St. Marys, Ont. – Twenty years ago George Bell and Tim Raines were teammates with the Chicago White Sox, but Canadians will best remember them for their starring roles with the Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos.
While Bell was belting 47 home runs en route to the American League MVP award for the Blue Jays in 1987, Raines was tallying a National League-leading 123 runs and serving as the catalyst of the Expos’ offence.
In the mid-to-late ’80s, many baseball pundits would’ve agreed that Bell and Raines were the top two offensive left fielders in the game. So it seems fitting that they will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame together in a ceremony to take place on the museum grounds at 386 Church St. in St. Marys, Ont. on Saturday, June 29 at 11 a.m. The ceremony will be part of three days of events (see agenda at the bottom of this page) for the ball shrine.
Toronto-born outfielder Rob Ducey, who made his big league debut in 1987 and suited up for both the Blue Jays and Expos, will also be enshrined, along with Blue Jays broadcasting legend Tom Cheek and Vancouver baseball icon Nat Bailey, both of whom will be honoured posthumously.
“I couldn’t be more excited about this year’s festivities,” said Scott Crawford, the Hall’s director of operations. “Thanks to the efforts of our volunteers, sponsors and devoted staff, we’re offering something for everyone during the three days of activities, and I can’t wait to honour the careers of our five worthy inductees.
Born in 1959 in San Pedro De Macoris, Dominican Republic, Bell remains the only Blue Jay to win the American League MVP Award. His monster 1987 campaign – that saw him belt a then-club record 47 homers and lead the league in RBIs (134), total bases (369) and extra-base hits (83) – is one of the best in franchise history.
Plucked from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 Rule 5 draft, the power-hitting outfielder was an offensive force in Toronto for parts of nine seasons. A three-time all-star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Bell socked over 20 homers in six seasons and recorded more than 85 RBIs seven times with the Jays. He also smashed a major league record three home runs on Opening Day against the Kansas City Royals in 1988. The former slugger ranks in the top five in most of the Jays’ all-time offensive categories, including third in RBIs (740), total bases (2,201) and extra-base hits (471) and fourth in home runs (202). For his efforts, he was named the club’s MVP four times and was an inaugural member of the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence in 1996.
His tenure with the Jays was followed by three seasons in Chicago with the Cubs (1991) and White Sox (1992, 1993). He retired after the 1993 campaign with 265 career homers and 1,002 RBIs.
Born in 1959 in Sanford, Fla., Raines blossomed into one of the best leadoff hitters in major league history. A fifth-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1977, Raines excelled for parts of 13 seasons in Canada. From 1981 to 1987, the fleet-footed outfielder was selected to seven consecutive all-star teams and was named the MVP of the 1987 Midsummer Classic. During that same period, he also won a National League batting title in 1986 and topped the Senior Circuit in runs twice and in stolen bases four times.
In 1,452 games with the Expos, Raines set franchise records in runs (947), stolen bases (635), triples (82), walks (793), and singles (1,163). He also ranks second in Expos history in batting average (.301) and hits (1,622).
In December 1990, Raines was dealt to the White Sox, where he toiled for five seasons, before being traded to the New York Yankees, where he earned two World Series rings (1996, 1998). In 2001, he returned to the Expos and hit .308 in 47 contests. In all, in a 23-year big league career – that also included stints with the Oakland A’s, Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins – Raines collected 2,605 hits and 808 stolen bases (fifth all-time). Following his playing career, he coached and managed in the Expos organization and his No. 30 was retired by the club in 2004. Raines has also served as a first base coach with the White Sox and is currently a minor league baserunning and outfield instructor with the Blue Jays.
Born in Toronto in 1965, Ducey was raised in Cambridge, Ont. The left-handed hitting outfielder was signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays in 1984. After being named MVP of the Rookie Ball Medicine Hat Blue Jays that year, he rose through the organization’s ranks to make his big league debut on May 1, 1987. His first major league homer came on September 14, 1987 in a contest in which the Jays clubbed a big league record 10 round-trippers to defeat the Orioles 18-3.
The talented Canadian suited up for parts of five more seasons with the Jays, prior to being dealt to the Angels in 1992. Tenures with the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies would follow, as well as a two-year stint in the Japanese Pacific League with the Nippon Ham Fighters in 1995 and 1996 that saw him belt 51 home runs. He returned to Toronto for five games in 2000 and saw his final big league action with the Montreal Expos in 2001, making him the second Canadian (along with Denis Boucher) to start his major league career with the Jays and end it with the Expos. Ducey is also one of only four Canadians (Boucher, Shawn Hill and Matt Stairs are the others) to suit up for both the Jays and Expos. In all, Ducey played 19 seasons in professional baseball, making him one of just 12 Canadians to do so.
Following his professional career, Ducey competed for Canada at the 2004 Olympics and served as a coach at the 2006 World Baseball Classic and 2008 Olympics. He has also been a scout for the Blue Jays and is currently working in player development for a Mexican League team.
Cheek broadcast 4,306 consecutive Toronto Blue Jays games from April 7, 1977 to June 2, 2004. He was also in the booth for all 41 of the franchise’s post-season contests, including Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, which inspired his most famous call. After Jays slugger Joe Carter clubbed his World Series-winning homer in the bottom of the ninth, Cheek quipped, “Touch’em all, Joe. You’ll never hit a bigger home run in your life.”
Prior to landing with the Jays, Cheek, who was born in Pensacola, Fla. in 1939, served as a backup broadcaster for the Montreal Expos from 1974 to 1976. His rich, soothing baritone earned him a reputation as one of the best play-by-play men in the business and in 2001, he was rewarded with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award for his significant contributions to baseball in Canada. In June 2004, Cheek missed his first Blue Jays’ game in order to attend his father’s funeral. Shortly after his return, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
In August 2004, Cheek’s name was added to the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence, and the following year, the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame created the Tom Cheek Media Leadership Award in his honour. He was the inaugural recipient of the award that has since been presented annually. For more than a year, Cheek waged a valiant battle against brain cancer, before he passed away on October 9, 2005. This July, Cheek will be honoured with the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s prestigious Ford C. Frick Award, an accolade handed out annually to a broadcaster who has made major contributions to baseball.
Born in St. Paul, Minn., in 1902, Bailey moved to Vancouver as a child. He was hired by Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Robert Brown to work at Vancouver’s Athletic Park, where he became a jack of all trades, doing everything from selling hot dogs and peanuts to announcing the players. In the process, he became a popular figure at the park and earned himself the nickname “Caruso Nat.”
Bailey evolved into a successful restaurateur in B.C. In 1928, he opened Canada’s first drive-in restaurant called White Spot in Vancouver. The restaurant prospered and soon he opened a chain of them across the province. When his restaurants thrived, he used a significant portion of his profits to sponsor little league teams.
In the mid-’50s, Bailey purchased the Triple-A Vancouver Mounties and his commitment to the club over the next decade helped raise interest in professional baseball to new heights in the city. After Bailey passed away in 1978, Capilano Stadium, where the Mounties played, was renamed Nat Bailey Stadium in his honour. For the past three seasons, the Vancouver Canadians, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class-A Short-Season club, have played in this stadium. They won Northwest League championships in 2011 and 2012. For his contributions to sports in B.C., Bailey was inducted into the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
All the Inductees were amazing to deal with. THanks for the rundown Kevin.