My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• There was good news and bad news for Montreal Expos great Tim Raines when the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting results were announced on Wednesday. The bad news is that the speedy former outfielder did not receive the 75 per cent support from baseball writers that’s required to be inducted. The good news is that his support jumped from 55 per cent in 2015 to 69.8 per cent this year. It’s also encouraging to note that 2016 inductee Mike Piazza was named on 69.9 per cent of ballots in 2015, before rising to 83 per cent this year. Given past voting trends and that 2017 represents Raines’s final year on the ballot, the Expos legend will almost assuredly be elected next January.
• The Kansas City Royals announced on Monday that Cambridge, Ont., native Scott Thorman will return as manager of the club’s Rookie-level affiliate in Burlington, N.C., in 2016. The 34-year-old Canadian, who played parts of two big league seasons with the Atlanta Braves in 2006 and 2007, led the Rookie-level squad to a 31-37 record in 2015.
• The Blue Jays’ acquisition of reliever Drew Storen for outfielder Ben Revere on Friday could mean that the club plans to move Aaron Sanchez back into the starting rotation. Over the past six seasons, Storen has been one of the National League’s most reliable right-handed relievers. He saved 29 games for the Washington Nationals last season and posted a miniscule 1.12 ERA in 2014. He’ll be used in the eighth or ninth inning for the Jays. The 23-year-old Sanchez, who many consider to have the best arm on the Jays staff, went 5-4 with a 3.55 ERA as a starter to begin 2015 before he was sidelined with a shoulder injury. When he returned in late July, he was used solely as a reliever for the rest of the season. As a side note, by dealing Revere, the Jays have opened up the everyday left field job for one of two Canadians Michael Saunders (Victoria, B.C.) or Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.).
• Happy 70th Birthday to Ottawa, Ont., native George Korince who made 11 relief appearances for the Detroit Tigers in 1966 and 1967. Signed by the Tigers as a free agent in 1965, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander also posted a 3.76 ERA in parts of six minor league seasons. He finished his professional career with a triple-A stint in the Expos organization in 1970. Korince now resides in Fort Myers, Fla.
• Here’s a fun Canadian baseball fact: Of the more than 230 Canadians that have played in the major leagues, three of them have last names that are bodies of water: Fred Lake (Cornwallis, N.S.), Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) and Simon Pond (North Vancouver, B.C.). Unfortunately, Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) narrowly missed making this list.
• Just when you think that every Mickey Mantle rookie card has already been discovered, you hear a story like this. A Vancouver resident recently dug out his old baseball cards from the early 1950s that he purchased with money from his paper route as a kid. When he leafed through the cards, he found that he still had a Mantle rookie (which sells for thousands of dollars in almost any grade). His collection also included an Eddie Mathews rookie, Ernie Banks rookie, three 1953 Topps Jackie Robinson cards and some Willie Mays cards. He recently sold the cards to online dealer Just Collect. The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed, but you can bet it net the Canadian collector thousands of dollars. For more details on the Vancouver collector’s story and a video about the transaction with Just Collect, follow this link.
• It was 19 years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and World War II hero Phil Marchildon passed away in Toronto. The Penetanguishene, Ont., native was discovered while he was pitching for the Creighton Mine company ball team in Sudbury and three years later, he was toeing the rubber in the big leagues for Connie Mack’s Philadelphia A’s. In 1941, the 5-foot-10 right-hander’s first full major league season, he recorded 10 wins and for an encore, he’d notch 17 wins and establish himself as the team’s ace in 1942. Poised to join the pitching elite, Marchildon was called for military duty and would serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1943 to 1945. In August 1944, his plane was shot down and he was taken as a prisoner of war. He would spend nine months in a German prison camp. Upon his release and return to North America, Marchildon was almost immediately penciled into the A’s rotation. Though still traumatized by the war, Marchildon registered 19 wins for the A’s in 1947. In all, Marchildon won 68 big league games and completed 82 of his 162 major league starts. He was one of the inaugural inductees of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.
• Hall of Fame pitcher Catfish Hunter was good friends with his New York Yankees teammate, Reggie Jackson, but he was also acutely aware of the size of Jackson’s ego. “The difference between Reggie Jackson and God,” Hunter once quipped, “is that God doesn’t think he’s Reggie Jackson.”
• This week’s trivia question: If Tim Raines is elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017, he’ll become the eighth former Expos player or manager to be inducted. Can you name five of the other former Expos (players or managers) that have been inducted? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a Raines 1981 Topps rookie card.