But What Do I Know? . . . George Kottaras, Justin Morneau, Frank Torre


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.

9 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . George Kottaras, Justin Morneau, Frank Torre

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  1. Len Corben - Author of The Pitching Professor: The Life and Times of Ernie Kershaw, One of Professional Baseball's Oldest-Living Former Players says:

    Kevin: The answer is Bob Emslie and Art Irwin.

    1. Hi Len. Thanks for the answer. Emslie is right, but I had another guy in mind other than Irwin. I didn’t know that Irwin umpired in the big leagues. Do you have a link that provides some info about Irwin umpiring in the big leagues? Thanks.

  2. Len Corben - Author of The Pitching Professor: The Life and Times of Ernie Kershaw, One of Professional Baseball's Oldest-Living Former Players says:

    Arthur Irwin had one of the most unusual lives and careers of anyone in baseball history, including being married to two women at the same time and committing suicide by jumping from a ship between New York and Boston.

    Here’s a quote from his Wikipedia bio:
    “Irwin coached Toronto during 1897 and 1898. He faced arrest on a libel charge in 1898, which stemmed from comments made by Irwin about the actions of the Philadelphia ownership during his time there. Though Irwin turned himself in, it appears that he was never arrested. In 1898, Irwin traded some of his best players to the Washington major league team. The moves were seen as particularly suspect when Irwin was named the Washington manager shortly thereafter. After 1899, Irwin did not return to the major leagues as a coach. He returned for a subsequent term as Penn’s coach in 1900, but he left in 1902. In August 1902, Irwin was signed as an NL umpire for the remainder of that season. Irwin, who had previously only filled in for one three-day umpiring stretch in 1881, umpired his first NL game on August 7, 1902. His last umpiring appearance came with the end of the 1902 season on October 3. In fifty games as an umpire, Irwin ejected nine players [actually 10, see below], including future Hall of Fame inductees Roger Bresnahan and Fred Clarke. Irwin, who had retained partial ownership of the Toronto club, then returned to manage that team for a couple of seasons.”

    And here’s some information from his Retrosheet page:
    Umpiring Record
    Year LG G HP 1B 2B 3B LF RF
    1881 NL 3 3 0 0 0 0 0
    1902 NL 50 27 23 0 0 0 0
    Total ( 2 Years) 53 30 23 0 0 0 0

    Ejection Information
    Date Team Ejected Reason
    8-13-1902(2) PIT N Fred Clarke
    8-13-1902(2) BOS N Fred Tenney
    8-25-1902 BRO N Jimmy Sheckard Interference non-call
    8-26-1902(2) BOS N Gene DeMontreville Fair/foul call
    9- 8-1902(2) PHI N Rudy Hulswitt Fighting
    9- 8-1902(2) CIN N Billy Maloney Fighting
    9-16-1902 NY N Heinie Smith Call at 2B
    9-23-1902 BOS N Togie Pittinger Call at HP
    9-30-1902 BRO N Tim Flood Called third strike
    10- 2-1902 NY N Roger Bresnahan Call at 3B

  3. Len Corben - Author of The Pitching Professor: The Life and Times of Ernie Kershaw, One of Professional Baseball's Oldest-Living Former Players says:

    Okay, so the third Canadian MLB umpire is Jim McKean. Does that mean I get 3 autographed cards ?!?!?!

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