My weekly opinions, observations and rants about some Canadian baseball stories (Please follow me on Twitter: @kevinglewsports):
Around 1,500 people were on the Hall of Fame grounds on Saturday for the events surrounding the induction of Expos legend Rusty Staub, New Brunswick-born big leaguer Rheal Cormier, current Milwaukee Brewers GM Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.) and the Pan Am Games gold medal-winning Canadian Senior National Team. I’ve been to over a dozen of these ceremonies in St. Marys and this was perhaps the largest crowd ever.
On top of Rusty Staub and Rheal Cormier being inducted, several other former Expos were in St. Marys over the weekend, including Jim Fanning, Bill Atkinson, Steve Rogers, Larry Landreth, Mike Johnson and Derek Aucoin.
Speaking of Derek Aucoin, I had the opportunity to meet him and his lovely wife Isabelle and beautiful baby boy Dawson. And yes, Dawson is named after former Expos great Andre Dawson.
In his capacity as Brewers general manager, Doug Melvin dealt Brett Lawrie to the Toronto Blue Jays for Shaun Marcum on December 6, 2010. Lawrie has gone on to become arguably the most popular player on the Blue Jays. But Melvin also orchestrated another deal with the Jays that didn’t work out so well for the Blue Birds. On July 19, 2000, while he was GM of the Texas Rangers, Melvin worked out a swap with then Jays GM Gord Ash to send pitcher Esteban Loaiza to Toronto for Darwin Cubillan and Michael Young. While Loaiza pitched two-and-a-half mediocre seasons at the Rogers Centre, Young has enjoyed a potentially Hall of Fame career with the Rangers. The trade is widely regarded as the worst in Blue Jays history. “Gord Ash wanted a pitcher that would help them win and get to the playoffs that year and we traded Loaiza for Michael Young,” Melvin told me at the pre-induction ceremony press conference. “It was between Michael Young, Brent Abernathy and Felipe Lopez. They had a lot of middle infielders at that time. We worked a deal with Gord and our scout had recognized Michael Young because he was very athletic. It’s a little bit similar to the Marcum/Lawrie deal. We needed Shaun Marcum to help us get to the post-season and we had a talented player in Brett Lawrie. So they’re similar type deals in that regard.”
One of the most touching moments of Saturday’s ceremony occurred when Hall director of operations Scott Crawford announced that the museum would be renaming their volunteer award in the honour of Randy Echlin. Echlin, a former Ontario Superior Court judge, was a lifelong volunteer with the Hall before he died of cancer last August. Randy’s wife Ann and his children, Rob and Libby, were on hand for the ceremony. Libby was being married in the induction tent that night to honour her father.
National Baseball of Hall of Famers in attendance were Cubs legend Fergie Jenkins and longtime Blue Jays GM Pat Gillick. Toronto Sun columnist Bob Elliott, who will become the first Canadian to receive the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing, introduced the Baseball Canada Senior National Team that won gold at the Pan Am Games.
Congratulations to Baseball Canada Senior National Team executives Ernie Whitt (manager), Bernie Soulliere (business manager) and Stubby Clapp (hitting coach) who became the second, third and fourth double inductees of the Canadian ball hall. Whitt and Soulliere were inducted as individuals in 2009, while Clapp was a member of the 1991 Canadian National Youth Team that was enshrined after they won gold at the World Youth National Baseball Championship in 1991. The only other double inductee is John Haar, a Vancouver native who managed the 1991 National Youth Team and was inducted as an individual in 2007.
It’s always great to hear former Expos manager Jim Fanning speak. The now 84-year-old Fanning, who was inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000, introduced Rusty Staub at the ceremony. In his speech, Fanning spoke of the trade that brought Staub to Montreal in 1969. Fanning also believes that the National Baseball Hall of Fame Veterans Committee will induct Staub. With 2,716 career hits over 23 seasons, Staub has a shot at Cooperstown, but it’s a long shot at best.