My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Mississauga, Ont., native Dalton Pompey became the second Canadian to record an RBI in their first at bat with the Toronto Blue Jays. The 21-year-old outfielder’s ground out to first base plated Anthony Gose in the eighth inning in the Blue Jays’ 11-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday. Brett Lawrie (Langley, B.C.) is the only other Canuck to register an RBI in their first at bat with the Blue Jays. He singled to centre field to score Edwin Encarnacion in the second inning in the Blue Jays’ 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles on August 5, 2011. Contrary, however, to some media reports, Pompey was not the second Canadian to register an RBI in their first major league at bat. On August 22, 1975, Vancouver, B.C., native Dave McKay walked to the plate for the Minnesota Twins and promptly homered off of Detroit Tigers hurler Vern Ruhle in his first big league at bat. He remains the only Canadian to homer in their first major league at bat. The ball that McKay hit for that historic round-tripper is on display at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.
– Three of the most important men in Montreal Expos history have celebrated birthdays in the past three days. Jim Fanning, the club’s first general manager and later field boss, turned 87 on Sunday, and 30 years after Fanning was born, Tim Wallach, a five-time all-star who played more games with the Expos than any other player, was welcomed into the world. Today is Tim Raines’ birthday. “Rock” owns the Expos records for most runs (947), stolen bases (635), triples (82) and walks (793). All three of these Expos legends have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
– In case you missed it, former Jay Mark Teahen, who owns a Canadian citizenship, announced his retirement on Twitter with his trademark self-deprecation on September 6. “Today I announce what my fam, few fans and apparently all MLB GMs already knew, I officially retire from baseball. But my phone is still on.” After batting .264 in parts of seven big league seasons with the Blue Jays, Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox, Teahen last played professionally with the York Revolution of the independent Atlantic League in 2013.
– So just how good has Dioner Navarro been for the Blue Jays this season? Well, the 30-year-old Venezuelan, who had been relegated to backup duties for most of his career, is leading American League catchers in RBI (68) and is second in hits (126), on-base percentage (.324) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.733). His Wins Above Replacement (WAR) – an all-encompassing statistic that measures the numbers of wins a player (taking into account their offensive and defensive contributions) has added to their team above a replacement level player (Triple-A player) – is 2.3, which also ranks second amongst AL catchers. In case you’re wondering, J.P. Arencibia’s WAR this season is -1.2 (yes, minus 1.2).
– After recording his sixth win of the season on Friday, Mariners southpaw James Paxton’s ERA now stands at 1.83. In his first 14 big league starts – dating back to 2013 – the Richmond, B.C., native’s career ERA is 1.73. MLB.com reports that this is the third-best ERA a starting pitcher has ever recorded in their first 14 starts, behind only Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Steve Rogers (1.31 for the Expos in 1973) and Tony Bonham (1.67 for the Yankees in 1940 and 1941).
– George Zuverink, who finished his professional pitching career with the Pacific Coast League’s Vancouver Mounties in 1960, passed away from pneumonia at the age 90 in Tempe, Ariz., on September 8. Born in Holland, Mich., the 6-foot-4 right-hander pitched parts of eight big league seasons with the Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles. His finest campaign came with the O’s in 1957 when he led the AL with 57 appearances and posted a 2.48 ERA. Following his baseball career, Zuverink worked in the insurance field. He’s survived by his wife, Betty, his son, David and five grandchildren. You can read his full obituary here.
– Your trivia question for this week: Who holds the record for most wins in a major league season by a Canadian pitcher? The first person to respond in the “Comments” section below with the correct answer will receive a signed Fergie Jenkins photo. Hint: The answer is not Fergie Jenkins.