My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth’s first professional home run which he hit at Hanlan’s Point Stadium on Toronto Island on September 5, 1914, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is selling limited edition prints (numbered to 714 and shown above) that have been signed by the artist. The Hall of Fame is the only place that’s selling these and this is an important fundraiser for the new museum. To purchase one, call the Hall of Fame at 519-284-1838 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Last week was a bad week to be a Canadian left-hander. Both Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) and Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) were designated for assignment on July 28. Now in his 11th big league season, Bedard posted a 4-6 record and a 4.76 ERA in 17 games with the Tampa Bay Rays this season. He was officially released by the Rays yesterday. Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Francis was designated for assignment by the New York Yankees after making just two appearances out of their bullpen. The Canuck southpaw, who’s in his 10th big league campaign, has also pitched for the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland A’s this season.
– In wake of the frustration expressed by veterans Casey Janssen and Jose Bautista about the Toronto Blue Jays’ front office not making any deals to improve the club at the trade deadline, the recently acquired Nolan Reimold promptly belted two home runs – including a game-winning blast in the ninth inning – on Thursday day night. I suppose this was Reimold’s way of saying, “What am I chopped liver?”
– I recently started to re-read Dave Stieb’s biography, Tomorrow I’ll Be Perfect. In this book, the intense right-hander reveals that he had an ongoing rivalry with Canadian legend Fergie Jenkins in 1981 when the Blue Jays were an abysmal 16-42 prior to the player strike. “I had a running feud with Ferguson Jenkins of the Texas Rangers, a pitcher with Hall of Fame credentials I would be happy to list after my name, based on the belief that I hit some of his teammates on purpose,” wrote Stieb. “After a game we lost late in August, the newspaper guys congratulated Jenkins on his work, ‘Whoopee,’ Fergie dead-panned, ‘anybody can beat Toronto.’” In that game, Stieb hit Rangers batters Buddy Bell and Mario Mendoza with pitches, but Jenkins was ordered by Texas manager Don Zimmer not to retaliate. “In the Texas clubhouse, Jenkins swore revenge, despite suggestions that he might be better served focusing his anger on a .350 hitter,” wrote Stieb. But where would you find a .350 on the hapless, 1981 Jays squad? “He’d have to hit two of our guys to do that,” Buck Martinez would later quip.
– From the “that figures” files, Blue Jays’ 2010 first-rounder Deck McGuire pitched six shutout innings in his first start with the Oakland A’s Triple-A Sacramento River Cats on Thursday. The Jays designated the 6-foot-6 right-hander for assignment on July 17 and then traded him to the A’s for cash considerations on July 24. McGuire, who just turned 25, had struggled in Triple-A for the Jays this season (5.56 ERA in 10 starts), but prior to that he had excelled in Double-A, registering a 2.98 ERA in 10 starts.
– It can’t be a coincidence that two of the biggest “villains” in Blue Jays history were born on the same day. Pitcher Roger Clemens and manager John Farrell, who both orchestrated their own controversial departures out of Toronto, were born on August 4, 1962 (52 years ago yesterday). Both, of course, also have deep links to the Boston Red Sox.
– London, Ont., native Brock Kjeldgaard has belted 13 home runs for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League this season, good for the third-most in the indy circuit. A 34th round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2005, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound slugger is playing his first season in independent ball after smashing 125 homers in parts of nine campaigns in the Brewers organization.