My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- Congratulations to Langley, B.C., native Brett Lawrie, who recorded his 500th career hit on Thursday. His milestone hit was a single off of Minnesota Twins reliever Trevor May with two out in the top of the eighth inning in a 3-1 win for the Chicago White Sox. The sparkplug infielder, who suited up for parts of four seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays before spending last season with the Oakland A’s, became the 23rd Canadian to collect 500 big league hits. Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s 2,160 hits are the most by a Canadian.
- Condolences go out to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and legendary Montreal Expos broadcaster Dave Van Horne on the passing of his son, David, at the age of 55. You can view his son’s obituary and leave online condolences here.
- For those worried about Blue Jays reliever Brett Cecil, his ERA last season on April 17 was 8.10. His ERA this season is 7.36. By the end of the 2015, he was one of the most dominant left-handed relievers in the American League.
- Forty-seven years ago today, Bill Stoneman tossed a no-hitter for the Montreal Expos in the ninth game in the club’s history. The 5-foot-10 right-hander scattered five walks and struck out eight batters in the Expos’ 7-0 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Connie Mack Stadium. The Blue Jays waited much longer for their first no-hitter. Dave Stieb tossed the first (and only) no-hitter in Blue Jays history on September 2, 1990 against the Cleveland Indians at Municipal Stadium. This was the 2,183rd regular season game in Blue Jays history.
- Happy 36th Birthday to Quebec City native Max St. Pierre. Selected in the 26th round of the 1997 MLB amateur draft by the Detroit Tigers, the determined catcher played parts of 14 seasons in the minors before making his big league debut on September 4, 2010. He’d play in six games with the Tigers that season before suiting up for one final campaign with the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens in 2011. In recent years, he has served as the bullpen coach for the Quebec Capitales of the Can-Am League.
- Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: Chatham, Ont., native Bill Atkinson wore No. 42 for the Montreal Expos from 1977 to 1979 before Major League Baseball retired the number in honour of Jackie Robinson in 1997.
- Happy 49th Birthday to Marquis Grissom, who was one of the most exciting Montreal Expos players to watch. In his six seasons with the Expos, the fleet-footed centre fielder led the National League in stolen bases twice (1991, 1992), won two Gold Gloves (1993, 1994) and was selected to the all-star game twice (1993, 1994). The Expos traded him to the Atlanta Braves on April 6, 1995 and Grissom proceeded to play 11 more major league seasons with the Braves, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. He finished his career with 2,251 hits, 227 home runs and 429 stolen bases.
- So far so good for the Canadians toiling for the Blue Jays’ triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Left-hander Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.) is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in two starts, while Chris Leroux (Montreal, Que.) tossed four shutout innings in his first start. Meanwhile, outfielder Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) is batting .421 in his first five games.
- Speaking of Canadians in triple-A, southpaw James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) has struggled with the Pacific Coast League’s Tacoma Rainiers so far this season. Through two starts, the Canadian lefty’s ERA sits at an ugly 11.37. This follows his 10.80 ERA in five Cactus League starts this spring. Paxton, who has posted a 3.16 ERA in 30 major league starts spread over three injury-plagued seasons, has told reporters that he’s physically healthy. It sounds like it could be a confidence issue. When the Mariners announced they were sending Paxton to the minors at the end of spring training, manager Scott Servais told MLB.com that they needed to get Paxton “in a good spot mentally.”
- This week’s trivia question: Who was the last Toronto Blue Jays player to wear No. 42 before it was retired across Major League Baseball in honour of Jackie Robinson? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 O-Pee-Chee Steve Carlton card.