My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda once said, “Listen, if you start worrying about the people in the stands, before long you’re up in the stands with them.” Well, it’s a good thing that Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and manager John Gibbons weren’t listening to a large number of fans in June, otherwise the team would’ve released Brett Cecil, traded Edwin Encarnacion for pitching and Jonathan Papelbon would be their closer.
• If you didn’t get chills when you heard Michael Burgess sing the national anthem at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in St. Marys, Ont., well, you must not have been listening. The talented singer and actor passed away on Monday after a long battle with cancer. Though he was best known for his role as Jean Valjean in the Toronto production of Les Misérables, Burgess was a passionate sports fan and a staunch supporter of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. His involvement with the Canuck ball shrine began when he hosted a fundraising concert at the Centre in the Square in Kitchener in 2002. He was also a regular participant in the Hall’s celebrity golf tournaments and London Salutes Canadian Baseball breakfasts. “Michael Burgess was a tremendously talented actor and singer, a passionate Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame supporter and most importantly a wonderfully kind and generous man. I think his breathtaking performances of the national anthems at our annual induction ceremonies were as widely anticipated as the inductee speeches. We will miss Michael’s voice, his warmth and his generosity, but we will never forget him.” said John Starzynski, chair of the Hall’s board of directors. A funeral will be held for Burgess in Toronto tomorrow. Follow this link for details.
• While it’s true that fast-talking, former Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi was not the most likeable man during his eight-season tenure with the club, but let’s not forget that he was the one who pilfered Jose Bautista from the Pirates, Edwin Encarnacion from the Reds and drafted Brett Cecil 38th overall in 2007. He definitely deserves some credit for the success of the current squad.
• Congratulations to Canadian citizen Mark Teahen who will be inducted into the Yucaipa High School Hall of Fame on October 24. Teahen, who played parts of seven seasons in the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, was born in Redlands, Calif., and graduated from Yucaipa High School in 1999. His father Mike, who’s from St. Marys, Ont., played for the Canadian national team in the ’70s.
• Every time someone laments Troy Tulowitzki’s lack of offensive production with the Blue Jays, I think back to 1993 when the club acquired Rickey Henderson at the trade deadline. The stolen base king proceeded to bat just .215 and post a measly .319 slugging percentage in 44 regular season games for the Jays. But much like the Tulowitzki deal, the trade for Henderson emphasized to the players that the front office was doing everything it could to win and Henderson’s mere presence made the team better. Without Henderson in 1993, the Blue Jays winning percentage was .571; with him, it was .614, not including an 8-4 record in the postseason.
• Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that the Washington Nationals dismissed Bill Singer, the club’s director of international scouting, on Friday. Singer, who was the starting pitcher in the first game in Blue Jays history, is one of the first Nats executives to pay the price for the club’s disappointing season. Prior to his role with the Nationals, he enjoyed scouting stints with the Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks. Singer won 118 games in his 14-year big league pitching career. His final two wins came with the Blue Jays in 1977.
• Happy 61st birthday to Chatham, Ont., native and former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill Atkinson. The 5-foot-7 right-hander, who Gary Carter once said possessed the best curveball he ever caught, posted an 11-4 record and a 3.42 ERA in 98 games in parts of four big league seasons. He spent his final four professional campaigns pitching and coaching in the Chicago White Sox organization from 1980 to 1983.
• This week’s trivia question: As noted, today is Chatham, Ont., native Bill Atkinson’s birthday. There are three Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees that were born in Chatham, Ont. Can you name them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 2014 Topps Ryan Goins and Kevin Pillar rookie cards.