My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Remember in June 2008 when Toronto Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was heavily criticized for saying “Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much?” about Adam Dunn? Well, Adam Dunn has decided to retire at age 34 because, well, he doesn’t really like baseball that much.
• The No. 1 reason I can’t cheer for the Washington Nationals (aside from those annoying rally towels): There were 44,035 fans at Saturday’s game at Nationals Park – and almost as many crowd shots during the Fox broadcast – and I didn’t see one Montreal Expos jersey. Maybe I’m reading into this too much, but to these fans, it’s like the Expos never existed.
• One of the reasons I’d like to cheer for the Nationals is Randy Knorr, the former Toronto Blue Jays back-up catcher, who serves as Washington’s bench coach. Knorr assumed the Nats’ managerial duties in Saturday’s game when Matt Williams was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the 10th inning. During Knorr’s playing career, he suited up for more Canadian professional teams – Medicine Hat Blue Jays (Rookie 1986, 1987), Toronto Blue Jays (1991 to 1995), Montreal Expos (2001), Ottawa Lynx (triple-A 2002) and Edmonton Trappers (triple A 2003, 2004) – than any other player.
• Sunday was Vancouver native Aaron Guiel’s 42nd birthday. The gritty slugger played parts of 10 seasons in the minors before making his big league debut with the Kansas City Royals on June 22, 2002. Over the next five seasons with the Royals and New York Yankees, he belted 35 homers in 307 major league games, prior to socking 35 homers for the Yakult Swallows in Japan in 2007. Guiel now serves as an instructor at the Royals’ minor league complex in Surprise, Ariz.
• It’s interesting to note that ex-Jay Brad Lincoln (fourth overall, Pittsburgh Pirates) and soon-to-be ex-Jay Brandon Morrow (fifth overall, Seattle Mariners) were selected ahead of Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (seventh overall) in the 2006 MLB amateur draft. Kershaw, who will start Game 4 of the National League Division Series today, went 21-3 this season and is the favourite to win both the NL Cy Young and MVP awards.
• I’ve been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., for 18 years, so I knew that Rube Vickers, who pitched parts of five years in the big leagues between 1902 and 1909, was from St. Marys. What I didn’t know is that Vickers owns the Pacific Coast League record for innings pitched in a season. The 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched an astounding 518-2/3 innings in 58 starts for the Seattle Siwashes in 1906. He finished that season with a 39-20 record and a 2.19 ERA.
• With the Baltimore Orioles looking unstoppable in this year’s post-season, it got me thinking about Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jimmy Williams. He was the first base coach on the O’s last World Series-winning squad in 1983. Prior to his coaching career, Williams was a minor league outfielder for 18 seasons – including three with the Montreal Royals – in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization (1947 to 1964). One of the great conversation pieces at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is a replica 1983 World Series trophy donated by Williams. Williams is now 88 and resides in the Baltimore area where he still attends Orioles’ functions from time to time.
• Last Thursday represented the 42nd anniversary of Bill Stoneman’s second no-hitter with the Montreal Expos. He held the New York Mets hitless in the first game of a double-header at Jarry Park to record the first big league no-hitter on Canadian soil. The fact that Stoneman tossed two no-hitters doesn’t get talked about as much as it should. Only three pitchers – Nolan Ryan (7), Sandy Koufax (4) and Bob Feller (3) – have thrown more no-hitters than Stoneman and just 18 other pitchers in big league history have tossed two no-hitters. Stoneman holds a spot on that list alongside immortals like Warren Spahn, Walter Johnson and Randy Johnson.
• This week’s trivia question: Who is the last Canadian pitcher to start a World Series game? Please submit your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win baseball cards signed by former Montreal Expos Mark Grudzielanek and Mel Rojas.