My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- Congratulations to Port Hope, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Paul Quantrill who’s set to become the ninth member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence. He will be honoured during the organization’s National Teams Awards Banquet & Fundraiser set to take place at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel in Toronto on January 14. Quantrill will join Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.), Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.), Ernie Whitt, Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.), Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.), Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.) and Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) on the Wall of Excellence. In parts of 14 big league seasons from 1992 to 2005, Quantrill established a record for most games pitched (841) by a Canadian. The 6-foot-1 right-hander was an all-star and the Blue Jays Pitcher of the Year in 2001 and toed the rubber for Canada in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006. He also helped coach the Canadian squad at the 2009 World Baseball Classic and continues to coach for Canada’s national teams, as well as serve as a special consultant with the Blue Jays.
- Now here’s a parliamentary motion I can get behind: Liberal MP Chris Bittle, who represents St. Catharines, Ont., rose in the House of Commons on Wednesday to make a case for Tim Raines’ induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. You can watch Bittle make his case for Raines here.
- A large portion of late Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Montreal Expos legend Gary Carter’s personal collection of memorabilia was sold by Heritage Auction last weekend. In total, his items realized more than $550,000. Some notable sales included his 1980 Gold Glove Award which garnered $21,510, a 1984 game-worn Expos jersey which fetched $7,170 and his 2001 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction jacket which sold for $896.25.
- Last week, I discussed long-time Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil’s freshly signed four-year, $30.5-million deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. It was a hefty price for a reliever coming off a shaky season, but the price of relief pitching has clearly increased. Another example of this is that ex-Blue Jays right-hander Jesse Chavez quietly landed a one-year, $5.75-million deal with the Angels on November 11. He’ll also have the opportunity to earn up to $2.5 million in incentives. This for a right-hander who posted a 4.49 ERA in 62 relief appearances between the Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers last season. Reports indicate that the Angels may use Chavez as a starter.
- The Baseball Writers’ Association of America 2017 Hall of Fame ballot was released on Monday and it features five former Blue Jays (Casey Blake, Roger Clemens, Jeff Kent, Fred McGriff and Matt Stairs) and six former Expos (Orlando Cabrera, Vladimir Guerrero, Tim Raines, Lee Smith, Matt Stairs and Larry Walker). My gut tells me that Raines will be the only one elected, but my ballot (if I had one) would also include Guerrero, Walker and McGriff. The latter three should garner enough support to stay on the ballot for future consideration, but it will be very interesting to see how much support Guerrero will receive in his first year of eligibility. He hit .318 and socked 449 home runs during his 16-year big league career, but he seems to be generating surprisingly little buzz as a candidate.
- Forty-six years ago today, Montreal Expos pitcher Carl Morton was named the National League Rookie of the Year after winning 18 games and posting a 3.60 ERA in 43 appearances, including 37 starts, in 1970. The 6-foot, 200-pound right-hander also recorded 10 complete games and four shutouts and tossed 284-2/3 innings to become the first Expo to win the top rookie honours. Seven years later, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson became the second – and last – Expo to receive this award.
- Former Montreal Royals pitcher Ralph Branca passed away in Rye, N.Y. on Wednesday at the age of 90. Best remembered for allowing Bobby Thomson’s walk-off, pennant-winning home run for the New York Giants in 1951, the 6-foot-3 right-hander pitched in parts of 12 big league seasons. The three-time all-star’s best season was in 1947 when he won 21 games and posted a 2.67 ERA and finished 11th in the National League MVP voting for the Brooklyn Dodgers. But prior to starring for the big league Dodgers, he competed in 12 games and recorded a 4.44 ERA for the International League’s Montreal Royals in 1944. Branca is survived by his wife, Ann, two daughters, Patti and Mary, and three grandsons.
- This week’s trivia question: The former Expos and Blue Jays on the 2017 Hall of Fame ballot are mentioned earlier in this column. Two of these players also suited up for the Pacific Coast League’s triple-A Edmonton Trappers during their professional careers. Who are they? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1983 Topps Traded and 1985 Leaf Tom Seaver cards.
- The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the only left-handed pitcher to win the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award?) was Steve Wilson.