My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame opens for its 19th season today. It’s well worth the drive to St. Marys, Ont., to visit the museum which is overflowing with one-of-a-kind artifacts. For more information, click on this link.
- There’s already a game-used bat from Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders on display at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, but with the way the Toronto Blue Jays left fielder is hitting, the Hall will likely be requesting more bats from him in the future. Saunders clubbed two home runs in the Blue Jays’ 6-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Tropicana Field to become (as Sportsnet anchor Hazel Mae tweeted) just the third Canadian to hit two home runs in a game for the Blue Jays. Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) and 2015 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) are the other two.
- Speaking of Canadian outfielders that have played for the Blue Jays, it was on this date 29 years ago that 2013 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rob Ducey made his major league debut. The Cambridge, Ont., native batted eighth and played left field for the Blue Jays against the Texas Rangers and went 1-for-2. His first major league hit was a single to centre field in the fifth inning off of right-hander Jose Guzman. Ducey would go on to suit up for parts of 13 big league seasons and play his final major league contest with the Montreal Expos on July 22, 2001.
- Happy 43rd Birthday to Rich Butler, yet another Canadian outfielder who played for the Blue Jays. After signing with the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1990, the Toronto native was called up in September 1997 and proceeded to go 4-for-14 in seven big league games before he was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 10th pick in the expansion draft. Butler would play parts of two seasons with the Rays, prior to splitting his final pro campaign between the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers organizations. He now operates the Butler Baseball Academy in Ajax, Ont., with his brother, Rob.
- This is how you know the Blue Jays’ 2016 bullpen has to get better: With five losses in April, Brett Cecil is on pace to finish with a 0-30 won/loss record. The record for most losses by a relief pitcher in a season is 16, set by Atlanta Braves right-hander Gene Garber in 1979.
- On May 1, 1985, thirty-one years ago today, Jimmy Key became the first left-handed starter to register a win for the Blue Jays since Paul Mirabella defeated the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on October 4, 1980 (a span of 614 games). Key held the California Angels to one run in 7-2/3 innings to record the win. It was the first of 112 wins that Key would notch as a starter with the Blue Jays (Key also won four games as a reliever with the Jays).
- Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: Chatham, Ont., native Bill Atkinson is best known as a relief pitcher for the Montreal Expos from 1976 to 1979, but the Canadian right-hander could also swing the bat. While pitching for the Expos in 1979, he registered base hits in back-to-back relief appearances on May 7 and May 9. I’ve done some research and asked my SABR colleagues if they could find another instance where a relief pitcher had hits in back-to-back appearances. One SABR member offered that reliever Lou Sleater accomplished this for the Detroit Tigers on August 17 and 21, 1957. But it appears that Atkinson is the last major league relief pitcher to have recorded base hits in back-to-back relief appearances.
- On this day 12 years ago, Frank Catalanotto became the first Blue Jay to register six hits in a game when he collected five singles and a double to lead to the Blue Jays to a 10-6 win over the Chicago White Sox in the second game of a doubleheader at U.S. Cellular Field. Catalanotto finished the game 6-for-6, with two runs and two RBI.
- In case you missed it, North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers signed a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday. The Canadian southpaw, who started the season with the independent Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers, posted a 4.05 ERA in 10 starts for the Twins in 2014. He also made one big league appearance for the Blue Jays in 2015, but spent the bulk of the season with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. Albers will report to the Twins’ triple-A affiliate in Rochester.
- Twenty-five years ago today, 44-year-old Nolan Ryan tossed a no-hitter against the Toronto Blue Jays at Arlington Stadium in Texas. The legendary fireballer fanned 16 Blue Jays, including Devon White, Roberto Alomar and Glenallen Hill three times each, in what would be his seventh and final no-hitter. The Rangers won the game 3-0.
- This week’s trivia question: Nolan Ryan’s no-hitter was actually the third that had been tossed against the Blue Jays. Who were the pitchers that threw the previous two no-hitters against the Blue Jays? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1972 Topps Luis Aparicio card and a 1986 Topps Traded Bo Jackson card.