My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there, including my mom, Glenyce Glew, who if there was a Hall of Fame for moms, she should be the first inducted! According to Baseball Reference, there has only been one player named “Mother” that has played in the major leagues. A 5-foot-9, 145-pound pitcher named Mother Watson allowed nine runs in 14 innings in two games for the American Association’s Cincinnati Red Legs in 1887. Sadly, the Middleport, Ohio native was shot and killed in a bar in his home city in 1898 when he was just 33.
· Just how great of a hitter is Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto? He’s this great (courtesy of Ryan Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder on Twitter)): The only players in major league history that have a better career batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage than Votto are Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Rogers Hornsby and Babe Ruth.
· Happy 40th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays ace and 2017 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Roy Halladay! The 6-foot-6 right-hander was the Blue Jays’ first-round pick (17th overall) in the 1995 major league amateur draft. But it wasn’t until 2002 that he established himself as the team’s ace when he won 19 games and led American League hurlers in innings pitched (239-1/3) and WAR (7.4) and was selected to his first All-Star team. The Denver, Colo., native would top that the ensuing campaign when he led the league in wins (22), innings pitched (266), complete games (9) and WAR (8.1). For his efforts, he became the third Blue Jay to capture the American League Cy Young Award (Pat Hentgen (1996), Roger Clemens (1997, 1998)). In all, in parts of 12 seasons with the Blue Jays, Halladay made a team-record seven Opening Day starts, led the American League in complete games five times (2003, 2005, 2007-09), innings pitched three times (2002, 2003, 2008) and was a six-time All-Star (2002-03, 2005-06, 2008-09). He finished his Blue Jays career with a 148-76 won/loss record – good for a .661 winning percentage, which is the best in franchise history. All of this begs the question, why is his name not yet on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence?
· Want to feel old? Former Blue Jays catcher Pat Borders turns 54 today. He played for the Blue Jays for the first seven seasons (1988 to 1994) of his big league career. His finest season was in 1990 when he batted .286 and socked 15 home runs in 125 games. But the highlight of his tenure in Toronto was winning the World Series MVP Award in 1992. In that six-game Fall Classic against the Atlanta Braves, Borders batted .450 and had a home run and three doubles. He returned to the Blue Jays to earn his second World Series ring the following year. Prior to the start of the 1995 season, he signed with the Kansas City Royals, which was the beginning of a baseball odyssey that would make him one of the game’s most travelled catchers. Borders would eventually also suit up for the Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins before the end of his 17-year big league career. He also had a brief six-game return with the Blue Jays in 1999. Borders is set to return for his third season as manager of the Philadelphia Phillies’ class-A Short Season Williamsport Crosscutters.
· Thirty-four years ago today, Blue Jays right-handers Luis Leal and Roy Lee Jackson combined to toss a one-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in an 8-1 win at Cleveland Stadium. Leal walked four but didn’t allow a hit in five innings to start the game, but he didn’t return to the mound after a rain delay. Jackson picked up where Leal left off and allowed only a single to Indians catcher Chris Bando in the bottom of the eighth inning. That hit was sandwiched between two walks which accounted for the Indians’ only run.
· Happy 63rd Birthday to former Montreal Expos ace and 2016 Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dennis Martinez! Born in 1954 in Granada, Nicaragua, Martinez recorded 100 wins (second-most in franchise history) in parts of eight seasons with the Expos from 1986 to 1993. The durable right-hander also ranks second all-time amongst Expos pitchers in games started (233) and innings pitched (1,609) and third in strikeouts (973), complete games (41) and shutouts (13). Nicknamed “El Presidente,” Martinez was the first Nicaraguan to play in the major leagues, and when he tossed a perfect game on July 28, 1991 – the only one in Expos history – the club’s play-by-play man Dave Van Horne famously quipped “El Presidente, El Perfecto!” During his tenure with the Expos, Martinez was selected to three All-Star games (1990 to 1992) and in 1991, he topped the National League in ERA (2.39), complete games (9) and shutouts (5).
· Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker is employing Adam Lind the same way that John Gibbons did in Lind’s last season with the Blue Jays. That is, unless the club’s in dire circumstances, the left-handed hitting first baseman will not bat against left-handed pitchers. So far this season, Lind has yet to have a single at bat against a southpaw, but he’s 13-for-38 (.342 batting average) with three homers and a .658 slugging percentage against right-handers.
· Happy 75th Birthday to National Baseball Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos first baseman Tony Perez. Best known as a clutch hitter for the Big Red Machine, Perez was swapped to the Expos by the Reds on December 16, 1976 with reliever Will McEnaney for pitchers Woodie Fryman and Dale Murray. Perez proceeded to play three seasons in Montreal and batted .281 with 46 home runs. After the 1979 campaign, the Cuban first baseman signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent and suited up with them for three seasons before finishing his 23-year big league career with the Phillies and Reds. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2000.
· This week’s trivia question: Who is the only Montreal Expos first baseman to win a National League batting title? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1991 Score Ivan Rodriguez rookie card and a 1991 Studio Jeff Bagwell rookie card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who holds the Blue Jays record for most RBI in a season by a second baseman?) was Aaron Hill, who recorded 108 RBI in 2009.