My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• According to Ryan Thibs, who tracks the baseball writers’ Hall of Fame ballots each year (Tracker here: http://is.gd/KSjpP7), Montreal Expos great Tim Raines has been voted for on 80.1 per cent of the 141 ballots made public. Candidates need 75 per cent support to be enshrined and with the Hall set to announce its 2016 class on Wednesday at 6 p.m. ET, this appears to be good news for Raines. But ESPN sportswriter and Montreal native Jonah Keri, who has long campaigned for Raines’ induction, warned me in a Facebook post not to get my hopes up. “Not happening this year,” Keri wrote in response to my December 21 post about Raines’ having over 80 per cent support on public ballots. “Public ballots always over sample, early ones even more. Goal this year is 65% or higher. Get that and he has a shot to make it next year, which will be his final year (on the ballot).” Here are the top five 2016 Hall of Fame candidates in the voting (as of January 3) and the percentage of public ballots they have been named on: Ken Griffey Jr., 100%; Mike Piazza, 87.2%; Jeff Bagwell, 81.6%; Raines, 80.1% and Trevor Hoffman, 62.4%.
• On top of Raines, there are three other former Montreal Expos on this year’s ballot: Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.), Lee Smith and Mark Grudzielanek. As of January 3, Walker and Smith had been named on 12.1 per cent and 30.5 per cent of the 141 ballots made public. There are also five former Toronto Blue Jays on the ballot: Roger Clemens, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, Jeff Kent and Fred McGriff. Clemens (48.9%), McGriff (17.7%) and Kent (14.9%) have garnered the most support on the public ballots so far.
• As Cooperstown’s class of 2016 is revealed on Wednesday, it’s also important to remember that the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., will announce its new crop of inductees in early February. It will be difficult for the Canadian ball hall to top the 2015 class that included Carlos Delgado, Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.), Corey Koskie (Anola, Man.), Felipe Alou and legendary baseball writer Bob Elliott (Kingston, Ont.).
• Happy 75th Birthday to longtime Blue Jays bullpen coach John Sullivan. Prior to the becoming a coach, “Sully” was a backup catcher for parts of five big league seasons between 1963 and 1968 with the Detroit Tigers, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies. He later managed for six seasons in the Kansas City Royals organization, before being named to Bobby Cox’s Atlanta Braves’ big league staff in 1980. Sullivan followed Cox to Toronto in 1982 and stayed with the Jays until the end of the 1993 campaign. When Joe Carter clubbed his World Series-winning home run over the left-field wall on October 23, 1993, it was Sullivan who retrieved the ball in the bullpen and presented it to Carter after the game. The ball still resides in Carter’s personal collection.
• Here’s a fun Canadian baseball fact: Pitching legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) may have won the National League Cy Young Award in 1971 on the strength of his 24 wins and 30 complete games, but he also belted six home runs and recorded 20 RBIs in 39 games that season. That projects to 25 homers and 83 RBI over a 162-game schedule. And his .478 slugging percentage was better than Cubs slugger Ron Santo’s slugging percentage (.423) that season.
• Just a reminder that Baseball Canada’s annual fundraising banquet will take place on Saturday at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown at the Rogers Centre. At this event, Baseball Canada will present its annual awards and North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis will become the eighth person added to the Wall of Excellence. Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.), Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.), Ernie Whitt, Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.), Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) and Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) have been previously honoured. The banquet is a key fundraiser for Baseball Canada and the who’s who of Canadian baseball will be in attendance. For more information on the event, follow this link.
• I recently stumbled across this funny baseball story: Right-hander Jim Kern was getting hit hard in a start with the Cleveland Indians’ Class-A Reno Silver Sox in 1971. Finally after he had allowed several runs in the second inning, his manager, Pinky May, walked to the mound to remove him from the game. “Come on, skip. I’m not even tired,” Kern pleaded. “No, but your outfielders sure are,” responded May.
• This week’s trivia question: If Tim Raines is elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Wednesday, he’ll become the ninth person to be elected to both the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., and the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Can you name five of the others who have been inducted into both baseball shrines? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a Wade Boggs rookie card.