Is Toronto losing its glamour?

MIKE ULMER

, Last Updated: 6:36 AM ET

Once Toronto was where the superstars came to play. Now, the few real greats are catching the next flight out of the city. Toronto sports fans are looking at the most barren sports scene of the past 47 years, a firmament free of superstars.

The city hasn't been without a bona fide star since, by my count, 1956.

Carlos Delgado, the Jays' career home run leader, will skip town in a few months via free agency.

Vince Carter finally has declared his intentions and effectively has ended his tenure as a Toronto sports star. If he plays well, he buys his ticket out. If he pouts, and he will, he becomes another malcontent middle-achiever.

Mats Sundin, Gary Roberts, Ed Belfour and the rest of the Maple Leafs? Locked out.

There are stars and there are superstars, players who at their zenith stood near the top of their game, players who owned the town and, occasionally, the league as well.

You didn't have to be a league MVP to be a Toronto superstar and gaudy statistics won't necessarily get you into the Superstars Club. That said, two consecutive Cy Young Awards for Roger Clemens in as many years here turned the trick for him.

You have to stay a while, but there are exceptions. Damon Stoudamire wasn't a true NBA superstar, but as the league's rookie of the year in 1995-96 and the franchise's first star, he rates inclusion. Shawn Green, who banged out 77 homers and knocked in 223 runs in 1998 and 1999, doesn't. Rico Carty, a 20-homer man in the Jays' inaugural 1977 season, was memorable, just not memorable enough.

Superstardom is more than slightly subjective. Many would count Wendel Clark as the gold standard in Toronto sports superstardom. I offer no argument, but the numbers aren't altogether kind to the argument.

MOST FAMOUS HOME RUN

Joe Carter hit the most famous home run in Blue Jays history. He was a very good player, although not quite a superstar.

Still, if you comb through the record books, you can come up with an uninterrupted string of Toronto sports stars extending to the present day from 1957.

That was the year Argonauts great Dick Shatto gained 875 yards and 20-year-old Frank Mahovlich scored 20 goals in his first full season with the Leafs.

Since then, there has been at least one man about town who qualified as a bona fide star.

Dave Keon, the greatest player to wear the blue and white, arrived in 1960 and posted a 20-goal season to begin his 15-year-reign.

As Keon's star dimmed, Darryl Sittler broke through for 29 goals in 1973 and Borje Salming began to beat back the image of the Chicken Swede.

The Blue Jays delivered their first superstar in pitcher Dave Stieb. His 17-win 1982 campaign made him the leader in a succession of stars that included George Bell, Roberto Alomar, Clemens and Delgado.

The early 1990s were the high-water years for superstars in this town. Wendel was still in the first of his three tenures with the Maple Leafs. Pinball Clemons was supercharging the Argos offence. Alomar was giving the Jays the best second base and the most elegant play in franchise history. Doug Gilmour would arrive early in 1992 and boost the Leafs into two final four appearances.

Gone. Long gone, all of them and there are no successors in sight.

There are some superstar prospects. Vernon Wells delivered a superstar-calibre 2003 season but crashed this year. Chris Bosh, 20, delivered a terrific rookie season with the Raptors. Roy Halladay, the 2003 Cy Young winner, is only 26 and could deliver a decade of superstardom.

All superstars are invited to head to the top of the line. There are plenty of vacancies.

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MIKE ULMER'S LIST OF TORONTO'S SUPERSTARS

ARGOS

Dick Shatto

Pinball Clemons

BLUE JAYS

Dave Stieb

George Bell

Roberto Alomar

Roger Clemens

Carlos Delgado

MAPLE LEAFS

Frank Mahovlich

Dave Keon

Darryl Sittler

Borje Salming

Wendel Clark

Doug Gilmour

Mats Sundin

Curtis Joseph

RAPTORS

Damon Stoudamire

Vince Carter


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