My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- Up until my mid-teens, he channeled his inner Mickey Mantle to hit me countless fly balls down Thames Crescent in Dorchester, Ont. And I chased them down while pretending to be Jesse Barfield. He’s a kind, quiet, patient, gentle and responsible man who has literally given me the shoes off his feet on more than one occasion. He’s my handyman, my accountant, my Toronto Blue Jays co-analyst and most importantly, a tremendously supportive dad. I’m blessed to have Ralph Glew as my father, and after a challenging week health-wise that forced him to miss only his second Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 16 years, I’m grateful that I’ll be able to watch the Blue Jays game with him this afternoon.
- Speaking of great dads, it’s clear that Pat Hengten had a wonderful father in Pat Sr., who passed away on January 4, 2015 at the age of 71. On top of his outstanding pitching career, Hentgen, who was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday, was an excellent bullpen coach for the Blue Jays in 2013, but he declined to return to that role the following year because he wanted to spend more time with his father who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. In March 2015, Toronto Star baseball columnist Richard Griffin wrote a moving article about how Hentgen bonded with his father through baseball, a bond that was especially important during the final months they got to spend together. Yesterday, I asked Hentgen how his father would’ve felt about his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction. “He’d be in hog heaven right now. He’d be walking around here [in St. Marys, Ont.] and just soaking it all in and going to all the dinners at night and just loving it. He’d be proud to see me up on stage. I think he’s overlooking all of us right now. I know he’d be so proud. We were really close. It’s still a tough loss [for me].” [Writer’s note: I’d never heard the expression “hog heaven” before. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “a very pleasing or satisfying state or situation.”]
- It was also apparent on Saturday that 2016 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Wayne Norton has not only been a standout player, manager, executive and scout, but he’s also a cherished and loved father. It was incredibly touching to watch Norton, who’s bravely battling ALS, interact with his wife, Trudy, his son, Steve, and daughter, Elizabeth, who were present at the inductee press conference, as well as at the ceremony. Norton has been one of the most underrated and important people in Canadian baseball history. He played against Hank Aaron; he started Canada’s national junior team and he has signed numerous Canadians to big league contracts, including Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders. “His greatest achievement is his family,” said his daughter, Elizabeth, in a passage read at the induction ceremony. “He’s our Hall of Famer and I’m the luckiest daughter in the world because I get to call him dad.”
- It’s without question the best Father’s Day moment in Blue Jays history. Six years ago, John McDonald returned to the Blue Jays with a heavy heart five days after delivering the eulogy at his father Jack’s funeral. As one of his final requests, McDonald’s father asked his son to point up to him after he touched home plate following his next home run. The Blue Jays smooth-fielding shortstop, who averaged less than two home runs a season, promised he would, but he cautioned his father that it could take a long time. Magically, in his first bat after his father’s death, McDonald belted a pitch from San Francisco Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt over the left-field wall at Rogers Centre on Father’s Day. You can listen to McDonald recount the story of the home run here.
- When right-hander Jason Grilli debuted with the Blue Jays on June 1, he and his Steve became the second father and son tandem to have played for the Blue Jays. Father Steve tossed 2-1/3 innings in his sole appearance for the Blue Jays in 1979. The first father and son to suit up for the Blue Jays was John Mayberry (1978 to 1982) and later his son, John, Jr., who participated in 15 games for the Blue Jays in 2014.
- The only Montreal Expos father-son tandem was Felipe and Moises Alou. Felipe played 19 games for the Expos in 1973 and later took over as the club’s dugout boss in 1992 and managed his son, Moises, for five seasons.
- Dave McKay and Cody McKay are the only Canadian father and son combination to play in the big leagues. Born in Vancouver, the elder McKay toiled in parts of eight major league seasons with the Minnesota Twins, Blue Jays and Oakland A’s, while the younger McKay enjoyed stints with the A’s in 2002 and with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004.
- On a New York Mets broadcast in 1988, Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner said, “On this Father’s Day, we’d like to wish all you fathers out here a Happy Birthday.” With this in mind, Happy Birthday to all the fathers reading this.
- This week’s trivia question: I’ve already noted that Steve and Jason Grilli and John Mayberry and John Mayberry Jr. are the two father and son combinations that have played for the Blue Jays. But can you name two other former Blue Jays whose fathers also played in the major leagues (but not with the Blue Jays)? 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.