My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Quebec baseball pioneer Jean-Pierre Roy passed away on Friday at the age of 94 in Margate, Fla. Roy had been suffering from prostate cancer, but his wife, Jeanne Duval Roy, said that he died from complications related to high blood pressure. Born in Montreal in 1920, Roy began his professional career with the Trois Rivieres Renarts of the Quebec Provincial League in 1940, before he was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals. The 5-foot-10 right-hander spent two seasons in the Cards organization before being sold to the Brooklyn Dodgers. It was in the Dodgers’ system, with his hometown Montreal Royals, that Roy would enjoy his greatest success, registering 25 wins in 1945. He returned to the Royals in 1946 and played alongside Jackie Robinson, prior to being called up for a three-game big league stint, which turned out to be his only tenure in the major leagues. Roy continued to pitch in the minor-pro ranks until 1955. In 1969, he became the French radio play-by-play man for the Montreal Expos. Four years later, he shifted to the Expos’ French TV team and served as an analyst on TV broadcasts until 1983. He later worked as a public relations representative for the Expos. For his efforts, Roy was elected to the Montreal Expos Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. Baseball historian Nick Diunte visited Roy in 2011 and wrote an article about his experience. You can also read Roy’s obituary and express your condolences here.
• The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a bullpen coach and if they can’t convince Pat Hentgen to return, they should bring back Rick Langford, who was the Blue Jays bullpen coach in 2010 and has served as a roving pitching instructor in the organization for the past few years. This year, the Blue Jays asked Langford, who has been a coach in the Jays organization since 1996, to focus his efforts on the club’s top pitching prospects – a list that included Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, Kendall Graveman, Robert Osuna and Miguel Castro. Judging by the advances these prospects made in 2014, he did a superb job, and with at least three of these young hurlers likely to pitch for the Jays in 2015, Langford would be a tremendous asset on the big league staff.
• In case you missed it, North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis signed a minor league deal with the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday. The contract includes an invitation to spring training. The 33-year-old southpaw, who has pitched parts of 10 big league seasons, had short stints with the Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s and New York Yankees in 2014. He pitched primarily out of the bullpen this season, but he could serve as a spot starter for the Jays or as rotation insurance in Triple-A.
• One of the most talked-about artifacts in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame is the bat that Paul Molitor used to record the first hit in SkyDome history on June 5, 1989. Molitor, then the leadoff hitter for the Milwaukee Brewers, hit a double on the second pitch from Blue Jays left-hander Jimmy Key. An article I recently stumbled upon on TCPalm.com sheds more light on this historic at bat. “They wanted to send the first ball I threw in the new stadium to the Hall of Fame,” recalled Key. “They said I could throw a fastball and that Paul Molitor . . . had agreed to let the first pitch go. But I didn’t trust Molitor so I threw a curveball for a strike, not a fastball . . . I threw a fastball on the second pitch and he got a hit.” By the way, if you’re wondering what Key is up to these days, he has become an excellent golfer. This article reveals that earlier this year, he won his 10th Palm Beach Gardens Golf Association title.
• Happy Birthday to Port Hope, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Paul Quantrill, who turns 46 today. Selected by the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round of the 1989 MLB amateur draft, Quantrill made his big league debut on July 20, 1992. The 6-foot-1 right-hander proceeded to pitch in a Canadian-record 841 big league games over 14 seasons with the Red Sox, Phillies, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Yankees, Padres and Marlins. Known as “Q” to his friends and teammates, Quantrill was the Blue Jays Pitcher of the Year and an all-star in 2001, when he posted an 11-2 record and appeared in a league-leading 80 contests. He also topped the AL in appearances in 2004 (86) and the National League in 2002 (86) and 2003 (89). Quantrill also toed the rubber for Team Canada during the 2006 World Baseball Classic (WBC) and coached for the Canadian entry in the 2009 WBC.
• Just a reminder that nominations for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame are due on December 1. For more information on how you can nominate someone, click on this link. The 2015 inductees will be announced in February and the induction ceremony is set for June 13.
• I still have not received the correct answer for last week’s trivia question. The question is, who is the only Canadian left-handed pitcher to be selected to participate in the Major League Baseball all-star game? Please submit your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to submit the correct answer will receive a 1978 Topps Ernie Whitt rookie card and a 1992 Bowman Paul Quantrill rookie card. The Whitt card is a “Rookie Catchers” card that also includes photos of Lance Parrish, Dale Murphy and Bo Diaz.