My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· How humbling can it be to be a professional baseball player? Last year at this time, Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders was enjoying his first of two consecutive, three-hit games for the Toronto Blue Jays and was headed to his first all-star game. This year, after being released by the Philadelphia Phillies last Sunday, Saunders signed a minor league deal with the Blue Jays and is 1-for-12 (.083) in three games with the triple-A Buffalo Bisons.
· During Vladimir Guerrero’s and Roy Halladay’s Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction speeches in St. Marys, Ont., last Saturday, besides reflecting on their outstanding baseball careers, I kept thinking that their sons could help Canada in the 2021 World Baseball Classic. Guerrero’s son, also named Vladimir, was born in Montreal in 1999, and is currently batting .316 in 66 games with the Blue Jays’ class-A Lansing Lugnuts. Halladay’s 16-year-old son, Braden, was born in Toronto and is a 6-foot-1, 160-pound right-handed pitcher/first baseman at Cavalry Christian High School in Clearwarter, Fla. His progress is being monitored closely by scouts and he’ll be eligible for the 2019 MLB draft.
· Eighteen years ago today, for the first and only time in major league history, two Canadian brothers pitched for opposing teams in a game. In that contest, in which the Texas Rangers defeated the Seattle Mariners 7-6, Kelowna, B.C., native Jeff Zimmerman tossed a scoreless eighth inning for the Rangers, while his brother Jordan faced one batter in the bottom of the ninth for the Mariners.
· It’s been a great week for Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto. Not only did he break Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s record for most career walks by a Canadian when he notched his 914th free pass in the third inning of Wednesday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, he has also gone 9-for-17 (.529 batting average) with three home runs in his past six games. The Cincinnati Reds first baseman leads the National League in walks (56) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) (1.051).
· It was 114 years ago today that Hall of Famer Ed Delahanty died in Niagara Falls, Ont., when he was just 35. Delahanty, who had a .346 career batting average and 2,597 hits in his 16-year big league career, was reportedly kicked off a train in Fort Erie, Ont., for being drunk and disorderly. Attempting to return to the U.S., he walked across the International Railway Bridge where he scuffled with a night watchman and either jumped off or was pushed off the bridge. According to his SABR bio, Delahanty’s body “was found 20 miles downstream at the base of Horseshoe Falls – the Canadian portion of Niagara Falls.” Delahanty, who hit over .400 in a season three times, was elected to the National Baseball of Fame posthumously in 1945.
· In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, the Canadian Baseball Network asked veteran baseball historian, statistician and author Neil Munro to select the top Canadian players of all-time. The venerable North Bay, Ont., resident, who has served as a research consultant with STATS Inc. and is the former chair of SABR’s Records Committee, came up with what he considered to be Canada’s all-time 25-man roster. But because he thought there were so many Canadians worthy of recognition, Munro also created a second all-star team, as well as a list of 100 more noteworthy Canuck players. In all, he highlighted 150 Canadian baseball players to commemorate Canada’s 150th birthday. You can read his list here.
· For those curious (like I am) about how ex-Blue Jay Anthony Gose’s transition into a pitcher in the Detroit Tigers’ minor league system is going: in his first six relief appearances with class-A Lakeland the left-hander, whose pitches have been clocked in the high 90s, allowed nine runs and walked five in 4-1/3 innings. In his last five outings, he hasn’t allowed a hit, a walk or a run in five innings and he has struck out nine.
· Bartolo Colon, the last active player to suit up for the Montreal Expos, was designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves on Thursday. Through 13 starts this season, the burly 44-year-old posted a 2-8 record and an 8.14 ERA, allowing 92 hits in 66 innings. This could be the end of the line for the last Expo, who went 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 17 starts for the Expos in 2002.
· When injury-prone right-hander Brandon Morrow was pitching for the Blue Jays from 2010 to 2014, some baseball pundits insisted that the club should use him as a reliever. Not only did he possess an arsenal that could dominate, but he was also more likely to stay healthy in that role. Well, after starting the season in the minors, Morrow was called up by the Los Angeles Dodgers on May 29 and in 10 relief appearances since, he has tossed 11-2/3 innings and has yet to allow a run. He has 14 strikeouts and just one walk.
· This week’s trivia question: A little post-Canada Day trivia for you: There have been three Canadian pitchers that have toed the rubber for the Blue Jays on Canada Day. Can you name two of them? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1975 Topps mini Rod Carew card and a 1980 Topps Steve Carlton card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (There are three inductees in both the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and National Baseball Hall of Fame that played for the Montreal Royals. Can you name them?) was Jackie Robinson, Sparky Anderson and Tommy Lasorda.