My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Thursday wasn’t a good day for Philadelphia Phillies players born in Victoria, B.C. After allowing one earned run in 4-2/3 innings in his start that day, Nick Pivetta was sent down to the triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs following the game. In four big league starts this season, the 24-year-old right-hander posted a 5.12 ERA. On the same day, Michael Saunders came out of the game in the sixth inning with a groin injury, but the ex-Jay was back in the lineup on Friday. Saunders is batting .239 with four home runs in 39 games this season.
· Fergie Jenkins, the pride of Chatham, Ont., and Gibsons, B.C., native Ryan Dempster are first and second amongst Canadian pitchers in career wins. But the parallels in the careers of these two right-handers never dawned on me until recently. Jenkins and Dempster both pitched for the Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox, with both enjoying their greatest success with the Cubs. Jenkins recorded 167 of his 284 wins with the Cubs, while Dempster registered 67 of his 132 victories for the Cubbies.
· The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony is slated for Saturday, June 24. This year’s inductees include Roy Halladay, Vladimir Guerrero, the 2015 Canadian Senior National Team that captured gold at the 2015 Pan Am Games, longtime Baseball Canada president Ray Carter and trailblazing umpire Doug Hudlin. The induction of Halladay and Guerrero got me wondering about how Guerrero fared against Halladay? The answer is Guerrero was 10-for-38 (.263 batting average) – including nine singles and a home run – against the former Blue Jays ace. His home run against Halladay was a two-run shot in the top of the fourth inning at Rogers Centre on July 5, 2008 when Guerrero was with the Angels. The Dominican slugger’s home run accounted for the only two runs the Angels would score in seven innings against Halladay that game.
· Twenty-one years ago today, Maple Ridge, B.C., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Larry Walker recorded 13 total bases in the Colorado Rockies’ 12-10 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Coors Field to set a franchise record. In that contest, Walker blasted two, three-run home runs, a double and a triple and drove in six runs.
· Happy 76th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays manager and National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Cox. Prior to his legendary run as Atlanta Braves manager that saw him lead the club to 14 consecutive division titles from 1991 to 2005, Cox served as the dugout boss for the Blue Jays from 1982 to 1985. He guided the club to its first three seasons with a winning record (1983 to 1985) and to their first American League East division title in 1985. The Blue Jays won 99 games that season which still stands as a franchise record. Cox, who initially managed the Braves from 1978 to 1981, was lured back to Atlanta after the 1985 campaign. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.
· It was 24 years ago today that Montreal native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jim McKean ejected BJ Birdy from a Blue Jays game at Rogers Centre. In the first inning, Blue Jays second baseman Roberto Alomar socked a ball to left field that was trapped by Minnesota Twins outfielder Dave McCarty. Thinking that McKean, who was umpiring second base that day, had called it a catch, BJ Birdy began to encourage the home crowd of 50,000-plus to boo McKean. McKean had, in fact, ruled that the ball was trapped and Alomar landed on second base with a double. Angered by the mascot’s actions, McKean ejected the costumed bird from the game.
· Happy 49th Birthday to Toronto native and former Florida Marlins catcher Greg O’Halloran. Selected by the Blue Jays in the 32nd round of the 1988 MLB amateur draft, the left-handed hitting backstop would play five seasons in the Blue Jays organization before he was purchased by the Marlins on November 12, 1993. After beginning the 1994 campaign with the double-A Portland Sea Dogs, O’Halloran was called up by the Marlins and he’d suit up in 12 games for the big league club. He started the ensuing season in triple-A in the Chicago Cubs organization before finishing his professional career in the Mexican League in 1996. O’Halloran later served as a scout and as the bullpen catcher for the Canadian World Baseball Classic teams in 2006 and 2009. He’s currently a coach for the Ontario Terriers.
· This week’s trivia question: Who holds the record for most career major league appearances by a Canadian pitcher? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1975 Topps Catfish Hunter card and a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Rickey Henderson card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the only Montreal Expos first baseman to win a National League batting title?) was Al Oliver, who hit .331 for the Expos in 1982.