When Ken Griffey Jr. announced his retirement earlier this month, I couldn’t help but think of Kirk McCaskill. Why you ask? Well, it was the Kapuskasing, Ont., native that served up back-to-back homers to Ken Griffey Sr. and Ken Griffey Jr. on September 14, 1990. It was the first – and only time – that a father and son have belted back-to-back homers in a big league game.
I bring this up not to diminish McCaskill’s career. He remains one of the finest hurlers to hail from the Great White North. No, I bring this up because in 2003, McCaskill gave a memorable, self-deprecating speech at his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in which he referred to the back-to-back homers by the Griffeys. He said he didn’t feel too bad about it, after all, they were both great hitters. He was a tad humiliated, however, when he looked over to the on-deck circle and saw Mrs. Griffey preparing to bat. The crowd roared and applauded his joke.
Though his father was a pro hockey player, McCaskill opted for a career in baseball after starring in both sports at the University of Vermont. The multi-talented Canuck was selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the fourth round of the 1981 NHL draft and even suited up with the American Hockey League’s Sherbrooke Jets for the 1983-84 campaign, before hanging up the blades.
Drafted by the California Angels in 1982, McCaskill made his major league debut against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 1, 1985. With 12 wins and six complete games in his first season, McCaskill proved to be a bona fide big league pitcher. He would follow that up with his best season in 1986, recording 17 wins, 202 strikeouts and a 3.36 ERA, helping the Angels to a berth in the American League Championship Series.
In 1989, McCaskill took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Blue Jays on April 28 and finished the season with 15 wins, four shutouts and a sparkling 2.93 ERA. He toed the rubber for two more seasons with the Angels, before signing with the Chicago White Sox, where he was converted into a reliever in 1993. When McCaskill called it a career in 1996, he had accumulated 106 wins (second-most by a Canadian to Fergie Jenkins who won 284), tossed 30 complete games and hurled 11 shutouts over 12 big league seasons.