My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· When I talked to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame director of operations Scott Crawford about his trip to Cooperstown for the National Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies last weekend, he mentioned that from his seats for the inductee parade he could watch each inductee get off their respective truck and enter the museum at the end of the parade. Near the museum there was an enthusiastic group of fans behind a barrier that were hoping to shake the inductees’ hands or obtain some autographs. Crawford mentioned that Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins was the first inductee to stop and sign autographs. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve often marveled at how easygoing and accommodating Jenkins is with his fans. From the above photo that I discovered on Twitter, it appears little has changed from Jenkins’ playing days.
· After going 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA in July, Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton was named the American League Pitcher of the Month on Thursday. With a 12-3 record and an American League-leading 2.70 ERA and 132 strikeouts in 113 1/3 innings in 19 starts, Paxton has put himself in the conversation for the AL Cy Young Award. ESPN’s Cy Young Award predictor, which employs a formula designed by Bill James and Rob Neyer that takes into account statistics and factors that have traditionally influenced writers when voting, currently has Paxton as the fourth leading candidate behind Boston Red Sox hurlers Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel and Cleveland Indians right-hander Corey Kluber.
· It was 18 years ago today, that Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn recorded his 3,000th hit when he slashed a first-inning single to centre field off Montreal Expos right-hander Dan Smith at Olympic Stadium. Numbering just 13,540, the small but boisterous Montreal crowd rewarded the eight-time batting champ with a lengthy standing ovation, while Gwynn’s Padres teammates poured onto the field to congratulate him. But the Padres legend wasn’t finished there, he proceeded to notch three more hits to lead his club to a 12-10 win. Making his history-making single even more special was that it was Gwynn’s mother, Vendella’s 64th birthday, and she was on hand to celebrate along with the longtime Padre’s wife, Alicia, and his daughter, Anisha. Gwynn recorded his milestone hit in his 2,284th game, making him the third fastest to 3,000 hits, behind only Ty Cobb (2,135 games) and Nap Lajoie (2,224 games). You can watch Gwynn’s milestone hit here.
· The Cincinnati Reds have donated the lineup card and first base that Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto touched after he broke Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s all-time Canadian walk record to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. The left-handed hitting slugger was issued his 914th career free pass on June 28 when Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Paolo Espino walked him in the bottom of the third inning in the Reds’ 4-3 win in Cincinnati. The disciplined Votto surpassed Walker’s total in 643 fewer contests (1,345) than it took Walker (1,988 games).
· The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame has also received the hat that Montreal native Jesen Therrien wore during his major league debut with the Philadelphia Phillies on July 29 when he pitched a scoreless sixth inning in the Phils’ 4-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. After being scouted by Canadian Alex Agostino, the 6-foot-2 right-hander was selected in the 17th round of the 2011 draft by the Phillies. Now in his sixth season in the Phillies organization, the 24-year-old hurler had been dominant in double-A and triple-A in 2017, posting a combined 1.41 ERA in 57-1/3 innings while registering 65 strikeouts.
· Twenty-three years ago today, Toronto Blue Jays legend and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Joe Carter stole second base in the fourth inning of the Blue Jays’ 3-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers at SkyDome to collect his 200th career stolen base. With this, he became the 10th major league player to register 300 career home runs and 200 stolen bases. Fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Andre Dawson and Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) are also members of this exclusive club.
· Happy 62nd Birthday to former catcher Steve Nicosia, who split his eighth and final major league season between the Expos and Blue Jays. The veteran backstop batted .169 in 42 contests for the Expos that campaign before he was released on August 22 and signed by the Blue Jays on September 1. Nicosia then went 4-for-15 (.267) in six games for the American League East-winning Blue Jays that September.
· If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 18th and 19th on your calendar. Crackerjack Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and longtime SABR member Andrew North has announced that the second annual Canadian Baseball History Symposium will take place at the St. Marys Golf & Country Club in St. Marys, Ont., on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by North, will include presentations about 19th-century player Bob Addy and manager William Watkins, baseball and Canadian soldiers in World War I and the Chatham Coloured All-Stars. There will also be a pictorial history quiz based on images and a panel discussion of what defines being Canadian, and the consequences of that definition for baseball research. The registration fee is $60. To register, please email Andrew North at email@example.com.
· This week’s trivia question: Earlier I mentioned that it was Steve Nicosia’s 62nd birthday. He is one of eight catchers who have played for both the Expos and Blue Jays. Can you name two other catchers that have played for the Expos and Blue Jays? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1980 Topps Joe Morgan card and a 1980 Topps Jim Palmer card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Tim Raines will become the third player to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame to be pictured in a Montreal Expos cap on their plaque. The other two are Gary Carter and Andre Dawson. There are, however, three other players in the Hall that played for the Expos that are not pictured in an Expos cap on their plaque. Can you name them?) was any two of Tony Perez, Pedro Martinez or Randy Johnson.