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The Eh Game

Murder at the ballpark: TSN revisits Dave Winfield’s killing of a Toronto seagull

Eh Game

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Murder weapon: The ball that killed a seagull in Toronto 30 years ago. (TSN)

Ah, yes. As the putrid winds of steroid scandal swirl all about the world of baseball, let's revisit a more innocent time.

A time before testosterone boosting. A time before weapons of mass construction.

A time of... murder!

August 4th, 1983. Exhibition Stadium, Toronto. New York Yankees' outfielder Dave Winfield fires a ball towards the infield as the fifth inning warm up ends. It is a laser toward an innocent bystander.

That innocent bystander was a seagull. It was killed instantly.

What happened next set off an international firestorm. Well, as "firestormy" as things could get back before the internet.

Winfield was arrested. Charged with cruelty to an animal.

It was the right thing to do. It was entirely the wrong thing to do.

Thirty years after the incident, TSN presents a look back on that day and the principals involved. Personally, I'd have thought a feature on this would be the answer to a question nobody asked but, in seeing the preview, I'm hooked. For one thing, I always appreciate a look back to the stories of the day during my teenage years and with a close up of the ball that was the instrument of that bird's destruction shown off the top, along with the man who has it - I'm in.

"Who, me?" Dave Winfield (R) doesn't know what all the fuss is about while a Jays' ballboy provides some digni …

The fact that the man who has that ball is the arresting officer of the day, Wayne Hartery, makes it that much more interesting. The man who, on that day, decided he needed to knock on the Yankees' clubhouse door and arrest one of baseball's biggest stars for what may very well have been the intentional targeting and killing of that seagull.

Toronto The Good took a lot of ribbing over the incident, with zingers almost as lethal as Winfield's throw coming in from far and wide. Some felt it was about as Mickey Mouse as a major city could get. Winfield's arrest touched off a debate that would have been a wonderfully and maddeningly obnoxious one in this day and age of twitter outrage.

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The Toronto Sun's history of punny headlines dates back at least 30 years. (TSN)

Personally, I'd always thought Winfield was guilty of the crime as I'd been convinced that he made it clear that he was taking dead aim at that bird. (Plus I was young and hated the Yankees) That he was not likely to hit it was beside the point. Evidence of the day could not conclusively prove it, though.

But was that the truth? Was he innocent? Or did Winfield really plot the gruesome murder of that seagull?

I'm eager to get the answer to that one.

Thirty years on, with the statute of limitations up - you now, if there is a statute of limitations on gullicide - the real truth can emerge. If it hasn't already. Not sure it will, however as the feature's trailer does not include comments from Winfield. After all, only he knows what was truly in his heart that day.

Not as earth-shattering a sports anniversary as the upcoming 25th of the Gretzky trade, but pretty interesting nonetheless and a nice primer.

"Fowl Ball" debuts on TSN's Sportscentre, Saturday August 3rd at 6 pm ET.

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