My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- In July, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced it would be revamping its Veterans Committee voting so that separate committees will now examine overlooked candidates from four different eras: Today’s Game (1988 to 2016), Modern Baseball (1970 to 1987), Golden Days (1950 to 1960) and Early Baseball (1871 to 1949). This year, overlooked players (no longer eligible on the baseball writers’ ballot), managers, umpires and executives from the Today’s Game era (1988 to present) will be looked at. In my view, there are two obvious Toronto Blue Jays candidates: Carlos Delgado and Cito Gaston. Because Delgado just fell off the writers’ ballot in 2015, it seems unlikely that he’d be reconsidered this quickly, but Gaston should be a strong contender. Of the non-active managers that have piloted teams from 1988 to present, Gaston is the only one with two World Series rings that has not already been inducted (Active managers Bruce Bochy and Terry Francona have won three and two championships respectively, while Minnesota Twins manager Tom Kelly won titles in 1987 and 1991). Gaston has the same number of World Series rings as Dick Williams, who was inducted in 2008, and one more ring than inductees Whitey Herzog (2010) and Bobby Cox (2014). And keep in mind that Gaston collected those World Series rings in far fewer seasons (12) as a manager than Williams (21 seasons), Herzog (18 seasons) and Cox (29 seasons). It’s also important to note that Gaston led the Blue Jays to four division titles and was the first African-American manager to guide his team to a World Series triumph.
- Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto continues to post incredible second-half statistics. Since the All-Star break, the Cincinnati Reds first baseman is batting .408 with a .496 on-base percentage in 64 games. Votto is vying to become the first player since Ichiro Suzuki in 2004 to hit over .400 in the second-half of a big league season. He’d also become the second Canadian to accomplish this feat. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker hit .402 in the second-half of the 1998 campaign. For the record, just six players have hit over .400 in the second-half of a big league season since the All-Star Game debuted in 1933. Along with Walker, George Brett (1980), Ted Williams (1941), Babe Phelps (1936) and Earl Averill (1936) have also achieved this.
- Thirty-nine years ago today, Swift Current, Sask., native Reggie Cleveland, then with the Boston Red Sox, scattered 18 hits – yes 18 – over nine innings in a complete-game 12-5 win over the Detroit Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Cleveland is reportedly the last big league pitcher to toss an 18-hit, nine-inning complete game. This was arguably the ugliest of his 105 career wins. The 6-foot-1 right-hander was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1986. It’s also interesting to note that 2012 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Staub had two of the 18 hits off of Cleveland in that game.
- Speaking of Staub, it was 32 years ago today that he clubbed a two-run pinch-hit, game-winning home run for the New York Mets in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Mets a 6-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Shea Stadium. With that homer, Staub became just the second major leaguer to hit a home run as a teenager and as a 40-year-old. Ty Cobb was the first and Gary Sheffield would later follow in 2009.
- If you wonder why big league GMs are generally wary of shelling out big bucks for middle relievers on the free agent market, consider the Blue Jays’ current cast of middle relievers: Danny Barnes (35th round pick in 2010), Joe Biagini (26th round pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2011), Aaron Loup (9th round pick in 2009), Ryan Tepera (19th round pick in 2009), Matt Dermody (28th round pick in 2013) and Bo Schultz (signed as an amateur free agent by the Oakland A’s in 2008). The only Blue Jays middle reliever making more than a million dollars is Joaquin Benoit, who has been superb since being acquired in a trade with the Seattle Mariners on July 26. His 2016 salary is $8 million.
- The first annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in St. Marys, Ont. on November 12 and 13. This event is being organized by SABR member and longtime Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer Andrew North. Among the highlights of the event will be a panel discussion about North America’s first recorded baseball game played in Beachville, Ont., on June 4, 1838. There will also be presentations about Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers Arthur “Foxy” Irwin, Tip O’Neill and Harry Simmons (whose remarkable personal collection of artifacts is housed at the museum). Attendees will also be given a tour of the Canadian ball shrine. The cost to attend is $50. For more information, follow this link.
- Nineteen years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Carter clubbed a solo home run off of Baltimore Orioles ace Mike Mussina in the bottom of sixth inning in the Blue Jays’ 4- 3 win at SkyDome. This was his 203rd home run as a Blue Jay to break George Bell’s team record. It would also be Carter’s last home run with the Blue Jays. Carter has since been passed by Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on the Blue Jays’ all-time home run list.
- This week’s trivia question: George Bell, Carlos Delgado, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion have all hit 40 home runs in a season for the Blue Jays. Five other Blue Jays have also clubbed 40 in a season for the team. Can you name three of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1984 Donruss Ryne Sandberg card and a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Nolan Ryan card.