Twenty-five years ago, 2013 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Tim Raines and George Bell graced the cover of Bill Mazeroski’s Baseball Annual.
With these former all-stars set to be inducted into the St. Marys, Ont.-based ball shrine on June 29, it seemed fitting that I stumbled upon this publication when I was cleaning out a spare room.
Each year, I remember looking forward to Mazeroski’s preseason publication that was filled with predictions and prognostications, and with the Expos and Blue Jays both coming off 90-plus win seasons, I must have been particularly excited to purchase this 1988 edition that more than a quarter of a century later is still fascinating to read.
In fact, for those too young to have witnessed the greatness of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers like Raines, Bell, Andre Dawson, Gary Carter, Tony Fernandez, Ernie Whitt, Joe Carter and Tom Henke in the mid-to-late ’80s, this magazine serves as an excellent education.
On top of the cover, Joe Goddard (in an article on page 4) ranks 2004 Canadian ball hall inductee Andre Dawson’s 49-homer, 137-RBI campaign with the Chicago Cubs as the highlight of the 1987 season. After starring for parts of 11 years with the Expos, Dawson was a free agent after the 1986 season. But despite his five-tool skill set, he wasn’t offered a contract by any big league squad. Thanks to the collusive efforts of the owners to keep salaries down (this wasn’t uncovered until years later), the Cubs were able to sign Dawson to a one-year, $500,000 (plus incentives) contract. In his first season at Wrigley, Dawson became the first player from a last-place team to win the National League MVP Award, a selection that inspired its critics. “The Cubs might be in the American Association without Andre Dawson,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog later said in response to those critics.
Several other Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers are also mentioned in this 25-year-old publication:
– The magazine ranks the top players at each position in both the American League and National League. Tom Henke, who was inducted into the Canadian ball hall in 2011, is rated the AL’s top right-handed relief pitcher, while both Gary Carter (2001 inductee) and Ernie Whitt (2009 inductee) merit mention as one of the top catchers in their respective leagues.
– According to this magazine, the top two AL left-fielders heading into the 1988 campaign were Canadian ball hall inductees Bell (2013) and Joe Carter (2003). Raines is listed as the top NL left-fielder.
– I always find it difficult to express to baseball fans that are about 10 years younger than me just how good Tony Fernandez once was defensively. Most fans in their mid-to-late 20s remember Fernandez as an excellent hitter, but at one time, he could do things in the field that no other AL shortstop could do. The Mazeroski book ranked him as the AL’s best defensive shortstop (see chart):
– Here’s an example of how baseball talent evaluators can sometimes get it wrong (from page 5 of the Mazeroski annual):
– Part 2 of how baseball talent evaluators can be wrong. On page 119, the Mazeroski annual includes a list of the best “Their Future Is Near” prospects. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Cooperstowner Roberto Alomar is ranked ninth behind Brad Pounders, Derek Lilliquist and (to the chagrin of Jays fans) Erik Hanson: