My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- So far so good for Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines in the National Baseball Hall of Fame voting. Thanks to the hard-working Ryan Thibodaux, who documents baseball writers’ ballots that have been made public, we know that Raines has been named on 139 of 153 writers’ ballots to this point – that’s 90.8 per cent of ballots. In his first year of eligibility, fellow Expos great Vladimir Guerrero’s name has been checked on 77.1 per cent of ballots, while Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker has received support on 26.1 per cent. It’s encouraging to note that Walker has received 13 votes from returning baseball writers that did not vote for him last year. A candidate needs to be named on 75 per cent of ballots to be inducted. Thibodaux has calculated that 435 total writers’ ballots will be cast.
- The Toronto Blue Jays’ priority this off-season has been to land a patient, speedy, top of-the-order left-handed hitting (or switch-hitting) corner outfielder. In other words, they’re looking for a modern day Tim Raines.
- Thanks to Dan Mendham, a fellow London, Ont., baseball aficionado for sharing with me that Belleville, Ont., native and former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Rutherford passed away in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., on Christmas Day at the age of 91. The 5-foot-10 right-hander was signed as an amateur free agent by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. He pitched parts of five minor league seasons before he was called up by the big league Dodgers in 1952 and posted a 4.25 ERA in 22 games for their pennant-winning club that season. Rutherford became the first Canadian to pitch in the post-season when he relieved Joe Black in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 1952 World Series. He returned to the minors the next year and he toed the rubber for parts of three more seasons before a shoulder injury forced him to retire. After hanging up his playing spikes, he pursued a career in medicine and graduated from the Kirksville Osteopathic College of Osteopathy and Surgery in Kirksville, Missouri in 1962. He later opened a general practice in River Rouge, Mich. His wife, Martha Jo, died on May 16 of last year, but Rutherford is survived by two children and three grandchildren. You can leave online condolences here.
- Bob Elliott’s annual list of the 100 Most Influential Canadians in Baseball was unveiled on Friday. According to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s director of operations, Scott Crawford, who’s No. 92 on the list himself, 14 Canadian ball hall inductees, five Tip O’Neill Award winners and three Jack Graney Award winners are on the list. I’m thrilled that my Cooperstowners in Canada blog once again received an “Honorable Mention.” Thank you to Bob Elliott for the tremendous amount of work he does to compile this list and for all he does for baseball in this country. You can read the full list here.
- I’m a big fan of Batting Stance Guy who’s a master of imitating big league hitters. On Friday, he released a video of him imitating this year’s primary Hall of Fame candidates, including former Montreal Expos Tim Raines, Larry Walker and Vladimir Guerrero. You can watch the video here.
- Matt Eddy of Baseball America reports that Burnaby, B.C., native Jim Adduci has signed a minor league deal with the Detroit Tigers. The 31-year-old outfielder has suited up for the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization for the last two seasons. Prior to that, he spent parts of two big league campaigns with the Texas Rangers. Originally drafted in the 42nd round by the Miami Marlins in 2003, Adduci also toiled for six seasons in the Chicago Cubs organization from 2007 through 2012.
- Say what you want about the Blue Jays’ unsuccessful negotiations with Edwin Encarnacion (who has reportedly signed a three-year, $65-million deal with the Cleveland Indians), I’m still more baffled about the extension the team signed Justin Smoak to on July 16. That deal calls for Smoak to receive $4.125 million in each of 2017 and 2018 and includes a $6-million club option for 2019. After the extension was signed, the 6-foot-4 first baseman was generally relegated to defensive replacement duties for much of the rest of the season. In 63 at bats in the season’s final two months, he struck out 29 times and batted .158.
- Today would’ve been Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Sherry Robertson’s 97th birthday. After enjoying stints with the Washington Senators in 1941 and 1943, the Montreal native served in the military for two years, prior to resuming his major league career and becoming a fixture in the U.S. capital for close to seven seasons. His finest big league campaign was 1949, when he belted 11 home runs and stole 10 bases. The versatile Canadian – who played outfield, second base, third base and shortstop – suited up for two more seasons with the Senators, before finishing his playing career with the Philadelphia Athletics in 1952. Robertson’s 597 big league games remain the second-most by a player from Quebec. Following his playing career, he was named the Senators farm director in 1953 and held this post through the franchise’s move to Minnesota in 1961. In 1966, the Twins promoted him to a role as the club’s vice-president and farm director. Sadly, Robertson’s executive career was cut short when he died in a car crash on October 23, 1970. His legacy, however, lives on in the Sherry Robertson Award presented annually to the Twins’ top minor league position player.
- This week’s trivia question: In 1952, Johnny Rutherford became the first Canadian to pitch in a big league post-season game. Who was the second Canadian to pitch in the big league post-season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1984 Fleer Ryne Sandberg card and a 1985 Donruss Leaf Mike Schmidt card.
- The answer to last week’s trivia question (Rickey Henderson had 90 or more regular season plate appearances against seven different pitchers during his big league career. Four of those pitchers toed the rubber for the Blue Jays. Can you name two of those former Blue Jays pitchers who faced Henderson at least 90 times?) was any two of Dave Stieb, Jimmy Key, Jack Morris or Mike Flanagan.