My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective (Please follow me on Twitter: @kevinglewsports):
- In an unfortunate first for the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, two of its inductees passed away on the same day. Longtime Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver died in the morning of an apparent heart attack at the age of 82, while St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial passed away in the evening of natural causes. He was 10 years older than Weaver.
- A 5-foot-7, 180-pound sparkplug, Weaver managed the Orioles to four American League pennants and a World Series title in 17 seasons. Renowned for his fiery arguments with umpires and his ongoing feud with his ace, Jim Palmer, Weaver preferred the three-run homer to stolen bases. Nipawin, Sask., native Dave Pagan, who pitched for Weaver with the Orioles in 1976, enjoyed playing for the Hall of Fame skipper. “He liked to have a smoke back in the dugout, and he’d get red in the face and you could tell when he was ticked off because he’d be back there having a smoke and he’d be just ranting,” remembered Pagan in a phone interview in November. “He didn’t like a lot of umpires. He used to go crazy with the umpires. Even before the game, he’d be mumbling about the umpires in the dugout. But I really liked Earl. He would always stick up for you.”
- Later on Saturday, the baseball world lost the great Stan Musial. Affectionately known as “Stan the Man,” the Donora, Pa., native was a gentleman off the field, but a terror with the bat. In a 22-year, major league career, he amassed 3,630 hits, hit .331, captured three National League MVP awards and won three World Series titles – all with the St. Louis Cardinals. Prior to his big league career, he spent 54 games with the International League’s Rochester Red Wings, where he toiled against the Montreal Royals and Toronto Maple Leafs. London, Ont., native Tom Burgess served as the Cardinals backup right fielder behind Musial for the first three months of the 1954 campaign. As to be expected at bats were scarce, Burgess made just 24 plate appearances.
- Interesting tidbit that I read on Twitter: The Cincinnati Reds haven’t taken a player to arbitration since 2004 when Calgary native Chris Reitsma lost his case against the club. Coming off a solid 2003 campaign in which he registered nine wins and 12 saves in 57 games, the Canadian right-hander was seeking a one-year, $1.45-million deal, but the judge ruled in favour of the Reds and their $950,000 counter offer.
- On his excellent Mop Up Duty blog, Callum Hughson has written a convincing article that makes the case that longtime Toronto Blue Jays ace Dave Stieb was every bit as valuable – if not more valuable – on the mound as Hall of Fame candidate Jack Morris. You can read the article here: http://mopupduty.com/the-dave-stieb-vs-jack-morris-hall-of-fame-debate-1244/. Over the past decade or so, the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic – though not perfect – has become widely accepted as a more accurate measure of a pitcher’s overall value than traditional numbers like wins or ERA. WAR is an all-encompassing statistic that measures how many wins a player adds above what a Triple-A replacement player at their position would contribute. For the record, Stieb’s career WAR (according to Baseball Reference.com) is 53.5, while Morris’s is 39.3. Morris’s WAR is also lower than that of former Montreal Expos ace Steve Rogers (42.2), who pitched in seven fewer big league seasons.
- SABR has uncovered another Canadian who played in the big leagues in the late 19th century named Joseph Brown. This 5-foot-10, 162-pound Canuck was reportedly born in Albion Township in Peel, which is now a suburb of Toronto. In 13 games with the National League’s Chicago White Stockings in 1884, he hit .213, but he recorded four wins in seven contests as a pitcher. He also suited up for the Baltimore Orioles of the American Association in 1885 and lost all four of his starts. Sadly, he died in 1888 in Warren, Penn., when he was just 29. According to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Brown becomes the 249th Canadian to play in the big leagues since 1871.