My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• As excited as I was when Jose Bautista hit his three-run, bat flip home run in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the American League Division Series, I was almost equally disappointed to watch Bautista’s performance in the media scrum after yesterday’s loss (You can watch most of the media scrum here). In case you missed it, Kansas City Royals second baseman Ben Zobrist hit a routine fly ball that dropped in between second baseman Ryan Goins and Bautista in the seventh inning of yesterday’s game. The Royals proceeded to score five runs in the inning to take the lead. On the play, Goins clearly called off Bautista, but bailed out at the last second because he thought he heard Bautista yelling for the ball. Goins, who’s a Gold Glove worthy infielder that helped preserve the Blue Jays’ Game 5 ALDS victory with two diving plays, shouldered the blame for the miscue after the game. Meanwhile Bautista, one of the longest tenured Blue Jays, seemingly threw Goins under the bus in his interaction with the media.
• Twenty-three years ago today, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston sent rookie Ed Sprague up to pinch hit for reliever Duane Ward in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 1992 World Series at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. The Blue Jays had lost the series’ first game and trailed this contest 4-3. With one out and Derek Bell on base with a walk, Sprague belted the first pitch he saw from Braves closer Jeff Reardon over the left field wall to put the Blue Jays ahead 5-4. Blue Jays closer Tom Henke held the Braves off the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth to record the save. Sprague’s home run shifted the momentum in the series that the Blue Jays eventually won in six games.
• If you think the price of beer at the Rogers Centre is too high, someone on my local Kijiji site is trying to sell a Marcus Stroman bobblehead for $2,000. The Stroman bobblehead was handed out to the first 20,000 fans that attended the Blue Jays game at the Rogers Centre on June 7 and generally sells for between $50 and $70.
• With the success of his current squad, manager John Gibbons can afford to be a little more candid about the disappointing 2013 and 2014 Blue Jays teams. “The last couple of years we had a fractured clubhouse, no doubt,” he tells Tom Verducci in the October 12 issue of Sports Illustrated. “But this year there was something different when they showed up in spring training. There was a different intensity. It really started with Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin. Alex brought in the right guys – the right guys with talent. And then you saw guys like Encarnacion and Bautista respond to the personalities of those two.”
• The Kansas City Royals coaching staff has plenty of Canadian connections. Manager Ned Yost suited up for parts of two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers’ triple-A Vancouver Canadians in 1979 and 1980 and later played his final five big league games with the Montreal Expos in 1985. Yost’s bench coach, Don Wakamatsu, also played in Vancouver, when it was the Chicago White Sox triple-A affiliate in 1990 and 1991 and later was a bench coach for the Blue Jays in 2011 and 2012. Also, Royals hitting coach Dale Sveum played parts of six seasons in Canada in triple-A for Vancouver (1985, 1986) and Calgary (1993 to 1996), while first base coach Rusty Kuntz toiled for the triple-A Edmonton Trappers in 1982.
• According to the Sportsnet Stats twitter account: Blue Jays TV analyst Pat Tabler is one of three players to have suited up for the four teams (Blue Jays, Royals, Chicago Cubs and New York Mets) remaining in this year’s playoffs. I asked Sportsnet Stats who the other two players were, but they didn’t respond to me.
• Neill Sheridan who played his last professional season with Vancouver and Victoria of the Western International League in 1954, passed away on Thursday at the age of 93 after a battle with pneumonia. Born on November 20, 1921, the Sacramento, Calif., native struck out in his sole major league at bat with the Boston Red Sox on September 26, 1948. Sheridan did, however, enjoy a successful minor league career, walloping 107 home runs in 12 seasons, including a 34-game stint as an outfielder with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 1952. But Sheridan was best known for reportedly clubbing the longest home run in professional baseball history. While with the Pacific Coast League’s Sacramento Solons on July 8, 1953, Sheridan belted a ball over the left field wall at Edmonds Field off of San Francisco Seals hurler Ted Shandor that allegedly smashed the window of a man’s car that was 613.8 feet away. The man reportedly recovered the ball and brought it to the Solons. Sheridan passed away in Antioch, Calif., and is survived by his wife, Irene, a daughter, three granddaughters and five great grandchildren.
• This week’s trivia question: After hitting his pinch-hit home run in Game 2 of the 1992 World Series, Ed Sprague became the Blue Jays regular third baseman in 1993. Can you name the three Blue Jays third basemen (not counting Sprague) that have hit home runs in the postseason? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a signed Ed Sprague baseball card.