In 1995, the Baltimore Orioles managed to steal Roberto Alomar from the Toronto Blue Jays by giving him a contract worth US$18-million.
In the summer of 2018, the Baby Zeppelins of the Toronto Comedy Softball League landed Alomar with a pie – a blueberry pie with the crust in the shape of the Blue Jays logo. Plus they landed a second Jays legend, outfielder Joe Carter, as well.
There were other parts to the deal. For showing up for one game, this Saturday at Macgregor Playground in Toronto, various members of the Baby Zepps promised to provide Carter and Alomar with everything from free burgers and “beer, lots of beer,” to a big discount on paint to “a five-dollar, it might even be a 10-dollar-off, Yogen Fruz coupon.”
But the pie, made by comic and writer Camiel Pell, was the clincher.
“That’s what pushed us over the edge,” comic Dan Galea, the Zepps manager, said. “I guess Roberto Alomar’s wife really liked the pies. That’s the one thing they want us to bring, the pies.”
That made the Baby Zeppelins, by their manager’s account the worst team in the Toronto Comedy Softball League (a slow-pitch circuit with the emphasis on slow, made up of comedians and their friends) the winners of Budweiser Canada’s #BudHomeRunContest. The contest was run on social media in early July in partnership with the Blue Jays and celebrated the two most famous home runs in team history, Carter’s walk-off blast 25 years ago, which won the 1993 World Series, and Alomar’s shot a year earlier, which won Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, propelling the Jays to their first World Series after losing three ALCS battles in previous years.
Contestants were invited to post reasons why Carter and Alomar should play one game with their team on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The most inventive team would get the services of both players for one game at their home park, along with food tents, actual painted lines on the field, announcers and, of course, beer.
The contest attracted more than 260 entries from beer-league teams across Canada. The social-media posts ranged from simple Twitter posts to videos shot by professionals. Players promised to name their next babies after Carter and Alomar or to sculpt their likenesses on their front lawns.
“We had some amazing entries from coast to coast,” Mike D’Agostino, director of Budweiser Canada, said. “[The Baby Zepps] had a very nice comedic lens. There was an originality and creativity to their posts that stood out from the pack.”
Another factor in the win was that Galea promised to bring all 31 members of the Baby Zepps together for the game, making it an intra-squad match. D’Agostino said Budweiser is big on togetherness. The reason the team has so many players is that working comedians are constantly on the road, making attendance an issue. Saturday’s game may mark the only time the Zepps, which Galea said with a straight face are the “laughingstock” of the Comedy League, are mostly together. The game was officially a sellout by midweek, with 400 fans expected.
“Yeah, 31 players is just insane,” Galea said. “But Just For Laughs [comedy festival] comes around and literally we lose half our team. That’s the thing. We’re the funniest team in the league, but that doesn’t really help us win games.”
Galea, who promotes several comedy shows in Toronto through his company DG Special Productions, had a video made of all the promises and posted it on social media (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQddm0kytlc&feature=youtu.be). He also tweeted various promises every day for almost a month.
“I had an idea if I could do something every day no one else would do that,” Galea said. “I really didn’t think we were going to win, to be honest. I had no idea.”
The video opens with comic Christophe Davidson offering an off-key blast on a trumpet and promising more of the same for the Jays duo. Also standing out is Brian Ward, who looks conspiratorially at the camera and says, “Joe, Robbie, whatever you need paint-wise I can help you out. I work at a paint store, I’ve got the staff discount. We’re talking 40, 50 per cent.”
And bar owner Phil Cacace, one of the few non-comics on the team, earnestly offers “a 100-per-cent commitment. If I got to run somebody over at the plate or somebody even throws the ball close to you in the batter’s box I’ll be the first one out there to start throwing punches.”
Pat Thornton’s promise might give Carter pause: “Hey Joe, I’m 29 so if you play for us you can’t be 29. But I’ll let you put my shirt on for one minute and I guess I’ll put on your shirt.” Jordan Foisy, who mixes writing with comedy, said, “I promise I will write an amazingly thoughtful and insightful piece on Vice.com for you.” Dawn Whitwell offered free stand-up comedy lessons.
But Pell, who originally hails from Victoria, proved to be the closer with her pie pitch. “I can make all of the themed pies you want. I can make Blue Jays pies,” she said, reciting a long list of varieties.
Pell actually has the chops when it comes to pies. They are a passion in her family, as she learned the craft from her mother, who learned from Pell’s grandmother. She has been in the catering business and will trade pies for goods and services. Her wares can be seen on Pell’s Instagram account, @camielpellcomedy.
“I thought that was really cool. I got ‘em [through] the wives,” Pell said of her winning pitch. “That’s great. It really showed me how much people love homemade pies.”
A bonus for the team is Budweiser bought them a new set of uniform tops. A friend of Galea’s named his child Zeppelin (“for a bunch of weird reasons”) which inspired the team name and the Zepps logo has the face of a baby on it. But that’s a no-no when it comes to associations with adult beverages.
“We have to make sure we don’t associate ourselves with anyone not of legal drinking age,” D’Agostino said. “The baby on the logo was something we wanted to be careful of.”