Passion, longevity, and competitiveness are just a few of the attributes that made up Jack Dominico.
Dominico had a background in newspapers. He sold ads for both the North Bay Nugget and Etobicoke Guardian. He met his wife, Lynne, at the Guardian. Their shared love of baseball led to ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs and that little pressbox high atop the hill behind home plate.
Each spring, the Dominicos celebrate the beginning of the baseball season with a sports event that was second-to-none. They were able to attract some of the biggest names in baseball’s past for their annual forum that would coincide with the Leafs opening day.
The personalities read like a Who’s Who of baseball history, ranging from Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn, Bob Feller, Bobby Thompson, Don Larsen, Bill Mazerowski, Curt Flood, Larry Dolby and Enos Slaughter. These are just a few of the 75 or so different baseball greats, they were able to entice over the years to their opening day festivities.
The Maple Leafs baseball team was owned by Jack and Lynne for the first 40 years of its existence. After Lynne’s passing on November 8, 2008, it was owned exclusively by Jack.
Dominico was passionate in his support of youth baseball and the community surrounding Christie Pits. He held numerous weekend baseball clinics for those involved in the Toronto Playgrounds House League Baseball program where young players learned skills from talented players on his Toronto Maple Leafs team.
Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) commissioner, John Kastner had known Dominico since 1979, when he covered the league for the Beacon Herald.
He described Dominico as a “one of a kind character,” that had a passion for baseball and a knack for sales.
“For Jack it was total lifestyle,” Kastner said. “It was his job…his way of life. He loved baseball and just never stopped.”
Since its inception the team has won the Jack and Lynne Dominico Trophy as IBL champions eight times, the first in 1972. During their 2002 championship season, the Leafs were undefeated at home, a league first.
He was “just Jack” around baseball diamonds across Ontario, instantly recognizable to many by his first name.
On a game day, you could find him walking up and down the hill at Christie Pits Park, selling 50-50 tickets or selling team hats, working the phone, selling ads for hard copy souvenir or record books, or clamouring for media attention.
For Dominico, when he needed to focus on the business side of promoting his team and the IBL it came natural to him.
His background in sales gave him “a leg up” for generating revenue and having the ability to seek out sponsorship opportunities.
“Jack was in every sense a salesman,” Kastner said. “From the time he got up until the end of the day, if an opportunity arose he would grab the phone and try to land a sponsor.”
He was an assertive salesman and skillful organizer, but as soon as the first pitch hit the catcher’s mitt, Dominico became a fan like anyone else. Not a game went by – sometimes not an inning – without hearing his booming voice react to the action below.
If an umpire blew a call (in Dominico’s opinion), they heard about it. If one of his players messed up, they heard about it. If his manager let a game slip away, they heard about it. His trademark groans and gripes rang around the Pits without needing the PA system.
Dominico died peacefully at the age of 82 earlier this year in January, and it is safe to say that the press box on top of the Christie Pits hillside will never be the same.