My weekly opinions, observations and rants about some Canadian baseball stories (Please follow me on Twitter: @kevinglewsports):
I’m hoping that the Toronto Blue Jays are planning some sort of tribute for Gary Carter for their home opener or for when the Mets (May 18 to 20) or Nationals (June 11 to 13) come to town. Arguably the most popular player ever to suit up for a Canadian big league team, the Expos Hall of Famer died last Thursday after a valiant battle with brain cancer at age 57.
By my research, when 200-game winner Tim Wakefield announced his retirement last week, he was the last active, former Welland Pirate. The right-handed knuckleballer played for the Short-Season (Class-A) New York-Penn League club in 1989. John Belford, the former GM of the Pirates, recently told the Toronto Star that it was in Welland that Wakefield became a pitcher. “Struggling in his second season as an infielder in the low minors, and on a ball club short on pitching, Wakefield demonstrated to pitching coach Larry Smith and manager U.L. Washington his ability with the knuckler,” explained Belford. “Shortly thereafter, after eating a number of innings for the club, Smith came to me to ask that I officially notify (complete the necessary paperwork) minor pro baseball’s official statistician Howe Sports Data that Wakefield is now officially a pitcher. I joke with friends to this day that I made it all possible for Wakefield to have the career he did.”
Is it just me or does Aaron Laffey = Jo-Jo-Reyes = Dana Eveland? The Blue Jays seem to have a soft spot for mediocre southpaw starters. Some days I wish I was born left-handed and could pitch.
I recently tracked down a copy of an excellent book called “The Year the Expos Finally Won Something!” by Brodie Snyder. The book is about Montreal’s storied 1981 season and contains a lot of information that I didn’t know. For example, prior to the 1981 campaign, the Expos pursued free agent hurler Don Sutton, but settled for Ray Burris when Sutton signed with the Astros.
Snyder also reveals one trade rumour that refused to go away prior to the 1981 campaign was a deal in which the Expos would send outfielder Ellis Valentine to the Blue Jays for Dave Stieb.
One of my favourite stories about late Expos manager Dick Williams stems from when a reporter asked him how he was sleeping during a particularly rough stretch in May 1981. “I’m sleeping like a baby,” he responded. “Every two hours, I wake up and cry.”
Tom Hawthorn, one of our country’s best scribes, is preparing an obituary about Ernie Kershaw, a former pitcher with the Class B Western International League Vancouver Capilanos in the 1930s, who recently passed away at age 102. The article will appear in The Globe & Mail this week. I will add a link to it when it appears.