My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto reached two more statistical milestones this week. On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Reds slugger scored his 100th run of the season. This marks the fifth time he has tallied 100 runs in a major league season, tying him with Tip O’Neill (Woodstock, Ont.) for the Canadian record. And on Wednesday, he reached base for 300th time this season. This is the third time in his career he has reached base 300 times in a single campaign. The only other Reds player to accomplish this is Pete Rose.
· When Washington Nationals right-hander Max Scherzer recorded his 250th strikeout of the season on Tuesday, he became the fourth pitcher to fan 250 batters in four consecutive seasons. The other three are former Montreal Expos Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson and Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins.
· Thirty-two years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Andre Dawson socked three home runs for the Montreal Expos to lead them to a 17-15 win over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Two of Dawson’s homers were three-run shots in the fifth inning, which made him just the second major leaguer to go deep two times in the same inning twice in their career (Willie McCovey was the other).
· Speaking of Dawson, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported on Friday that the new Miami Marlins ownership group, headed by Derek Jeter, will not renew the contracts of long-time special assistants and former Montreal Expos Andre Dawson and Tony Perez. Dawson has served as a community ambassador with the team since 2000, while Perez has been serving in a similar capacity since 1993. The new Marlins owners will also be parting ways with longtime team icons Jeff Conine and manager Jack McKeon.
· Montreal native Jesen Therrien underwent Tommy John surgery this week and will miss the 2018 season. He had been placed on the 60-day disabled list by the Philadelphia Phillies on September 11 after being diagnosed with damage to his right ulnar collateral ligament. Therrien posted an 8.35 ERA in 15 relief appearances in his first taste of big league action this season. Scouted by Canadian Alex Agostino, Therrien was selected in the 17th round of the 2011 MLB draft by the Phillies. The 24-year-old hurler was dominant in double-A and triple-A in 2017, posting a combined 1.41 ERA in 57-1/3 innings while registering 65 strikeouts.
· If today is Jose Bautista’s last home game with the Toronto Blue Jays, we should recognize him as the greatest offensive outfielder in the franchise’s history. Bautista owns the best cumulative WAR and WAR per game of any outfielder in Blue Jays history. See the accompanying table.
|Name||Games||WAR||WAR per Game|
· Twenty-five years ago today, Blue Jays designated hitter Dave Winfield knocked in four runs to reach 100 RBI for the 1992 season in an 8-2 Blue Jays’ win over the Baltimore Orioles. At age 40, he became the oldest player to record 100 RBI in a season. He would finish the campaign with 108 RBI.
· Happy 47th Birthday to former Blue Jays left-hander Paul Spoljaric! After being signed by the Blue Jays as an amateur free agent in 1989, the Kelowna, B.C. native pitched in parts of six big league seasons, including four with Toronto. The 6-foot-3 lefty’s finest big league campaign was in 1996 when he posted a 3.08 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 38 innings. He also toed the rubber for the Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies and Kansas City Royals.
· Twenty years ago today, with the team mired in last place in the American League East, the Blue Jays fired long-time manager Cito Gaston and replaced him on an interim basis with Mel Queen. This marked the end of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer’s first tenure with the Blue Jays that saw him guide the team to four American League East titles and two World Series championships. Gaston later returned to manage the Blue Jays from 2008 to 2010.
· Former infielder Dave Hilton passed away last Sunday at the age of 67 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Though he never played a regular season game for the Blue Jays, Hilton suited up for the club in its first-ever spring training in 1977. The third baseman was acquired by the Blue Jays on October 22, 1976 after he had spent parts of four seasons with the San Diego Padres, who had selected him first overall in the 1971 MLB draft. Having batted .288 with 16 home runs in 126 games for the Padres’ triple-A Hawaii Islanders, who had been managed by new Blue Jays manager Roy Hartsfield, Hilton looked to have an inside track on the starting third baseman’s job with the Blue Jays. But Hilton held out for two weeks at the beginning of camp in an attempt to secure a guaranteed big league contract. Eventually he relented and reported, but by that time Canadian Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) had impressed and had a solid grip on the third base job. After Hilton reported, he did have some impressive spring training games for the Blue Jays – including a four-hit performance on March 15 against the reigning World Series champion Cincinnati Reds – but at the end of spring training he was dealt to the Cleveland Indians and he spent the 1977 campaign in triple-A. He’d later head to Japan for parts of three seasons, before finishing his professional career in the Mexican League in 1982. Following his playing career, he established the Arizona School of Baseball, where he taught skills to young players in the state.
· 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: I mentioned earlier that Joey Votto now has five 100-run seasons on his resume to tie Tip O’Neill’s Canadian record. There are two other Canadians that have four, 100-run major league seasons. Can you name them? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1979 Topps Dennis Eckersley card, a 1979 Topps Steve Garvey card and a 1988 Fleer Tom Glavine rookie card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (There have been at least five sets of Canadian right-handers that have served in big league rotations together. Can you name one pair of Canadian right-handers who have served in a major league rotation together?) was any one of Phil Marchildon and Dick Fowler (Philadelphia A’s, 1941-42, 1945-48), Reggie Cleveland and Fergie Jenkins (Boston Red Sox, 1976-77), Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden (Chicago Cubs, 2008-09), Ryan Dempster and Chris Reitsma (Cincinnati Reds, 2002-03) and Rube Vickers and Clarence Currie (Cincinnati Reds, 1902).