By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Greg Maddux and Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins have a lot in common.
Both were right-handed pitchers who won Cy Young Awards with the Chicago Cubs and both are members of the exclusive 3,000-strikeout club. Both also did the No. 31 proud at Wrigley Field – so much so that the number was retired in their honour in a joint ceremony on May 3, 2009.
“I thought that was pretty cool that they gave me Fergie’s number because I knew he was one of the best pitchers to ever play for the Cubs and in baseball period,” Maddux told MLB.com prior to the ceremony. “It was an honour to have his number.”
The two former Cubs also have another thing in common: plaques in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. On the strength of his 355 wins, four Cy Young Awards and 18 Gold Gloves over his 23-year big league career, Maddux was a near unanimous selection by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in 2014.
But Maddux’s kinship with Jenkins isn’t his only connection to Canada. Here’s a rundown of some of his other links to the Great White North:
– The Montreal Expos had two opportunities to select Greg Maddux in the first round of the 1984 MLB amateur draft but passed, opting instead to choose Bob Caffrey, a catcher out of California State University 13th overall and left-hander Norm Charlton 28th overall. Maddux was snapped up by the Cubs in the second round, 31st overall. For the record, the Toronto Blue Jays didn’t have a first-round selection that year. Their pick had been awarded to the Chicago White Sox (who selected right-hander Tony Menendez) as compensation for signing free agent Dennis Lamp.
– Maddux made 27 starts at Olympic Stadium and posted an 11-7 record and a 2.60 ERA. His best outing in Montreal came on September 23, 2000, when he struck out 13 batters in seven shutout innings to lead the Braves to a 10-0 victory.
– Coincidentally, Maddux’s only other 13-strikeout game came against the Toronto Blue Jays at Turner Field on June 27, 1998. The heady hurler pitched a complete-game shutout in the Braves’ 2-0 win.
– Maddux pitched just one game at the SkyDome during his career. On July 17, 1997, he permitted three runs in six innings in the Braves’ 8-3 win over the Blue Jays in front of 31,356 fortunate fans. Canadian southpaw Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.) pitched three innings for Toronto in that contest.
– Two Canadians caught Maddux during his career: Luke Carlin (Hull, Que.) was behind the plate for four of the Hall of Famer’s games in 2008 with the San Diego Padres, while Montreal native Russell Martin caught 17 of Maddux’s starts – including the final start of Maddux’s career on September 27, 2008 – with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2006 and 2009.
– Aside from Carlin and Martin, Maddux (by my count) was teammates with four other Canadians during his big league career (hometown, team, years they played with Maddux): Steve Wilson (Victoria, B.C., Chicago Cubs, 1989 to 1991), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C., Chicago Cubs, 2004 to 2006), Eric Gagne (Montreal, Que., Los Angeles Dodgers, 2006), and Pete LaForest (Hull, Que., San Diego Padres, 2007).
– Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) was the most successful Canadian at the plate against Maddux. The recently retired outfielder had 12 hits – including three doubles, a triple and two home runs – off of the legendary righty in 29 at bats (.429 batting average, .821 slugging percentage).
– Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) had the most at bats of any Canadian off of Maddux. In 76 at bats, the Canuck batting champ registered 22 hits – including two doubles and two home runs – off the 2014 Cooperstowner.
– Other Canadians who have walked to the plate against Maddux in the big leagues include: Corey Koskie (Anola, Man., 1-for-8), Martin (Montreal, Que., 2-for-11), Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask., 4-for-16) and Matt Stairs (St. John, N.B., 1-for-7).
– Believe it or not, two Canadian pitchers have recorded hits off of Maddux: Jeff Francis (Vancouver, B.C., 2-for-5) and Dempster (1-for-6).