Woman earns spot on York men’s squad

First baseman Samantha Magalas will be in the starting lineup for the York University men’s team tomorrow, reported Canadian Press in a feature carried Sept. 10 by The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Review in Niagara Falls, The Daily Courier in Kelowna, BC and the Winnipeg Free Press. The 22-year-old, third-year York psychology student from Burlington, Ont., considered one of Canada’s top female baseball players, won her spot with the men this week. The addition of Magalas (pronounced muh-GAL-iss) on the York team hasn’t gone unnoticed. “We’ve played a couple of exhibition games and some of the other teams have said ‘Oh, there’s a girl on the team,’ ” she said. “They kind of do a double-take when they take a look at me.”

Hayley Wickenheiser set a high standard for women playing sports alongside men when she spent parts of two seasons with a men’s pro hockey team in Finland. Magalas, a hockey player herself with the York women’s team the past three years, doesn’t compare her baseball situation to Wickenheiser’s. “When [Wickenheiser] did it, I think it was completely different,” she said. “[She] has been playing hockey for a long time and has gold medals at the Olympics.”

But her reasons for wanting to play in a men’s league echo Wickenheiser’s. “I just wanted to do this to better my experience for the national team,” Magalas said. Magalas, 5 foot 9 and 165 pounds, was selected one of the top 10 players at the women’s World Series in Japan in July. She also helped Canada win a bronze medal at the inaugural women’s World Series in Edmonton in August.

Team Ontario manager Damon Topolie and York head baseball coach Colin Cummins discussed her talents last winter. Cummins wanted her to come out and train indoors with his team. “When I finally got out there for the first practice I was nervous,” Magalas said. “I was intimidated. I wasn’t sure how the guys were going to take it. I just wasn’t sure. I hadn’t played with guys in a while. I didn’t know what to expect. But they were great. I got out there and they were really good guys. They’re always talking to me and making me feel comfortable.”

Shuffle off to see reunited Demons

There was this crazy dude who used to stand at the corner of Yonge and Bloor in Toronto, blasting out bizarre squawks from a beat-up saxophone, began a Sept. 10 feature in The Hamilton Spectator about the return of the Shuffle Demons. He was wild-eyed, wore a black beret and blond goatee. You may remember him, back in the early ’80s, wailing away, rain or shine, sleet or snow. The crazy dude’s name was Richard Underhill. And it turns out he wasn’t really all that crazy. All those quarters tossed into his open sax case mounted up. In fact, he’d pull in about $100 a day. Underhill had just moved from Salmon Arm, BC, and was putting himself through school – music at York University (1982 to 1984). He was splitting rent with Mike Murley (BFA ’86), another sax player-student. You might have heard of these guys. They’re just about the two most respected sax players in the country. Together they’ve won three Juno Awards. But that’s getting ahead of the story – way beyond the Shuffle Demons.

Back in 1984, Murley was playing weddings to help make the rent. He’d come home with his $100 fee for playing bad versions of Lionel Richie songs and find Underhill counting his bagful of busker loot. Underhill’s take was bigger. Murley decided to join him on the street. So did a couple of friends, including fellow sax player Dave Parker and drummer Stitch Wynston (BFA’85). They needed more sidewalk, so they moved to the Eaton Centre. They had strange clothes, played three saxes, bass and drums. They had a tendency to spontaneously snakedance through crowds. And they sang strange riffs of urban poetry about cockroaches and crowded buses in a hand-clapping rap style. They became so popular, they needed a name. The Shuffle Demons fit.