My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Sixty-five years ago this past Sunday, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Justin Jay Clarke passed away in River Rouge, Mich., at age 66. His death came exactly 47 years after he authored one of the most amazing performances in professional baseball history. A product of Assumption College in Windsor, Ont., Clarke belted eight home runs for Corsicana Oil City in a Texas League (Class D) game, leading his team to a 51-3 romp of Texarkana on June 15, 1902. His eight home runs in that contest are still a professional record.
– As I’ve mentioned before, one of the funniest players to follow on Twitter is ex-Blue Jay Mark Teahen (@ESPY_TEAHEN), who was born in Redlands, Calif., but owns a Canadian citizenship. In wake of the bizarre dugout fight between Albuquerque Isotopes teammates (Los Angeles Dodgers triple-A affiliate) Miguel Olivo and Alex Guerrero in which Olivo bit off part of Guerrero’s ear, Teahen tweeted this gold: “I feel Miguel Olivo is getting a bad rap. I played with him for a couple of years and he didn’t bite me once . . . Not even once.”
– Neil Munro, the “Bill James” of Canadian baseball statistics, shared in a recent Canadian Baseball Network article that Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) moved past Matt Stairs (St. John, N.B.) into second place on the all-time Canadian RBI list last Wednesday. Morneau hit a single in the seventh inning off of Atlanta Braves reliever David Carpenter to knock in Josh Rutledge for the 900th RBI of his career. Morneau is still more than 400 RBI behind Larry Walker, who leads all Canadians with 1,311.
– Last week, I mentioned that Toronto Blue Jays’ 2010 first-round pick Deck McGuire seems to finally be putting it all together and is now performing well for the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. But if you look even deeper into the Blue Jays’ minor league system, there’s even more room for optimism. Daniel Norris, a 2011 second-round pick, is enjoying a breakout season. The 21-year-old southpaw, who had struggled in his first two pro seasons, is 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA in 13 starts with the class-A Dunedin Blue Jays. For his efforts, he was named to the Florida State League’s Mid-Season All-Star Team.
– Former Montreal Royals reliever Roberto Vargas passed away on May 27 in Caguas, Puerto Rico. The 5-foot-11 southpaw pitched in 10 professional seasons, including parts of two campaigns with the triple-A Royals (1957, 1959). He made his big league debut on the same day as fellow Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente on April 17, 1955. That season, Vargas posted an 8.76 ERA in 25 games with the Milwaukee Braves. That would represent his only taste of big league action. The former big leaguer died two days shy of his 85th birthday.
– The Toronto Blue Jays quietly traded Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.) to the Chicago White Sox for cash considerations last Wednesday. He was assigned to the White Sox triple-A club in Charlotte. The Canadian right-hander had pitched in nine games in double-A and triple-A in the Jays organization this season prior to the deal. In his debut with Charlotte on Saturday, he allowed two earned runs in five innings in his club’s 3-0 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox.
– Melissa Couto’s weekly ThrowinSmoke column on the Canadian Baseball Network has become a must-read for me. Here’s her most recent column.
Just as an FYI, I know you were listing birthplaces, and Matt Stairs was indeed born in Saint John (my hometown). But he grew up and began playing baseball in Fredericton (where I now live.) It’s where he considers himself to be from, has family here still, where he brought the World Series trophy, etc.
As a further FYI, “Saint John” is normally spelled out, to distinguish it from St. John’s, NL. I’m not as sensitive as some are about it, but in case you had some other readers from Saint John, I thought you should know for future reference.
Thanks for your comment, David. I knew Stairs grew up in Fredericton and I debated whether to use Fredericton before I wrote this. I didn’t know about Saint John though, so thank you for the heads up. All the best to you.
Brilliant comment from Teahen about the Olivio incident. I started laughing out loud!
As often happens when I read Cooperstowners in Canada, I followed up with some of my own research. Your mention of “Nig” Clarke’s eight home runs sent me to his Wikipedia entry and then to a site noted in its references called “Top 100 Teams: 1902 Corsicana Oil Citys” which I clicked on. There I found a fascinating listing (with very detailed information and history) of the top 100 Minor League Baseball teams as determined in 2002 by two baseball historians. Toronto has five teams in the list (and it looks like only Baltimore has more at six) and Montreal one. You can also connect to the site through MiLB.com/Info/MiLB history/Top100Teams.