My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Carlos Delgado, who will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame this coming Saturday in St. Marys, Ont., was arguably the greatest hitter in Toronto Blue Jays history, but the Blue Jays weren’t the first professional team that Delgado played for in Canada. He made his professional debut as a 17-year-old catcher with the Class-A Short-Season St. Catharines Blue Jays in 1989. He hit .180 in 31 games that season, before returning to the club in 1990 to bat .281 with six home runs in 67 contests.
• One pitcher who hasn’t received enough credit for how sharp he has been out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen since being recalled this season is Steve Delabar. In 10 appearances, he has allowed just four hits and two runs and has struck out 12 in 9-1/3 innings. Even with GM Alex Anthopoulos shopping for relief help, Delabar’s performance should keep him in the Jays’ big league pen for the foreseeable future.
• According to Sports Collectors Daily, Canadian Rob Thomson (Sarnia, Ont.), who’s the third base coach for the New York Yankees, receives over 100 autograph requests per year from collectors that are intended for Robby Thompson, the former San Francisco Giants second baseman.
• Speaking of the Yankees, late great catcher Thurman Munson posted a .375 batting average in 18 games at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium during his big league career. This was the highest batting average he recorded at any big league park. Munson would’ve turned 68 today, if he had not died when the plane he was piloting crashed on August 2, 1979 at the Akron-Canton Airport.
• Thirty-eight years ago today, the Montreal Expos selected right-hander Bill Gullickson with their second overall pick in the MLB amateur draft. Though Gullickson had a solid big league career, the Milwaukee Brewers were able to snag Hall of Famer Paul Molitor with the following pick (third overall). For the record, the Chicago White Sox took Harold Baines with the first pick in that draft, while the Blue Jays, with their first MLB amateur draft selection ever, chose shortstop Tom Goffena. For more on Goffena, you can read this blog entry I wrote about him in 2013.
• Skeeter Kell, who played his final professional games with the triple-A Ottawa A’s of the International League in 1954, passed away on May 28 in Newport, Ark., at the age of 85. The brother of Hall of Famer, George Kell, the 5-foot-9 second baseman also hit .232 in 132 games with the Ottawa in 1953. Those two seasons were part of five campaigns he played in the A’s organization. In 1952, he hit .221 in 75 games in his only big league action. After hanging up his professional playing spikes, he opened Skeeter Kell Sporting Goods in Kennett, Mo. According to his obituary, he later worked as a sales representative for L.G. Balfour Graduation Products, before retiring in 2000. He’s survived by his wife, Sue, four children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
• When Pat Venditte pitched right-handed and left-handed for the Oakland A’s in the seventh inning on Friday, it had to bring back memories for Montreal Expos fans. It was on September 28, 1995 that Expos reliever Greg Harris pitched left-handed and right-handed in the ninth inning in a 9-7 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at Olympic Stadium. If you watch this video, you’ll notice that it’s Canadian Joe Siddall (Windsor, Ont.) who’s catching Harris in this history-making performance.
• This week’s trivia question: Baseball pundits tend to focus on the first- and second-round picks in the MLB amateur draft, but this inspirational pitcher, who later tossed a no-hitter for the New York Yankees and won 87 big league games, was originally selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 36th round. Can you name this pitcher? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1975 Topps Thurman Munson card (It’s not in mint condition, but is still pretty nice).