My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) and Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), two Canadians who pitched for the bulk of their careers at Wrigley Field, took to Twitter yesterday to pay tribute to Cubs legend Ernie Banks, who passed away on Friday at the age of 83. “Many thanks to Ernie Banks for his support of our efforts here at the DFF (Dempster’s Family Foundation) and for his incredible baseball legacy. RIP Ernie. #MrCub” Jenkins followed with a tweet a few hours later, “Rest in peace, Ernie Banks. You will be truly missed #MrCub”
• In case you missed, it, Canuck southpaw Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) signed a minor league deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday. The contract includes an invitation to big league spring training and reunites Bedard with former Tampa Bay Rays general manager Andrew Friedman. Bedard, who will turn 36 on March 5, posted a 4-6 record and a 4.76 ERA in 17 games with the Rays last season, his 11th in the big leagues. Over the course of his career, the 6-foot-1 lefty has won 71 games and recorded a 3.99 ERA.
• Here’s something I learned when I flipped over Gene Tenace’s 1982 Donruss baseball card this week: his real first name is “Fury”. Given his intense, old school approach as a player and coach, the name seems fitting.
• According to a tweet from ESPN’s Darren Wolfson on Wednesday, Guelph, Ont., native Scott Diamond was to throw a bullpen session for the Boston Red Sox this past week. The 28-year-old lefty, who made 27 and 24 starts for the Minnesota Twins in 2012 and 2013 respectively, split the 2014 season between the Twins’ and Cincinnati Reds’ Triple-A affiliates.
• Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.) signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday. The 33-year-old right-hander returns to the city where he was enjoying his most dominant season in 2013 (0.74 ERA in 38 appearances) before being sidelined by a shoulder injury. The veteran reliever inked a deal with the Houston Astros prior to the 2014 season, but nagging shoulder issues forced him to spend the entire campaign on the disabled list. Now entering his 11th big league season, Crain has posted a 3.05 ERA in 532 career appearances.
• While reading Ken Griffey, Sr.’s new biography “Big Red: Baseball, Fatherhood and My Life in the Big Red Machine,” I learned that the elder Griffey played parts of two seasons with the Reds’ Double-A Trois-Rivieres Aigles. After hitting .406 in nine games with the Quebec squad in 1971, he returned for 128 contests the ensuing year and hit .318 with 14 homers and 31 stolen bases. He made his big league debut on August 25 the following season.
• I’ve been running a “Baseball Quote of the Day” feature on the Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page. Today’s quote was from Mickey Rivers. Rivers was a quirky outfielder who was known for his Berra-esque quotes. One day he walked into the New York Yankees clubhouse and was told that Reggie Jackson had an IQ of 165. Rivers responded, “Out of what — a thousand?”
• This week’s trivia question: Southpaw Erik Bedard (Navan, Ont.) has 71 big league wins in his 11-year career, tying him with Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) and Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.) for the second-most by a Canadian left-hander. Who is the only Canadian lefty to have more wins than this trio of southpaws? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person with the correct answer will receive a baseball card autographed by Canada’s winningest southpaw.