Happy New Year!
With the calendar now turned to 2011, here’s part one of my look back at the top Canadian baseball stories of 2010 (in no particular order):
Votto wins NL MVP, Lou Marsh and Tip O’Neill awards
After battling anxiety and depression in 2009, Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto’s 2010 season was nothing short of remarkable. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman led the National League in on-base percentage (.424) and OPS (1,024), finished second in batting average (.324) and third in home runs (37) and RBIs (113). His heroics led the Cincinnati Reds to their first playoff appearance since 1995.
Pat Gillick elected to Cooperstown
With Pat Gillick as GM, the Jays recorded 11 consecutive winning seasons (1983 to 1993), captured five division titles and won two World Championships. Following his tenure in Toronto, the savvy baseball man, who became a Canadian citizen in 2005, later built playoff teams in Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia to become the only GM to guide four different clubs to the post-season. Gillick was the only nominee elected by the Hall of Fame’s Veterans Committee.
Bob Elliott wins Jack Graney Award
No other scribe is more dedicated to covering Canadian baseball than Bob Elliott. Universally respected, Elliott writes about everything from grassroots baseball to Canadian college prospects to Canuck big leaguers in his must-read work for the Toronto Sun. He’s also the architect of the www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com and the author of the bible of Canadian baseball – The Northern Game. The Jack Graney Award is presented by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame to a representative of the media who has made a significant contributions to the game of baseball in Canada through their life’s work.
Alomar, Quantrill & Roth enter Canadian Ball Hall
The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame added three worthy members in 2010. Roberto Alomar was enshrined for his five all-star appearances, five Gold Gloves and two World Series titles as a Jay, while Port Hope, Ont., native Paul Quantrill was recognized for his 14-year career that saw him pitch in a Canadian record 841 games. The late Allan Roth, a Montreal native, was also inducted. Hired by legendary executive Branch Rickey in 1947, Roth was baseball’s first team statistician.
Matt Stairs breaks pinch-hit home run record
Toiling with the San Diego Padres, his 12th different big league club, Matt Stairs belted his 21st career pinch-hit home run to break Cliff Johnson’s major league record on August 21. The ball the stocky Fredericton, N.B., native hit off of Brewers reliever Kameron Loe for his record-smashing round-tripper fortuitously ricocheted back onto the field, and Stairs was able to retrieve it. The Canuck slugger hinted in an interview that that ball would likely end up in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Stairs would slug two more pinch-hit homers in 2010. The journeyman Canuck recently signed with the Washington Nationals, his record-breaking 13th different big league club.
Dan Shulman named voice of Sunday Night Baseball
Toronto native, Dan Shulman, will take the place of broadcasting icon Jon Miller on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball telecasts in 2011. An immense talent, the former Jays TV broadcaster was selected as the decade’s best national play-by-play announcer by Sports Illustrated in December 2009. In Toronto sports circles, it’s often lamented that the Jays’ biggest free agent loss was losing Shulman to ESPN.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the top Canadian baseball stories of 2010. This should be published in the next couple of days.