My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- It’s safe to say that 2016 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza enjoyed hitting against the Toronto Blue Jays. In 117 games versus the Blue Jays – including one at Exhibition Stadium – Griffey Jr. batted .301, belted 35 home runs and registered a .600 slugging percentage. Piazza, between his final season with the Oakland A’s and interleague play, hit .324 and socked four home runs in 17 contests against the Blue Jays.
- Piazza, however, suited up for far more games against the Montreal Expos and despite Olympic Stadium’s reputation as a pitchers’ park, the power-hitting catcher batted .342 with 19 home runs in 64 games at The Big O. Griffey Jr., who played parts of nine seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, wasn’t as successful in Montreal. In 10 games at Olympic Stadium, he batted .231 with three homers.
- In 1990, Ken Griffey Jr. and his father Ken Griffey Sr. were teammates on the Seattle Mariners. On September 14 of that season, Senior and Junior clubbed back-to-back home runs in the first inning off of California Angels pitcher and Kapuskasing, Ont., native Kirk McCaskill. This marked the first – and only time – that a father and son have walloped back-to-back homers in a major league game. When McCaskill was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in 2003, he joked about having the dubious distinction of allowing back-to-back homers to the Griffeys. “I didn’t feel that bad about it because they were both great hitters,” said McCaskill. “I did feel a little humiliated though when I looked over and saw Mrs. Griffey in the on-deck circle.”
- Speaking of National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, it was five years ago today that Blue Jays legends Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick were inducted. Alomar became the first – and still only – player to be featured in a Blue Jays cap on their plaque. Gillick, of course, was the Blue Jays general manager for five division-winning squads and two World Series winners. Fittingly, Bert Blyleven, who spent almost four years of his childhood on a farm near Melville, Sask., was honoured the same year.
- Baseball Canada’s Adam Morissette wrote an excellent article for the Canadian Baseball Network this week which provided updates on what members of Canada’s 2015 gold medal-winning Pan Am Games team are doing now. From this article, I learned that Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.), after beginning the season in triple-A in the Chicago White Sox organization, retired on June 6. The article also reveals that Vancouver native Scott Richmond is pitching professionally for the EDA Rhinos of the Chinese Professional Baseball League, where he’s tied for third in the league in wins with seven.
- Fourteen years ago today, former Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays catcher Darrin Fletcher announced his retirement. Just 35 at the time, the Elmhurst, Ill., native played 11 of his 14 major league seasons north of the border. After the Expos acquired him from the Phillies on December 9, 1991, Fletcher served behind the plate for the Expos for six seasons from 1992 to 1997 and was selected to the All-Star Game in 1994. He was signed as a free agent by the Blue Jays on November 26, 1997 and proceeded to enjoy his finest offensive seasons in Toronto, including setting career-bests by hitting .320 and socking 20 home runs in 2000.
- Twenty-two years ago today, Expos outfielder Rondell White knocked in all seven runs in the club’s 7-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers at Olympic Stadium. White registered a single, double and home run off of Dodgers’ starter Kevin Gross, before recording another RBI single off of reliever Jim Gott in the bottom of the eighth inning. First baseman Cliff Floyd also had four hits for the Expos to propel lefty Kirk Rueter to his sixth win of the season and the Expos to their sixth win in a row. The victory ran the Expos’ record to 60-37 and they stood one-and-a-half games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the National League East division.
- This week’s trivia question: Roberto Alomar is one of five players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame that suited up for the Toronto Blue Jays. Can you name the four others? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1990 Upper Deck John Olerud rookie card, a 1990 Upper Deck Larry Walker rookie card and a 1991 Upper Deck Rondell White rookie card.