My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Philadelphia Phillies reliever and Montreal native Jesen Therrien wins our unofficial award for best Canadian nickname on Players Weekend. The back of the 6-foot-2 right-hander’s jersey (see above) says “MTL-NORD” – a tribute to his home city. Unfortunately, it didn’t bring the 24-year-old pitcher much luck. He allowed two runs in 1-1/3 innings in his club’s 17-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
· Former Montreal Expos scouting director Mel Didier passed away on Saturday at the age of 90. After posting a 6.33 ERA in two seasons in class-D in the Detroit Tigers organization in 1948 and 1949, Didier entered the scouting ranks with the Tigers. He later evaluated players for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves before joining the Expos in 1969. In his six years with the Expos, he was responsible for scouting and drafting Hall of Famers Gary Carter and Andre Dawson, as well as longtime ace, Steve Rogers. In the ensuing years, he’d continue to scout for several different major league organizations, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks. Most recently he served as a senior advisor/professional scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.
· It’s been a great month for Saskatchewan baseball. After their provincial (17U) squad captured their first-ever gold medal at the Canada Games on August 4, North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers was called up by the Seattle Mariners on August 15. The 31-year-old left-hander has since has won both of his big league starts and even registered his first major league hit and RBI on Monday. He’ll make his third start for the M’s today against the New York Yankees. Fittingly, Albers’ second win came on Regina, Sask., native Dustin Molleken’s 33rd birthday. Now toeing the rubber for the independent Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots, Molleken was the last Saskatchewan native to pitch in the majors. The 6-foot-4 right-hander appeared in four games for the Detroit Tigers in 2016.
· It was 25 years ago today that the Blue Jays acquired ace right-hander David Cone from the New York Mets in exchange for infielder Jeff Kent and outfield prospect Ryan Thompson. Cone proceeded to win four games and post a 2.55 ERA in 53 innings down the stretch for the Blue Jays and then record a 3.22 ERA in four postseason starts. For his part, Kent became a steady infielder for the Mets for the next three seasons, but he didn’t develop into a superstar until he landed with the San Francisco Giants in 1997. Thompson showed some pop as a part-time outfielder for the Mets for four seasons, before finishing his career with stints with the Indians, Astros, Yankees, Marlins and Brewers.
· Another interesting “Cooperstowners in Canada” fact I learned this week: Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Lemon managed the Vancouver Mounties in 1969. I discovered this when I stumbled upon a 1969 Mounties photo (see above) posted on Twitter by @theBreakerNews. That season, the Mounties served as a triple-A affiliate for the Montreal Expos and Seattle Pilots and finished the season with a 71-73 record. Prior to his managerial career, Lemon was an outstanding pitcher for the Cleveland Indians between 1941 and 1958. The 6-foot, 180-pound right-hander was a seven-time all-star and a seven-time 20-game winner who finished his major league career with 207 wins and a 3.23 ERA. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976.
· Happy 42nd Birthday to former Montreal Expos second baseman Jose Vidro! In parts of eight seasons with the Expos from 1997 to 2004, he batted .301 (third in franchise history) and collected 1,280 hits (fifth in franchise history) – including 304 doubles (second in franchise history). For his efforts, the Puerto Rican infielder was selected to three All-Star games (2000, 2002-03) and captured a Silver Slugger Award in 2003.
· I’m fortunate to have readers like Fredericton, N.B., native David Watson. This week, he shared an article from the May 23, 1988 issue of Sports Illustrated written by Peter Gammons. In the article, Gammons indicates that the Toronto Blue Jays were one of the teams that had “designs on” Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. at the time. It’s interesting to reflect on this now when you consider that the Blue Jays already had an all-star shortstop in Tony Fernandez. Perhaps the Blue Jays were thinking of dealing Fernandez in a package for Ripken? Gammons also writes in the article that the front office was trying to shake up a team “that acts as if it had a group toothache.” Keep in mind this article was written shortly after Blue Jays manager Jimy Williams had moved reigning American League MVP George Bell from left field to designated hitter – a move that angered Bell. The decision to move Bell to DH also led to Williams shifting all-star Lloyd Moseby from centre field to left field to make room for promising rookie Sil Campusano. This experiment was abandoned in early May when Campusano was sent to the minors and Bell and Moseby returned to their previous positions.
· Seventeen years ago today, catcher Darrin Fletcher belted three home runs for the Blue Jays to lead them to a 6-4 win over the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Those were three of the career-high 20 that Fletcher belted for the Blue Jays that season. It would be the only three-home run game of Fletcher’s career, although he homered twice in a game seven times with either the Montreal Expos or Toronto Blue Jays.
· 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
· This week’s trivia question: Earlier I mentioned that today is the 17th anniversary of catcher Darrin Fletcher’s three-home run game with the Blue Jays. Two other catchers have homered three times in a game for the Blue Jays. Can you name them? Please provide your answer in the Comments section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 O-Pee-Chee Willie McCovey card, a 1992 Leaf Gold Rookies Pedro Martinez card and a 1992 Donruss The Rookies Jeff Kent card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins won 20 games in a season seven times during his major league career. Two other Canadians have also won 20 games in a season at the major league level. Can you name one of them?) was Bob Emslie or Russ Ford.