My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Please take a few minutes to watch Canadian baseball great Fergie Jenkins eulogize Chicago Cubs legend Ernie Banks, who passed away on January 23 at age 83. Banks’ funeral was held yesterday at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church. Jenkins roomed with Banks for the last two seasons of Mr. Cub’s career and shared the field with him for parts of six seasons.
• In his 19-year big league career, Banks belted 512 home runs, but he only hit one against the Montreal Expos. That round-tripper was a three-run blast in the fourth inning on September 10, 1970 off of Expos left-hander John O’Donoghue in a Cubs’ 9-3 win at Wrigley Field. Banks was just 6-for-40 at Jarry Park, with three of those hits coming in the same game on April 19, 1969.
• In 1995, Tom Brady had the option of becoming a quarterback at the University of Michigan or a catcher in the Montreal Expos organization. He, of course, chose the former, but the Expos selected the 6-foot-3 multi-sport star in the 18th round of the 1995 MLB amateur draft out of Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, Calif. John Hughes, the Expos scout who evaluated Brady, told Joe Frisaro in this MLB.com article that he believed that Brady had the tools to be a big leaguer. “He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power,” Hughes told Frisaro. “There is no reason to think this guy couldn’t have been a big league catcher.”
• If you’re looking for a Canadian angle to today’s Super Bowl, Seattle Seahawks tight end Luke Willson (LaSalle, Ont.) was a member of Baseball Canada’s Junior National Team in 2008. You can read an excellent article by Alexis Brudnicki about Willson’s baseball career here.
• Congratulations to Mark Teahen (Canadian citizen) and his wife, Lauren, on the birth of their second child, Cal Michael Teahen, on Wednesday. That same day, Mac Teahen, Cal’s two-year-old brother (whose Twitter account is run by Mark and Lauren) tweeted, “Breaking news . . . I’m a BIG BROTHER!! Meet Cal Michael Teahen: 7 1bs, 13 oz of awesome.”
• Rocky Bridges, who played parts of three seasons with the Montreal Royals and managed the Triple-A Vancouver Canadians in 1987, passed away on Wednesday at the age of 87 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The gritty, 5-foot-8 infielder was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers as a free agent in 1947 and was a regular with the Royals in 1949 and 1950, before embarking on an 11-year big league career with the Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Angels in which he hit .247 in 919 games. Following his playing career, he became a colorful and quotable minor league coach and manager for more than two decades. He was also a third base coach with the Angels (1962-63, 1968 to 1971) and San Francisco Giants (1985). Those stints inspired one of his most famous quotes: “The main quality a great third base coach must have is a fast runner.” Bridges’ wife, Mary, passed away in 2008. He’s survived by four children.
• I’ve been running a “Baseball Quote of the Day” feature on the Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page. Today’s quote was a tribute to Bridges. While employed as manager of the Carolina League’s Salem Buccaneers (High A) in 1989, Bridges was in an upscale restaurant following a game. The waiter approached the table and suggested he order the snails. “I prefer fast food,” Bridges responded.
• This week’s trivia question: What two-time Super Bowl champion player once played 25 games in the Toronto Blue Jays organization? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person with the correct answer will receive a baseball rookie card of this player.