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The Jays of 1970

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In 1970, Jerry Tomko was listening to the radio. 39 years later, his son beat the team he inadvertently named.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during the first quarter against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 3, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Shawn Camp barely came set.

He rested, stole a look at second base and released. Jorge Posada swung, floating the ball into right-centre field at Yankee Stadium. Vernon Wells didn’t stand a chance.

By the time Wells had stumbled to the ball, it was too late. The New York Yankees had completed their come-from-behind, walk-off victory over the Toronto Blue Jays and were streaming onto the field.

One of those Yankees was Brett Tomko. The 36-year-old had earned one of the last major league wins of his career in the game, pitching the 12th and final inning for the Yankees.

Tomko’s father, Jerry, is an artist. In 1970, while driving to pick up his wife from work, an announcement on the radio perked Jerry’s attention: Cleveland’s new NBA team was having a naming contest.

It came to Jerry instantly. Cavaliers, representing “a group of daring, fearless men, whose life’s pact was never surrender,” as he wrote in an essay to the team, would fit the new franchise perfectly.

Team founder Nick Mileti conceded, and the Cavaliers were born.

There were other suggestions. When the time came to vote on the five finalists, the list included the Towers, from the 52-story Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland, the Presidents — eight of the United States’ 44 presidents were born in Ohio — and the Foresters.

“You want the most interesting one?” Cavaliers founder Mileti told Cleveland.com in 2010. “The Good Gnus.”

The list of finalists also included the Jays.

The Cavaliers received more than one-third of the 6,000 votes while the Jays fell off the ballot.

Six years later, Toronto’s new MLB team held a naming contest.

The teams’ name — perhaps linked to Cleveland’s — would be the Blue Jays.

And 39 years later, at a Major League Baseball game in New York City, Brett Tomko won one of the final games of his career against a team his father inadvertently named.


Follow Mark Colley on Twitter @MarkColley. Mark can be reached at markarcolley@gmail.com.