My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
- It was 26 years ago today that Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame to become the first – and still only – Canadian player honoured by the Cooperstown shrine. The 6-foot-5 right-hander won 284 major league games during his 19-year career with the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox that extended from 1965 to 1983. Jenkins posted six consecutive 20-win seasons from 1967 through 1972 and captured the National League Cy Young Award in 1971. He was also the first big league pitcher to finish their career with at least 3,000 strikeouts and fewer than 1,000 walks. He has since been joined in that exclusive club by Pedro Martinez, Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling. Jenkins was elected to the Hall of Fame in his third year of eligibility, along with mound contemporary Gaylord Perry and seven-time American League batting champion Rod Carew.
- Speaking of the Hall of Fame, so far so good for Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines in this year’s 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 165 of 180 writers’ ballots to this point – that’s 91.7 per cent of ballots. In his first year of eligibility, fellow Expos great Vladimir Guerrero’s name has been checked on 75 per cent of ballots, while Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker has received support on 23.9 per cent. 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.
- With the announcement in December that Bud Selig, who was commissioner during baseball’s steroid era, had been elected to the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee, many baseball writers have started to vote for players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who have been linked to performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). This is an interesting change of heart when you consider, as Colorado Rockies blogger Kevin Henry pointed out in his excellent post on Wednesday, that Larry Walker is still being punished by writers for the altitude he played in. This shift in thinking essentially means that Walker, who has never been linked to PEDs, is now being punished more for the altitude he played in (which he has absolutely no control over) than the players are who deliberately injected themselves with PEDs. That’s just plain wrong.
- Still with the Hall of Fame theme: It was 14 years ago today that Gary Carter was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his sixth year of eligibility. In 19 major league seasons – including 11 with the Expos – Carter was selected to play in 11 all-star games, won three Gold Glove Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards and a World Series title with the New York Mets in 1986. He blasted 220 of his 324 big league home runs with the Expos. For his efforts, his No. 8 was retired by the club and he was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001. With his Cooperstown induction, he became the first honoree to be pictured in an Expos cap on their plaque.
- Happy 36th Birthday to North Delta, B.C., native Jeff Francis! The 6-foot-5 left-hander registered 72 wins in his 11-year big league career that saw him toe the rubber for the Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. He won at least 13 games in three consecutive seasons for the Rockies from 2005 to 2007 and he became the second Canadian pitcher to start a World Series game when he got the nod for the Rockies in Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. He was also a member of Canada’s gold medal-winning Pan Am Games team in 2015 and became the eighth member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2016.
- Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Reno Bertoia who would’ve turned 82 today. Born in Italy, Bertoia moved with his family to Windsor, Ont. when he was just 18 months old. With fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Father Ronald Cullen, as his coach and mentor, Bertoia developed into a local baseball star and top big league prospect while playing at Assumption High School. On August 31, 1953, he inked a deal with the Detroit Tigers that included an $11,000 signing bonus. Bertoia was added to the Tigers roster almost immediately and would room with future Hall of Famer Al Kaline. Bertoia’s best season was in 1957 when thanks to a torrid early stretch, he was leading the American League with a .383 batting average on May 16. In 1959, after being dealt to the Washington Senators, Bertoia clubbed a career-high eight homers. He followed that up by recording seven triples (third in the American League) and 13 sacrifice hits (fifth in the league) in 1960. In all, the smooth-fielding Windsor native competed in parts of 10 major league seasons. After hanging up the spikes, he taught in Windsor and scouted for the Tigers and the Blue Jays. He was elected to the Windsor-Essex County Sports Hall of Fame in 1982 and the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1988.
- This week’s trivia question: Jeff Francis recorded 72 wins during his big league career which is the second-most by a Canadian left-hander. Which Canadian southpaw has the registered the most wins in the major leagues? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1991 Fleer Ultra Update and 1991 Upper Deck Jeff Bagwell rookie cards.
- The answer to last 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?) was Toronto native Ron Taylor who was a reliever for the World Series-winning St. Louis Cardinals in 1964 and with the New York Mets in 1969.