My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• The Montreal Expos will be well represented in Cooperstown today as the National Baseball Hall of Fame inducts its class of 2015. Expos Nation, a passionate group of fans who are pushing for Major League Baseball’s return to Montreal, packed a bus that left Montreal at 6:30 a.m. this morning to travel to the festivities to pay tribute to former Expos superstar Pedro Martinez and to Randy Johnson, who pitched parts of five seasons in the Expos’ organization, before being dealt to the Seattle Mariners as part of a package for left-hander Mark Langston on May 25, 1989. In his speech, Martinez, who won the National League Cy Young Award with the Expos in 1997, will likely pay tribute to the city that he described to Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe as “the most peaceful place” he ever played.
• John Smoltz is less likely to pay tribute to Montreal in his induction speech today, but maybe he should. His performance in the city definitely helped him earn his plaque in Cooperstown. In 26 career games at Olympic Stadium, Smoltz was 10-3 with a 2.01 ERA – that’s his best ERA at any big league park. You might also remember that Smoltz was the winner of Game 5 of the 1992 World Series played at the SkyDome. In that contest, Smoltz held the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs on five hits in six innings and out-dueled Jack Morris in the Braves’ 7-2 victory.
• Craig Biggio, another of today’s inductees, should also have found memories of playing against the Expos. The Astros star had the first multi-hit game of his big league career against the Expos on July 4, 1988 at the Astrodome. In that contest, he batted eighth and went 2-for-4. He was a catcher at the time, but that didn’t stop him from legging out his first major league triple in the third inning.
• Jose Bautista belted his 224th home run as a Blue Jay in Friday night’s game in Seattle. With that round-tripper, he passed Vernon Wells to move into second place on the Blue Jays’ all-time list. Wells congratulated Bautista on Twitter on Saturday morning. “Congrats @joeybats but good luck with that next guy! Uff, he hit a lot of homers! @carlosdelgado #BlueJays.” For the record, Delgado clubbed 336 homers as a Blue Jay.
• Even talk show legend Larry King has an opinion about the Blue Jays these days. On Thursday he tweeted, “The @BlueJays are a mystery to me, I thought they’d be a lot better. I think they’re going to make a deal before next week.”
• Happy 78th birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Pete Ward. The Montreal native made his big league debut with the Baltimore Orioles on September 21, 1962 and hit a two-run single against the Minnesota Twins in his first big league at bat. Following that season, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in a blockbuster deal that brought Luis Aparicio to Baltimore. In his first season with the White Sox, he hit .295, smashed 22 home runs and was named The Sporting News American League Rookie of the Year. For an encore, he slugged 23 homers and knocked in a career-best 94 runs in 1964. Unfortunately, he suffered a neck injury in a car accident in 1965 that would hamper him for the rest of his career. He played his final season with the New York Yankees in 1970. After retiring as a player, he managed for eight seasons in the minors with the Yankees, White Sox and Pirates. He currently resides in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
• Thirty-one years ago today, Pete Rose singled twice for the Expos in their 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. His second single in that game was the 3,052nd of his career tying him with Ty Cobb for the most all-time.
• This week’s trivia question: With his induction today, Pedro Martinez will join Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez on a list of former Montreal Expos players that have been enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But before the Expos were established in 1969, the Montreal Royals, a very successful International League club affiliated with the Brooklyn Dodgers, operated in the city. By my count, there are at least nine former Montreal Royals players that have been inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Can you name four of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” below. The first person to provide a correct answer will win 1984 Fleer and 1984 Topps Tony Perez baseball cards.