page for this blog:

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

Recent publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  


   To place an order for this book: .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 


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