My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
• Happy Valentine’s Day to you! Former Montreal Expos outfielder Ellis Valentine is the most talented player with the last name “Valentine” to suit up in the big leagues, but here’s a list of the some of the other “Valentines” that have competed in the majors.
• Leave it to Yogi Berra to sum up my feelings about Valentine’s Day: “Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good too.”
• And while Toronto Blue Jays fans love Josh Donaldson, who inked a two-year, $29-million contract extension with the club on Monday, Oakland A’s fans continue to bemoan the deal that sent the all-star third baseman to Toronto on November 28, 2014. Not only did the A’s trade Brett Lawrie, the centerpiece of the A’s return in the Donaldson swap, to the Chicago White Sox on December 9, they also designated left-hander Sean Nolin for assignment on Friday. The 6-foot-4 left-hander, who was also part of the package for Donaldson, posted a 5.28 ERA in six starts for the A’s in 2015. That leaves right-handed starter Kendall Graveman and shortstop prospect Franklin Barreto as the only two players remaining in the A’s organization from the Donaldson deal.
• Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Oscar Judd was born in Rebecca, Ont., on this date in 1908. After leading Ingersoll and Guelph to Ontario championships, Judd played in seven different pro and semi-pro leagues prior to his major league debut in 1941.While in the St. Louis Cardinals system, Judd, who had hit as high as .416 in 1939, was asked by Branch Rickey to become a full-time outfielder, but the Canadian southpaw refused. Judd later made his big league debut with the Boston Red Sox in 1941, but it wasn’t until 1942 that he became a regular starter. His breakout season came the following campaign when he posted an 11-6 record, a sparkling 2.90 ERA and was selected to play in the all-star game. Two years later, he was acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies and he registered 11 wins and tossed 12 complete games in 1946. When the Phillies released Judd in May 1948, he landed with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs and proceeded to win 14 games, hit .349 and pitch a no-hitter at the age of 40. For his efforts, he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. Nine years later, he passed away in Ingersoll, Ont.
• Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: Two Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers, Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) and Tim Wallach homered in their first major league at bat. McKay hit a solo home run for the Minnesota Twins off of Detroit Tigers right-hander Vern Ruhle in the third inning at Metropolitan Stadium on August 22, 1975 in a Twins’ 8-4 victory. Wallach walloped a pinch-hit, solo shot off of San Francisco Giants left-hander Phil Nastu in the eighth inning of an Expos’ 9-0 win at Candlestick Park on September 6, 1980.
• From the “He’s still playing?” file: former Blue Jays catcher Guillermo Quiroz inked a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians on Friday that includes an invite to big league spring training. Signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays in 1998, the 34-year-old Quiroz has hit .199 in parts of 10 major league seasons with the Blue Jays, Mariners, Rangers, Orioles and Giants. His two games with the Giants in 2014 represent his last big league action. The veteran backstop spent 2015 with the Giants’ triple-A Sacramento River Cats.
• Forty years ago today, the Atlanta Braves, who had finished in fifth place in the National League West division, 40-1/2 games behind the Cincinnati Reds, sent out a Valentine’s card to their season ticket holders and the media. The card read: “Rose is a Red, Morgan’s one, too. They finished first, like we wanted to. Last year’s behind us, we’re happy to say. Now we’re tied for first, Happy Valentine’s Day.”
• This week’s trivia question: Dave McKay is the only Canadian to hit a home run in his first major league at bat, but one other Canadian went deep in their first big league game (his fourth at bat). Can you name him? Hint: He was drafted by the Montreal Expos, but he never played a big league game with the Expos. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a Wade Boggs rookie card.