Paul Beeston, the genial 47-year-old who runs the Toronto Blue Jays, shrugs off any credit for his team’s success. When he talks about the Jays’ historic World Series triumph in October, he mentions the terrific performances by the players and manager Cito Gaston. When he discusses the team’s consistently high standing, he heaps praise on executive vice-president Pat Gillick and his staff.
MACLEAN’S HONOR ROLL 1992
Paul Beeston, the genial 47-year-old who runs the Toronto Blue Jays, shrugs off any credit for his team’s success. When he talks about the Jays’ historic World Series triumph in October, he mentions the terrific performances by the players and manager Cito Gaston. When he discusses the team’s consistently high standing, he heaps praise on executive vice-president Pat Gillick and his staff. But talk about Paul Beeston, and he hides behind his ubiquitous cigar. “I don’t do anything,” he barks at a decibel suitable for hailing a cab. Others disagree. “He sets the tone and direction for the entire organization, but he lets people do their own thing within that framework,” says Gillick. “He keeps a steady hand on the rudder, and he’s able to steer people back into line when they go off course.”
Beeston grew up in Welland, Ont., south of Toronto, and, after graduating in 1968 from the University of Western Ontario in London with an arts degree, he became a chartered accountant in that city. In 1976, the fledgling Blue Jays hired him to manage their finances. He grew out of successive titles until his appointment as president in 1989, and chief executive officer a year ago. During his tenure, annual revenues multiplied to more than $100 million from about $6 million in 1977, attendance for 81 home dates rose to more than four million in 1992 from 1.7 million in 1977, and the team has recorded 10 straight winning seasons. And the Series triumph less than an hour into Oct. 25 helped enliven and unite a country beset by economic and political uncertainty. “To captivate a country, particularly at a time when, collectively, we needed to feel good about ourselves as Canadians, was the special reward,” Beeston says.
Pressed to reassemble a team to defend the title, Beeston also has to deal with baseball’s many
problems. Among other challenges, owners face the prospect of diminished television revenues because of losses suffered by TV networks on a deal that expires next season, and a labor war over a new players’ collective agreement. But he remains upbeat. “The issues are strictly dollars and cents,” he says. “As they say, baseball survived the idiots who ran it before, and it will survive the idiots who run it now. It’s a hell of a game.”
In the early years with the Jays, Beeston learned his baseball from longtime scouts Bobby Mattick and Al LaMacchia, and his corporate philosophy from Peter Hardy, the team’s onetime chief executive and current honorary chairman. The Jays’ organization is renowned for its generosity— Beeston took the entire staff to Oakland and Atlanta during the playoffs and the Series. And his door is open to any employee who cares to stop by and talk baseball. But he has become one of the sport’s most influential insiders as a result of his affability and his bottom-line credibility. He is as
likely to be seen talking with managers, scouts and players as with other team owners. “I’m a bit of a rounder,” Beeston says. “But that’s how you get to know these guys.”
He is still, above all, a fan. “We could be down 9-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, and I think we’re going to get 10 runs,” he says. His office is filled with Jays’ memorabilia, along with photographs of his wife, Kay, and his children, Aimee, 17, and David, 14. The only negative result of the World Series, he says, is that he has lost some anonymity. “Now, when I go on an airplane, people want to talk to me,” he says, adding: “People even ask me for my autograph. It’s very embarrassing.” Build a better baseball team, and the world, it seems, will beat a path to your door.
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