My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- On Tuesday, it was announced that Darryl Sittler will be among the newest inductees to Canada’s Walk of Fame. He’s certainly a worthy honouree, but how can Canada truly have a Walk of Fame without Larry Walker on it? The Maple Ridge, B.C., native is at least the second-best Canadian baseball player of all-time (behind, perhaps, Chatham, Ont.-born pitcher Fergie Jenkins) – and he’s, without question, the best position player to hail from our country. Sittler, who I reiterate is a worthy inductee, likely wouldn’t crack a list of the top 50 hockey players born in Canada. For the record, Jenkins is the only baseball player on the Walk of Fame; he was inducted in 2001.
- To say Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto has been hot since the all-star break would be a massive understatement. The Canadian first baseman is batting .444 and has a .541 on-base percentage (OBP) and a .707 slugging percentage since the Midsummer Classic and is on the brink of becoming the first Cincinnati Reds player to bat .400 in back-to-back months since 1900. To put into perspective how good Votto is at getting on base, his .425 career OBP is the 12th best in major league history among players with at least 3,000 plate appearances. Some of the legends just below him on that list include Shoeless Joe Jackson, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Mel Ott and Joe DiMaggio.
- Today would’ve been the 104th birthday of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Goody Rosen. At 5-foot-9, 150 pounds, the Toronto-born Rosen overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to play in the majors. The scrappy Canuck made his big league debut as a pinch runner for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the first game of a doubleheader on September 14, 1937. In the second game, he would bat leadoff and record two hits. Not only was Rosen a steady bat at the top of the Dodgers order, he was one of the best defensive outfielders of his time. His finest big league season was in 1945, when he hit .325 (third in the National League) and finished in the top ten in hits, total bases, triples and OBP. After five seasons in Brooklyn, Rosen was sold to the cross-town rival New York Giants on April 27, 1946. The next day, arguably his best in baseball, he notched seven hits in nine at bats and drove in the winning run in each game of a doubleheader sweep of his former team. Rosen finished his major league career with a .291 batting average and 557 hits in 551 games.
- Our condolences to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Toronto Blue Jays legend George Bell on the passing of his brother Juan on Wednesday at the age of 48 from kidney disease. Born on March 29, 1968 in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, Juan played parts of seven major league seasons as a middle infielder from 1989 to 1995. He batted .278 in a 38-game stint with the Montreal Expos in 1994 and finished his professional career with the Blue Jays’ triple-A affiliate in Syracuse in 1998.
- SABR Listserv moderator Gary Collard reported on Wednesday that former Montreal Expos pitcher Don Stanhouse had won $5 million in a Texas Lottery game called Mega Millions. Stanhouse, who now resides in Trophy Club, Texas, pitched three of his ten big league seasons with the Expos from 1975 to 1977. Although his Baseball Reference entry doesn’t include his full major league salary data, it appears the amount he won in the lottery is at least double what he made during his big league career.
- Think major league baseball players are no longer as creative with nicknames? I did too, until I learned this week that former Blue Jays left-hander Marc Rzepczynski, who was traded by the Oakland A’s to the Washington Nationals on Thursday and whose long last name has been one of the most challenging for sportswriters, carries the nickname “Scrabble.”
- Happy 66th Birthday to former New York Yankees ace left-hander Ron Guidry, whom the Blue Jays could’ve acquired for Bill Singer in March 1977. Stephen Brunt reports in his 1996 book, Diamond Dreams: 20 Years of Blue Jays Baseball, that the Jays had an opportunity to swap the veteran Singer to the Yankees for Guidry, a budding pitching prospect at the time. “I knew Billy Martin wanted some veteran players and I knew he didn’t like Guidry – because I came from over there,” Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and former Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick told Brunt. Unfortunately, Blue Jays president Peter Bavasi vetoed the deal, telling Gillick that Singer was the only marketable player the Jays had. Guidry, of course, proceeded to go 25-3 with a miniscule 1.74 ERA in 1978 and register 170 wins in a 14-year career with the Yankees. Singer, on the other hand, won just two games in 13 starts with the Blue Jays in 1977, before retiring from baseball.
- St. Marys, Ont., the home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, will host the first annual Canadian Baseball History Conference on November 12 and 13. SABR member and longtime Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer Andrew North is organizing the event, which will include presentations from esteemed baseball researchers and authors such as Bill Humber, Brian “Chip” Martin, Bill Young and David McDonald. Attendees will also be given a tour of the Canadian ball shrine. The cost to attend is $50. For more information, follow this link.
- This week’s trivia question: Joey Votto’s .425 career on-base percentage (OBP) is the highest by a Canadian with a minimum of 3,000 major league plate appearances. Just one other Canadian with at least 3,000 big league plate appearances has finished with a career on-base percentage (OBP) over .400. Who is it? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1984 Donruss Andre Dawson card and a 1984 Donruss Tim Raines card.