My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• It’s been an eventful week for Montreal native Russell Martin. On Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates extended a one-year, $15.3-million qualifying offer to him and two days later, he was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year at the catching position. Martin, who’s coming off his finest all-around season since 2007, is likely to command a lucrative, multi-year deal on the free agent market. He has until Monday at 5 p.m. ET to accept or decline the Pirates’ qualifying offer. Meanwhile, CBS Sports reported on Friday that Martin has already met with the Chicago Cubs and will also sit down with the Pirates, Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers.
• Following Jean-Pierre Roy’s death on October 31, SABR member Kit Krieger wondered how many members of the championship-winning 1946 Montreal Royals – the team that Jackie Robinson suited up for – are still alive. He noted that three team members – outfielder Marv Rackley (93) and pitchers Steve Nagy (95) and Ray Hathaway (98) – who also enjoyed tenures in the big leagues are still alive. But there were also four career minor leaguers on that squad – Jack Paepke, Joseph Smolko, Lloyd Fisher and Wayne Collins – that SABR members are uncertain if they’re alive or not.
• If you’re a longtime Toronto Blue Jays baseball card collector, you should crack out your 1978 Topps cards and see if you can find Tom Murphy, who is card #103. The only PSA 10 example – which means that the card has been professionally graded and has four sharp corners and is centered perfectly – sold for $1,999.99 on eBay on Monday. This card is reportedly very difficult to find with perfect centering.
• Hall of Fame scribe Bob Elliott reported on Saturday that Newmarket, Ont., native Pete Orr has re-signed with the Milwaukee Brewers on a minor league deal. The contract includes an invitation to big league spring training. In 113 games with the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds this season, the 35-year-old hit .301 and had six triples.
• Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was named a Silver Slugger Award winner on Thursday. This is his third Silver Slugger Award (He also won in 2010 and 2011) with the Blue Jays, which ties him with George Bell (1985-87) and Carlos Delgado (1999, 2000, 2003) for the most in franchise history. Silver Slugger Awards are presented annually to the top offensive players in each league at each position based on voting by coaches and managers.
• Happy Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer George Wood, who was born on this day in 1858 in Pownall, P.E.I. The eighth Canadian and third P.E.I. native to reach the majors, Wood competed in 13 big league seasons from 1880 to 1892 with teams in Worcester, Detroit, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cincinnati. As a player, Wood topped the National League in home runs (7) in 1882, in putouts (226) in 1883 and in assists (35) in 1890. The talented outfielder also hit for the cycle on June 12, 1885 to become the first Canadian to accomplish this feat at the big league level. In all, in his 13-year professional playing career, Wood hit .273, collected 1,467 hits and amassed a Canadian-best 132 triples. While still playing, he managed 143 games with the American Association’s Philadelphia A’s in 1891. For his efforts, he was elected to the P.E.I. Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011.
• Condolences go out to the family of former Montreal Royals pitcher Pat McGlothin, who passed away on October 24 at the age of 93 in Knoxville, Tenn. The 6-foot-3 right-hander toed the rubber for two of his 10 minor league seasons in Montreal. In 1949, he posted a 13-7 record and a 4.02 ERA in 22 games for the Royals. He also enjoyed two big league stints with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1949 and 1950. After retiring as a player, he established the Mutual Insurance Agency in Knoxville and served as the president of the company for more than 60 years. He’s survived by his wife, Dot, his son, Steve, his daughter, Suzan, and four grandchildren. You can read his obituary and leave condolences here.
• 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.
• Here is this week’s trivia question: What three Toronto Blue Jays second basemen have won Silver Slugger Awards while with the club? The first person to post the correct answer in the “Comments” section below will win three Andre Dawson cards (1979 O-Pee-Chee, 1981 Topps and 1984 Donruss).
Great stuff as always. Answers to the trivia question are: Aaron Hill, Roberto Alomar and Demaso Garcia.
Wow that was quick, David. And you are right. I thought Garcia might stump someone. Please send me a note (email@example.com) with your mailing address and I’ll get the Dawson cards out to you. Thanks again.
Baseball-Reference.com does not list a death date for Paepke, Smolko, Fisher, or Collins.If B-R is correct, Paepke is 92 years old, Smolko is 94, Fisher is 94, and Collins is 101.
Thanks, Len. The unfortunate thing about guys who had successful careers in the minors, but never played in the majors is that often their deaths are not publicized. So while I hope these men are healthy and alive, it might be a case that they passed away and nobody involved in the wider baseball research world knew about it.
SABR has a Necrology Committee that keeps pretty close track of players’ deaths (both majors and minors). But there’s always the chance that they miss some.
That’s good to know that that committee exists, Len. Thanks for letting me know.
So great for Peter Orr. Every team should be after such a versatile player and good clubhouse guy. Russell in Toronto would be great. Lots of hometown pressure on him though. Sad to see Jean-Pierre pass away.
Thanks for the comment, Scott. I doubt we will see Martin in Toronto. It will take a boatload of cash to sign him and catching isn’t their biggest need to address. But who knows?
Thanks to some tenacious research by baseball historian and author, Len Corben, we know now that Joseph Smolko (of the 1946 Montreal Royals) passed away in 2008. Here’s the obituary: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/baltimoresun/obituary.aspx?n=joseph-m-smolko&pid=103725935#sthash.ADjYESVk.dpuf
Rumour has it Martin is looking for $75-$80 million. WOW!
Thanks for the comment, Devon. That’s a lot of cash. I had heard four years, $60 million, but five years, $75-million probably isn’t out of the question.