Elliott: Memories of Alison Gordon

The late Alison Gordon, winner of the Jack Graney award, talks with former Blue Jays outfielder Alvis Woods.

The late Alison Gordon, winner of the Jack Graney award, talks with former Blue Jays outfielder Alvis Woods.

By Bob Elliott
Canadian Baseball Network

I knew Alison Gordon’s work better than I knew her. 

As a small-timer from Kingston, I was about a 2.5 or maybe a 3 out of 10 on my best day. Reading Alison and her ability to turn a phrase at The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper, I was able to rate her work as 8.5 or a 9 out of 10 on a bad day. I knew Alison's talented brother, columnist at the Ottawa Citizen better than I knew Alison.

I was happy to vote for Alison for the Jack Graney award presented annually by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Alison classes up the joint -- especially since that guy that won in 2010.

Gordon's win, coupled with ESPN's Claire Smith winning in Cooperstown -- when she was presented with the J.G. Taylor Spink award -- made it a baseball writing award sweep for women.

Our careers did not really overlap by maybe more than 1/3 of an inning but I do have a couple of memories of Alison to share

Back in the dark ages women were not allowed in clubhouses. One time I asked her about what was the last barrier ... the last American League team to allow her into the “excuse room,” as Scott Young used to call it.

Alison told me it was the Cleveland Indians and Alison said that the night that the ice finally broke was a Friday night in 1981. On May 15, Indians RHP Len Barker pitched a perfect game against the Blue Jays lineup in a 3-0 win before 7,290 at Cleveland Stadium.

In the top of the ninth Barker retired Rick Bosetti on a foul pop to third, struck out pinch hitter Al Woods and retired pinch hitter Ernie Whitt on a fly ball to centre. 

And the celebration was on as C Ron Hassey hugged Barker while the writers headed downstairs to the clubhouse. 

First stop, as it was in the 1980s, was the manager’s office. Alison was allowed there. But the clubhouse was off limits.

Manager Dave Garcia answered all the questions and eventually the crowd thinned after the 10th perfect game in major league history.

Alison told me how she stayed behind and “put on my saddest face.”

Garcia looked at her and said, “You really want to go into the clubhouse, don’t you?”

Alison said she leafed through her notebook and said, “Well, I have talked to all the Blue Jays who had hits tonight ...”

Garcia smiled looked down at the papers on his desk and said, “Hold on a second, it reads here ‘No women allowed in the clubhouse of the Cleveland American League franchise ... unless in the case of a perfect game.’ Go ahead, go on in.”

And off Alison went ... last barrier down.

It was knocked down because of her smarts and her sense of humour and the magnitude of the event. 

The other story about Alison came a couple of days after her death in 2015. I had flown from Toronto Pearson to Vancouver for a coaches’ convention and clinic the week Alison passed.

The story in The Toronto Star on her death quoted Lloyd Moseby extensively and he had plenty of praise for Gordon, the obstacles she faced, her sense of humor and how relentless it was.

The next day in the lobby there were Rance Mulliniks, Moseby and some other baseball people awaiting the shuttle to the Langley Events Centre.

I thought I had Moseby alone when I complimented him on what kind things he had said and how nice he had been towards Alison. 

Apparently we were not 1-on-1 as Mulliniks leaned in and joked “Don’t worry ... we won’t be saying the same nice things about you when your time comes.”

Alison would have laughed at that.