Follow the yellow brick road

ThomascarrollIt’s not every day that you come across a living piece of history, but that’s what happened on Sunday at the Bobby Mattick Training Center. Mickey Carroll, who stands just 4-foot-7, showed up at Toronto’s spring site with one goal: to meet The Big Hurt. Not only did Carroll want to meet Frank Thomas, but he had an autographed picture to present to the slugger.

Carroll brought along a stack of signed, black and white photos of the cast of the 1939 Hollywood classic, "The Wizard of Oz." Pictured in the lower, left corner was Carroll, who played the role of a munchkin and spoke one of the most famous lines in the movie. He recited it for us, in his best munchkin voice: "We thank you very sweetly, for doing it so neatly. Follow the yellow brick road."

Seeing Carroll standing next to Thomas was quite a sight and it instantly attracted a contingent of photographers and reporters. He is one of the last living cast members from the legendary film, in which he did all of the voices for the munchkins (the others spoke only German), and he provided the voice of Auntie Em.

Carroll’s roomate at Paramount? Ronald Reagan. His godfather? Al Capone. He grew up with Judy Garland, met Babe Ruth, and had a friendship with Ted Williams. Talk about an interesting life.

"I always wanted to meet him," said Carroll, referring to Thomas.

Thomas stayed after practice and spoke with Carroll for about 10-15 minutes before needing to get back to the clubhouse. Before leaving, Thomas reached down to shake Carroll’s hand and remarked, "He’s a big fan."

"You know, I could’ve been 7-feet tall, but there was no money in it," joked Carroll.

Crosby2_1HOCKEY NIGHT IN TAMPA: A couple Toronto writers and I took a night off from baseball and headed over to the St. Pete Times Forum to catch the Penguins/Lightning hockey game tonight. We couldn’t score tickets, because it was sold out, be we were able to get into the pressbox to watch the game from there. It was the first NHL game I’d been to in more than a decade — I’m American, remember? — and I was excited to see Sidney Crosby play. Well, he pretty much skated around for three periods, and didn’t do much else. He had an assist, but it was the second assist, so it wasn’t anything spectacular.

Tampa Bay won, 5-1, and two of the Lightning goals were in the net within the first five minutes, which was right before we showed up. We arrived six minutes in and had missed two goals, a fight, and we sat down just in time for a delay to replace some broken glass. Ain’t that how it always works?

Crosby3BACK TO BASEBALL: Munchkins, hockey, where’s the Blue Jays coverage? There’s another picture of Sidney Crosby on the left, but I did add about 10 new photos to the Toronto Spring Training photo album.

On Monday, Toronto will play the first of two intrasquad games — the second being on Tuesday. The younger pitchers will throw in the first game, which will probably be around six innings long. Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett and the other Major League starters will pitch in Tuesday’s game. Thomas, Troy Glaus, Royce Clayton and Matt Stairs won’t play in either game. There’s nothing wrong with them, Jays manager John Gibbons just wants the veterans to take more time before jumping into games.

Gibbons also said Halladay, Gustavo Chacin, Burnett, John Thomson and Josh Towers are slated to start in the first five Grapefruit League games. Once the regular season starts, though, Halladay and Burnett will go back-to-back at the top of the rotation. Tomo Ohka will piggyback Burnett’s start on Saturday in Dunedin, Fla.

That’s all for right now. I have to hit the sack. A new edition of the Blue Jays mailbag will hit some time tomorrow. Remember to get your questions into if you want something to be considered for inclusion. Stay tuned for more…

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