My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- With the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2016 induction ceremony less than two weeks away, I thought I’d do some research to find out if new inductees Pat Hentgen and Dennis Martinez ever pitched against each other, and I discovered that they did. On August 30, 1995, Hentgen started for the Toronto Blue Jays against Martinez and the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field. Hentgen would hold the Tribe to two runs in eight innings, while Martinez was equally impressive, limiting the Blue Jays to two runs (one earned) over seven frames. But both hurlers had long been out of the game when Indians slugger Albert Belle smashed a two-run, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 13th inning to give the Indians a 4-3 victory.
- Former Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher will be attending this year’s Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction festivities in St. Marys, Ont. The Elmhurst, Ill., native caught games for both Martinez and Hentgen during his 14-year big league career. Fletcher was behind the plate for 33 contests in 1992 and 1993 that Martinez pitched for the Expos, while he caught 48 of Hentgen’s starts with the Blue Jays in 1999 and 2000. In all, Fletcher spent 11 of his 14 major league seasons with either the Expos or the Blue Jays.
- Tributes have been pouring in on social media for boxing great and social justice crusader Muhammad Ali, who passed away from respiratory failure late Friday at the age of 74. The legendary heavyweight champ also suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Former Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jesse Barfield shared two photos of him with Ali at a sports collectors show in Toronto in the 1980s on Twitter. “RIP ‘Champ,’” tweeted Barfield. “You will always be the Greatest to me.” You can view one of the photos of Barfield and Ali here.
- With Brett Cecil’s struggles and now his lat muscle injury, the Blue Jays have lacked an effective left-hander out of the bullpen this season. So it would make sense for them to call up veteran southpaw Wade LeBlanc from the triple-A Buffalo Bisons. In 11 starts with the Bisons, LeBlanc is 6-1 with a 1.57 ERA. The 31-year-old southpaw, who pitched in Japan in 2015, has toed the rubber in parts of seven previous major league seasons for the San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels and New York Yankees. The main obstacle to promoting him is that he’s not on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster, so it would require an injury or designating another player to call him up.
- Fun Canadian Baseball Fact: When Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Pat Gillick was general manager of the Blue Jays, he and his staff had tremendous success selecting right-handed pitchers in the fifth round of the MLB amateur draft. In a nine-year span, from 1978 to 1987, the Blue Jays chose Dave Stieb (1978), Pat Hentgen (1986) and Mike Timlin (1987) with their fifth-round picks.
- Want to feel old? It was 27 years ago today that the Blue Jays played their first game at SkyDome (Rogers Centre). In that contest, the Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Blue Jays 5-3, despite a complete-game effort from Blue Jays starter Jimmy Key. The first player to record a hit at the SkyDome was Brewers leadoff hitter Paul Molitor, who doubled to centre field off Key in the first inning. The bat that Molitor used for that hit now resides in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Blue Jays first baseman Fred McGriff was the first to homer at the SkyDome when he clubbed a two-run shot in the bottom of the second inning.
- In 1959, well after Ty Cobb’s career had ended, a reporter asked him what he would hit against current pitching. “.300,” Cobb replied. “Why only .300?” the reporter responded. “You’ve got to remember I’m 73,” replied Cobb.
- This week’s trivia question: As noted earlier, Darrin Fletcher served as a catcher for 2016 inductees Pat Hentgen and Dennis Martinez during his 14-year big league career. Fletcher also caught games for two other pitchers that have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Can you name one of these pitchers? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Paul Molitor card.