My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will announce its Tip O’Neill Award winner on December 2. This honour is handed out annually by the St. Marys, Ont.-based shrine to a Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals. Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.), Michael Saunders (Victoria, B.C.), Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) and Baseball America double-A Player of the Year Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C) headline this year’s list of candidates. Fan voting is one of the criteria for the award, so you’re encouraged to vote on the Hall’s website (The poll is on the right side of the Home page) or you can email your top three choices to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Here’s a head-scratcher for you: Roy Halladay is not yet on the Toronto Blue Jays Level of Excellence. The former ace has returned to Rogers Centre on multiple occasions since his retirement at the end of the 2013 season, so it seems like there have been opportunities to hold a ceremony. I think everyone would agree that he deserves the honour, so what’s the hold-up?
- Coming off a shaky 2016 season, long-time Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil has reportedly signed a four-year, $30.5-million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. The deal includes a full no-trade clause. It’s a transaction that once again makes me wish that I was born a left-handed thrower (with, of course, considerably more skill).
- Rumors began circulating this week that the Washington Nationals are interested in Chicago White Sox ace Chris Sale. My biggest worry if he lands with the Nationals is that he might cut up an Expos jersey before one of those throw-back uniform games.
- Speaking of the Expos, Friday marked the 19th anniversary of one of the worst days in their history. In yet another cost-cutting move, the Expos traded their ace and reigning Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez to the Boston Red Sox for pitching prospects Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. Some consider this deal to be the death blow to professional baseball in Montreal. Over the years, I’ve spoken to many Expos fans that endured the 1995 fire sale that saw the Expos part with Marquis Grissom, Ken Hill and John Wetteland, but the Martinez trade was the final straw for them.
- Congratulations again to Andrew North, his wife, Elena and Brian Marshall who organized the first annual Canadian Baseball History Conference held in St. Marys, Ont., last weekend. More than 60 baseball fans and researchers converged in the small Southwestern, Ont., town, which is the home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, for the event. There were 15 excellent presentations on topics ranging from immaculate innings to the London Tecumsehs to Tip O’Neill to Canadians that played on the American Association’s Indianapolis Hoosiers in 1884. I shared some of the highlights from the conference on the Cooperstowners in Canada Facebook page this week. But this article in the St. Marys Independent superbly summarizes the events.
- Happy 65th Birthday to former Blue Jay Jackson Todd. The 6-foot-2 right-hander posted a 4.27 ERA in 45 appearances in parts of three seasons with the Blue Jays from 1979 to 1981. The Tulsa, Okla., native also played a starring role in one of my favorite stories that ex-Blue Jay and Marysville, N.B., native Paul Hodgson has shared with me. Hodgson was Todd’s teammate on the 1980 Blue Jays and after an afternoon game the players were told they had access to complimentary tickets to an Anne Murray concert at Ontario Place. Hodgson knew that Todd and catcher Bob “Country” Davis, another Oklahoman, were country music fans. At that time, Anne Murray had enjoyed some country hits, but her music was probably best classified as adult contemporary (Some would say easy listening). At any rate, Hodgson convinced Todd and Davis to go see Murray. The trio of Blue Jays arrived at the concert and sat down and eventually Murray took the stage and started to sing. Todd, who was sitting next to Hodgson, was silent for a few moments before he leaned over and said through his Oklahoman accent, “Hodgy, what the hell is this?” With that, the trio of Blue Jays got up and trickled out of the concert and into the Toronto night. Canada’s beloved songbird was clearly not country enough for two Oklahomans.
- Twenty-nine years ago Friday, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson, in his first campaign with the Chicago Cubs after 11 seasons with the Expos, was named the winner of the National League MVP Award. In 1987, Dawson led the National League with 49 home runs and 137 RBI to become the first player from a last-place team to win the MVP Award.
- I’m not sure what this says, if anything, about Josh Donaldson and how he’s perceived, but in this week’s American League MVP voting, which is done by baseball writers, he finished fourth with 200 points, while Edwin Encarnacion ended up a distant 14th and garnered just seven points. However, when Sportsnet FAN 590 personality Mike Wilner anonymously polled 47 Blue Jays players, coaches and support staff about who they thought was the team’s MVP near the end of the regular season, 41 selected Encarnacion, three chose J.A. Happ and just two voted for Donaldson. Does this mean that the baseball writers like Donaldson more than his teammates? Or is it simply a testament to how popular Encarnacion, who enjoyed a great season, was in the Blue Jays clubhouse?
- This week’s trivia question: Eight different pitchers have won the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award since the Hall began handing it out in 1984, but just one of them has been a left-hander. Can you name that lefty? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1975 and 1979 Topps Jim Palmer cards.
- The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who were the first two Cuban-born players to have played shortstop for the Blue Jays?) was Yunel Escobar and Adeiny Hechavarria.