My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· It’s good to know that Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto is not only a Hall of Fame calibre player, but a Hall of Fame guy. You’ve probably read about Votto’s relationship with Walter “Superbubz” Herbert, a six-year-old fan with neuroblastoma. Votto had met with the youngster on multiple occasions and high-fived Herbert after a home run at Great American Ballpark on August 31 and later returned to give Herbert his bat and jersey. The touching video of this exchange went viral (You can watch a story about it here). Sadly, Herbert passed away on October 6. Votto attended the visitation and when he was asked if he would like to move to the front of the visitation line, the Reds star declined any special treatment.
· Of course, what Votto did on the field pales in comparison to what he did for Herbert, but J.J. Cooper of Baseball America provided more evidence of just how good the Canadian slugger has been at getting on base. Cooper tweeted on October 5 that if Votto struck out in every one of his next 1,500 plate appearances, he’d still have a higher career on-base percentage than Hall of Famer Tony Perez.
. Atlanta Braves reporter Grant McAuley posted a great photo on Twitter of Hunstville, Ont., native George Selkirk in the New York Yankees dugout wearing No. 3. Selkirk, who was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983, wore Babe Ruth’s number with the Yankees from 1935 to 1942. He was one of seven players to wear Ruth’s number before it was retired in 1948. Thanks to London, Ont., baseball historian Dan Mendham for pointing out that another Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Frank Colman (London, Ont.) also donned No. 3 for the Yankees in 1946 and 1947 before it was retired.
. It’s great to see that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and the pride of Melville, Sask., Terry Puhl, has been attending Houston Astros games during the club’s postseason run. The left-handed hitting outfielder batted .281 and racked up 1,357 hits in 14 seasons with the Astros from 1977 through 1990. And as good as Astros second baseman Jose Altuve was in the American League Division Series (8-for-15), the star infielder didn’t match Puhl’s team record (shared with Carlos Beltran) for most hits in a playoff series. Puhl was 10-for-19 (.526 batting average) against the Philadelphia Phillies in the five-game National League Championship Series in 1980.
· If you’re feeling patriotic – and with no Canadian players competing in the postseason – you might want to root for the Los Angeles Dodgers who have Sudbury, Ont., native Farhan Zaidi (general manager) and Montreal native Alex Anthopoulos (vice-president of baseball operations) running the club. Zaidi was born in Sudbury, Ont., in 1976, but moved to the Philippines with his family when he was four.
· Please take a moment to remember longtime Toronto Blue Jays pitching coach Al Widmar, who passed away on this date 12 years ago at the age of 80. Widmar served as the Blue Jays pitching coach from 1980 to 1989 and helped mold hurlers Dave Stieb, Jim Clancy, Jimmy Key and Tom Henke into all-stars. Following the 1989 campaign, he became a special assignment scout for the club. Prior to his coaching career, Widmar also toed the rubber for parts of five big league seasons from 1947 to 1952 with the Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox, compiling a 5.23 ERA in 114 games. In all, Widmar spent more than five decades in professional baseball as a player, coach, executive and scout.
· One of the best things I discovered this week was a blog devoted to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer George “Moon” Gibson. You can visit it at www.moongibson.com to learn about the London, Ont., native’s distinguished catching career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and later his big league managerial career. The blog also offers extensive information about Gibson’s baseball cards.
· I guess I’m the sentimental type because I’ve been reflecting about what Jose Bautista’s legacy will be as a Blue Jay. Was he the greatest outfielder ever to suit up for the club? Well, in 2011, he certainly had the best season ever by a Blue Jays outfielder. His 8.1 WAR that campaign is the best recorded in a season by a Blue Jays outfielder. Here’s a list of the top single-season WARs by Blue Jays outfielders (according to Baseball Reference): Bautista, 8.1, 2011; Jesse Barfield, 7.6, 1986; Lloyd Moseby, 7.3, 1984; Jose Bautista, 7.0, 2010 and Barfield, 6.8, 1985.
· 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 Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi was Canadian. His club is battling the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series. Who is the only other Canadian general manager to lead a National League team to a postseason berth? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1984 Topps Darryl Strawberry, 1986 Leaf Tom Seaver and a 1990 Leaf John Smoltz card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (If Joey Votto wins his second National League MVP Award this year, he’ll become the first Canadian to win a major league MVP Award twice. Two other Canadians have won a major league MVP Award. Can you name them?) was Larry Walker (1997 NL MVP) and Justin Morneau (2006 AL MVP).