The Toronto Blue Jays are going all out to celebrate Canada’s birthday today.
Players will don special red jerseys and caps, there will be a street festival outside the Rogers Centre and the club will honour armed forces members.
As Bob Elliott points out in his annual Canada Day column, this year’s game is extra special because it pits two first-place teams with Canadian general managers against each other in Toronto. Chatham, Ont., native and 2012 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Doug Melvin is the architect of the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers who will take on the Blue Jays, whose roster was assembled by Montreal, Que., native Alex Anthopoulos, starting at 1:07 p.m. E.T.
Today’s patriotic fervor makes me think of the Canadian players that have suited up for the Jays over the course of their 38-season existence.
Here are some interesting facts about the Canucks that have toiled for the Jays:
Eighteen Canadians have played for the Jays: Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.), Paul Hodgson (Marysville, N.B.), Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.), Denis Boucher (Montreal, Que.), Vince Horsman (Halifax, N.S.), Rob Butler (Toronto, Ont.), Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.), Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.), Rich Butler (Toronto, Ont.), Steve Sinclair (Victoria, B.C.), Simon Pond (North Vancouver, B.C.), Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.), Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.), Scott Richmond (North Vancouver, B.C.), Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.), Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.), Mark Teahen (Canadian citizen, St. Marys, Ont.) and Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.).
The first Canadian to suit up for the Jays was McKay, who played third base and recorded the game-winning RBI in the first game in franchise history on April 7, 1977.
The switch-hitting McKay is also the first Canuck to homer for the Jays. Batting left-handed, McKay belted his round-tripper off of Milwaukee Brewers reliever Eduardo Rodriguez in the seventh inning in a Jays’ 10-3 win on May 4, 1977.
The first right-handed Canadian batter to homer for the Jays was Marysville, N.B., native Paul Hodgson. Batting eighth and playing left field at Baltimore’s Memorial Stadium on September 19, 1980, Hodgson clubbed a sixth inning home run off of Orioles right-hander Dennis Martinez.
Just two Canadian pitchers – Boucher and Hill – have toed the rubber for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. Hill is the only hurler to record a win for both Canadian teams.
Four Canadians – Boucher, Hill, Stairs and Ducey – have suited up for both the Montreal Expos and the Toronto Blue Jays in a regular season game. Hodgson went to spring training with the Expos in 1985.
Lawrie has clubbed 43 homers for the Jays since his big league debut on August 5, 2011, that’s the most by a Canadian for the club. Stairs is second with the 32 homers that he belted in 2007 and 2008.
Two “Pauls” – Paul Quantrill and Paul Spoljaric – were the first two Canadians to be on a Blue Jays roster together on Canada Day. They were with the Jays in 1996. Lawrie and Richmond duplicated this feat in 2012.
Those same two “Pauls” have also pitched for the Jays on Canada Day. Quantrill made relief appearances in 1997, 1998 and 2001, while Spoljaric came out of the bullpen in 1996 and 1999. Richmond also pitched 2/3 of an inning for the Jays on Canada Day in 2012 in a loss to the Angels.
No Canadian has ever homered for the Jays on Canada Day. Stairs was a combined three for six (three singles) in Canada Day contests in 2007 and 2008.
For a blog entry on how Fergie Jenkins, the only Canadian honoured by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, fared on Canada Day, please read my 2010 blog entry.