My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• When Scarborough, Ont., native George Kottaras replaced Josh Thole in the seventh inning in last Wednesday’s game, he became the second Canadian to catch for the Toronto Blue Jays. The first was Vancouver-born Mike Nickeas who saw action in one game last season.
• Last week, three of the most important men in Montreal Expos history – Jim Fanning, Tim Raines and Tim Wallach – celebrated birthdays. Sunday would’ve been the 93rd birthday of John McHale, who was arguably the most important man in Expos history. Born on September 21, 1921, McHale was the architect of the club and its first president. He spent 23 seasons with the Expos, including seven (1978 to 1984) as the general manager. Like the three Expos legends who celebrated birthdays last week, McHale has also been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame (1997). McHale passed away on January 17, 2008 at the age of 86.
• New Westminster, B.C., native Justin Morneau drove in six runs for the Colorado Rockies in their 16-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday. In case you’re wondering, this was not a Canadian record for RBI in a game. Three Canadians – George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont., August 10, 1935 and August 12, 1938), Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C., April 28, 1999) and Jason Bay (Trail, B.C., September 19, 2003 and July 2, 2004) – have had eight-RBI games.
• If you’re looking for Canadian content in the post-season, the best-case scenario would be a Seattle Mariners vs. Pittsburgh Pirates World Series. That would pit the two Canucks on the Mariners (Michael Saunders, Victoria, B.C. and James Paxton, Ladner, B.C.) against Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) on the Bucs.
• Former Blue Jays second baseman Kelly Johnson has now played for all five American League East teams in the past three seasons. The Wall Street Journal recently caught up with the well-traveled infielder, who was acquired by the Baltimore Orioles on August 30, to assemble a visitors’ guide to the AL East cities. Johnson ranked Toronto as the best for restaurants and the worst for traffic. You can read the full article here.
• Frank Torre, who hit .307 in 132 games with the Pacific Coast League’s Vancouver Mounties in 1961, passed away on September 13 at the age of 82 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., after battling a number of health issues. Born in Brooklyn, the 6-foot-4 first baseman, and brother of Hall of Famer Joe Torre, batted .273 in parts of seven big league seasons with the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. Following his playing career, Torre, who underwent a heart transplant in 1996 and a kidney transplant in 2007, worked with the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT) to help former players with their financial and medical needs.
• Canadian big leaguers sure know how to get on base. For the past four seasons, Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto has topped the National League in on-base percentage (OBP). This year, Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) owns a .409 OBP. That would lead the circuit if Martin hadn’t missed close to a month (April 26 to May 22) with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately, it will be almost impossible for Martin to reach the 502 plate appearances needed to qualify for the OBP title.
• It was seven years ago today that North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis held the San Diego Padres to two runs in eight innings at Petco Park to register his 17th win of the campaign to tie the Colorado Rockies’ record for most wins in a season. With the victory, the Canadian southpaw also established a Rockies’ record for most wins in a season by a left-hander. Francis’s 17th win tied right-handers Kevin Ritz (1996) and Pedro Astacio (1999) for the Rockies’ single-season mark. This record was surpassed by Ubaldo Jimenez in 2010 when he won 19 games.
• Here’s this week’s trivia question: Name the two Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees that have been umpires in the big leagues. Please submit your answer in the “Comments” section on the blog site. The first person to get the correct answer will receive autographed baseball cards of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers Terry Puhl and Reggie Cleveland.