My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Happy 64th Birthday to John Scott, the first player to walk to the plate in a major league game for the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jackson, Miss., native struck out to lead off the bottom of the first inning in the Blue Jays’ inaugural contest against the Chicago White Sox on April 7, 1977. The speedy outfielder would bat .240 and record 10 stolen bases in 79 games in 1977, before suiting up for the triple-A Springfield Redbirds in the St. Louis Cardinals chain in 1978 and then playing three seasons in Japan. He has since seemingly vanished. No one in the baseball fraternity – including ex-teammates – seems certain of his whereabouts and this has made him one of the most sought-after autographs for Blue Jays collectors. Some celebrity address lists offer a Compton, Calif., address for Scott, but if the ex-Jay does live there, he hasn’t responded to autograph requests. A 1978 Topps card signed by Scott that was reviewed by leading autograph authenticator PSA/DNA sold for $80 on eBay last year.
• Jon Heyman of the MLB Network reported on Thursday that Scarborough, Ont., native George Kottaras has signed a minor league contract with the San Francisco Giants. The deal includes an invite to big league spring training. The Canadian catcher began 2015 with the triple-A Charlotte Knights in the Chicago White Sox organization and recorded a .403 on-base percentage and socked seven homers in 31 games before finishing the year with the Blue Jays’ triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Kottaras has enjoyed big league stints with the Boston Red Sox, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland A’s, Kansas City Royals, Cleveland Indians, St. Louis Cardinals and Blue Jays in parts of seven big league seasons from 2008 to 2014.
• Fun Canadian Baseball fact: Gibsons, B.C. native Ryan Dempster was undefeated in Canadian big league stadiums during his major league career. In 10 combined starts at Olympic Stadium and the Rogers Centre, the Canuck right-hander was 6-0 with a 2.93 ERA.
• Thanks to Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for sharing that Surrey, B.C., native Cole Armstrong has agreed to manage the White Sox Class-A Kannapolis Intimidators of South Atlantic League this season. This will be the former catcher’s second professional managerial job. He guided the White Sox Advanced Rookie Great Falls Voyagers to a 35-39 record last season. Prior to joining the coaching ranks, the now 32-year-old Armstrong enjoyed a 10-year professional playing career in the White Sox, Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Angels organizations.
• At the annual Baseball Canada awards banquet, Stephen Brooks, the Toronto Blue Jays senior vice-president, business operations, presented the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame with a toonie that had been placed under the mound at Rogers Centre prior to the 2015 season. The idea was hatched from the Lucky Loonie that was buried under the ice in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City that saw the Canadian men’s and women’s hockey teams win gold. The Rogers Centre toonie apparently helped bring similar good fortune to the Blue Jays who snapped their 22-season playoff drought in 2015.
• A fascinating new book called, Au jeu/Play Ball: The 50 Greatest Games in the History of the Montreal Expos, is set to be released in March. Veteran SABR member Norm King is the senior editor and main contributor to the publication that details the stories behind 50 of the Expos’ most memorable wins. Longtime Expos broadcaster and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Van Horne has written the foreword for the book. Stay tuned for more updates on how you can purchase this book.
• New York Yankees outfielder Mickey Rivers was famous for his misuse of words, but sometimes he came up with a quote that left reporters scratching their heads. This quote always makes me laugh, even though I don’t know what it means. In the clubhouse after a game on a particularly cold day, Rivers was asked about the crisp playing conditions. “Man, it was so cold today that I saw a dog chasing a cat, and the dog was walking,” responded Rivers.
• This week’s trivia question: Who was the only Expos pitcher to record 20 wins in a season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a signed Lloyd Moseby card.