But What Do I Know? … Cito Gaston, Gary Carter, David Cooper

Canadian Baseball Card of the Week: 1978 Topps John Hiller. This Toronto-born southpaw established himself as a premier reliever with the Tigers from 1967 to 1970, posting a 3.00 ERA over that four-season span and contributing the club’s 1968 World Championship. In January 1971, Hiller, just 27 at the time, suffered a massive heart attack. Doctors told him he’d never pitch again, but he was determined to return. His hard work paid off when he was cleared to return to the mound in June 1972. Any lingering questions about his stamina were laid to rest in 1973 when he pitched in 65 games, notched 10 wins, posted a miniscule 1.44 ERA and recorded 38 saves (a major league record at the time). In all, Hiller would toe the big league rubber for 15 seasons, registering 125 saves and a career ERA of 2.83.

Canadian Baseball Card of the Week: 1978 Topps John Hiller. This Toronto-born southpaw established himself as a premier reliever with the Tigers from 1967 to 1970, posting a 3.00 ERA over that four-season span and contributing the club’s 1968 World Championship. In January 1971, Hiller, just 27 at the time, suffered a massive heart attack. Doctors told him he’d never pitch again, but he was determined to return. His hard work paid off when he was cleared to return to the mound in June 1972. Any lingering questions about his stamina were laid to rest in 1973 when he pitched in 65 games, notched 10 wins, posted a miniscule 1.44 ERA and recorded 38 saves (a major league record at the time). In all, Hiller would toe the big league rubber for 15 seasons, registering 125 saves and a career ERA of 2.83.

My weekly observations about stories around the baseball world from a Canadian perspective (Please follow me on Twitter: @kevinglewsports):

– Happy belated birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston, who turned 69 on March 17. The longtime Jays skipper had his detractors – including myself at times – but he also has passionate supporters that believe he deserves to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2010, Dave Perkins of the Toronto Star noted that out of the 21 managers (now 22 with Bruce Bochy leading the Giants to their second World Series title in 2012) that have guided teams to two championships, 13 are in the Hall of Fame. Gaston’s case is bolstered by the fact that he was the first black manager to guide a team to a championship and he has more World Series rings than Earl Weaver and Whitey Herzog, who have already been enshrined.

– While reading Brodie Snyder’s 1979 book, “The Year the Expos Almost Won the Pennant!” over the past week, I learned that the Expos had to tell a few lies to discourage other teams from drafting eventual Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter. As teams prepared for the 1972 draft, Carter was a high-school shortstop who had caught only eight games and had received more than 100 football scholarship offers, writes Snyder. The Expos had been acutely aware of Carter’s talents since he was 16. “But the Kansas City Royals, California Angels and Oakland A’s all were nosing around, too, and Expo scout Bob Zuk was ordered to tell a few fibs to discourage them,” writes Snyder. “He (Zuk) passed the word that Carter was football oriented and reminded rival scouts that the youngster had missed most of the previous season with a fractured knee. Finally, he (Zuk) said, Carter would consider nothing less than a $100,000 signing bonus.”  As a result, the Expos were able to select Carter 53rd overall and sign him for $50,000.

– Add the recently released David Cooper to the long list of Blue Jays that I thought would develop into productive regulars in Toronto. Sidelined by a serious back injury this spring, the 2008 first-rounder was released by the Jays on March 14. Cooper always appeared to me to be a poor man’s John Olerud. In other words, I figured he’d become Lyle Overbay.

– Former Expo Warren Cromartie, who’s attempting to bring big league baseball back to Montreal, had some kind things to say about Tim Raines when he heard that the speedy former outfielder would be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this June. “I was so pleased to learn that my Expos teammate Tim Raines has been named for induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ontario,” wrote Cromartie in his Montreal Baseball Project blog. “I believe Rock also belongs in Cooperstown, but this is a great honor for Tim. Good for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for recognizing his qualities.”

– When the Blue Jays were taking on the Houston Astros in Tuesday’s game at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, I had to do a double-take at the player manning first base for the Jays in the late innings. The monstrous, six-foot-three, 280-pound Luis Jimenez, who the Jays apparently signed as a free agent on December 11, was a spitting image of David Ortiz from my vantage point. Set to turn 31 on May 7, Jimenez has played in the minors with seven different organizations since 2001. After hitting .310 with 20 homers in 125 games with the Mariners’ Triple-A affiliate in Tacoma last season, Jimenez made his big league debut in 2012, suiting up for seven games with Seattle. The left-handed hitting slugger will likely begin the 2013 campaign in Triple-A Buffalo.

– If you haven’t already done so, please “LIKE” the Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page. I update this page regularly with links to Canadian baseball stories. Thanks for all your support

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4 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? … Cito Gaston, Gary Carter, David Cooper

  1. Pretty surprising about Cooper!

    I was sure he’d be in their plans at least for a little bit.

    Guess its all on Lind now!

    Thanks for all the great info
    Devon Teeple – Founder / Executive Director – The GM’s Perspective

    • Thanks for the comment, Devon. I wonder if it was more than the back injury. I wonder if Cooper had grown frustrated at never getting a real opportunity to be an everyday big leaguer. Who knows though? I’m just guessing.

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