Jim Fanning now a Canadian citizen
* Gentlemen Jim Fanning, the only manager to guide the Montreal Expos to post-season play, and now a Blue Jays employee has become a Canadian citizen.
By Danny Gallagher
The phone call Jim Fanning had been expecting for weeks and months finally came Valentine’s Day.
Fanning, 84, was told by an official with Citizenship and Immigration Canada that he had gained approval to become an official Canadian citizen and that he would be formally recognized Saturday, Feb. 18 at a ceremony in London, Ont., where he lives.
For a man, who had lived in Canada constantly since 1968 when he joined the ranks of the expansionist Montreal Expos’ franchise as general manager, the move to become a citizen of his adopted country took 44 years.
An employee of the Toronto Blue Jays since 2000 as a good will ambassador across Canada, the Chicago-born Fanning had been thinking of applying for citizenship status for several years.
“It was about Aug. 1 of last year that I applied,’’ Fanning said in an interview this week. “I thought it was the right thing to do. Canada has been a great place for me. I have lived a lot of my adult life here. I have always been well received. I really owe it to Canada because this country has been so good to me.
“My wife Maria is from Canada and my two children Cynthia and Frank were born in Canada. It’s nice to become a citizen of a second country and it’s nice to be a citizen in two of the greatest countries in the world. I feel privileged.’’
Fanning’s good friend George Springate of Montreal, who is Canada’s senior citizenship judge, presided over Saturday’s ceremony that included the recognition of 25 others who were granted Canadian citizenship.
Fanning and his family were sworn to secrecy not to leak any pre-ceremony information that he would be honoured. It was all hush-hush until the ceremony concluded.
“I’m a proud Canadian, I know that,’’ Fanning said.
Fanning has been privileged to work for Canada’s two, sole major-league baseball teams but he never imagined that when he arrived in Montreal in 1968 that he would stay in the country for so long.
“The first highlight, the first thrill for me in all of my time with the Expos was opening day in New York in 1969,’’ Fanning said. “That will always stick to me. It was the first ever game in the majors for a Canadian team, spanking new uniforms, the Canadian flag flew over a major-league park for the first time, there was the singing of Oh Canada for the first time in a major-league park. We won the game.
“The most memorable day was a week later in Montreal for the first major-league game in Canada. We won that game, too.’’
Fanning so happened to be the only field manager to guide the Expos to a post-season berth in their 36 seasons of existence and that came in 1981 when they lost the NL Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Of course, Fanning is fitting in just fine with the Jays, too.
“As a good will ambassador for the Blue Jays,’’ Fanning explained, “I go wherever they ask me to go, whereever they send me, to a banquet, a school, a church, clinics. And I do a lot of work for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. which inducted me as a member in 2000.’’
Fanning has been in pro baseball in some form or another since 1950 when he joined the Chicago Cubs organization as a minor-league player in Springfield, Mo.