My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Friday would’ve been New York Yankees legend Mickey Mantle’s 86th Birthday. In 1951, Mantle’s rookie season, the 19-year-old outfielder was slumping badly when the Yankees demoted him to the triple-A Kansas City Blues in mid-July. The Blues were managed by Huntsville, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer George Selkirk who worked with Mantle and helped the young slugger regain his confidence. Mantle batted .361 with 11 home runs and 50 RBI in 40 games with the Blues. He returned to the Yankees in late August and batted .289 and slugged four home runs in September to help the Bombers secure the American League pennant. The above photo of Selkirk and Mantle with the Blues was posted on Twitter by an account called Tom’s Old Days on May 24.
· Speaking of Selkirk, I learned this week that the former Yankees right fielder is credited with being the first to suggest that a warning track be incorporated into major league fields. According to Doug Feldman, in his book, September Streak: The 1935 Chicago Cubs Chase the Pennant, on Canada Day in 1935, Selkirk, sick of crashing into the right field wall at Yankee Stadium, told reporters that major league fields should add “a six-foot wide cinder warning track” before the outfield wall. Major League Baseball was slow to warm to the concept, but 14 years later, in a meeting in July 1949, the owners agreed to add warning tracks to their fields.
· I also learned this week that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and longtime St. Thomas, Ont., resident Bob Emslie was the first umpire to wear shin pads in a major league game. I stumbled upon this piece of information while reading The SABR Book of Umpires and Umpiring. An article in this book by Bob Webster called “The Evolution of Umpires’ Equipment and Uniforms” includes the following sentence: “The earliest reported use of shin guards by an umpire were by Bob Emslie in 1900 when he showed up wearing cricket pads.”
· As reported here in September, Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp was named Pacific Coast League Manager of the Year for leading the triple-A Memphis Redbirds to a franchise record in wins this season. He’s likely to land some interviews for big league posts this off-season. Clapp has generously donated a jersey, batting helmet, cleats, stopwatch and a signed ball (pictured above) from this season to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont.
· Given his strong late-season performance with the Seattle Mariners, North Battleford, Sask., native Andrew Albers should receive strong consideration for a big league contract this off-season. In nine games (including six starts) with the M’s, he went 5-1 with a 3.51 ERA and fanned 37 batters in 41 innings. The 32-year-old Albers recently spoke with his hometown publication, Battlefords Now. “I feel like I put myself in a good situation with the season that I had,” he said. “I should be able to at least find a job somewhere next year, whether it’s in the minors or hopefully a big league invite of some sort. We’ll see what happens.”
· Thirty-one years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expo Gary Carter belted two home runs and drove in three for the New York Mets to lead the club to a 6-2 win over the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the 1986 World Series. The Mets’ win knotted the series at two games apiece.
· Thanks to historian Stephen Harding for sharing this Toronto Star article on Monday that reports that a 1992 World Series ring that had been stolen from a Blue Jays executive’s home 23 years ago has been recovered. The ring was recouped when someone attempted to sell it online. The executive didn’t want their name disclosed. The article also indicates that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Paul Beeston’s 1993 World Series ring, which was stolen from his home in 1995, is still missing.
· Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Shury who passed away on this date nine years ago at the age of 78. Though diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair for the last 40 years of his life, the Saskatchewan native was a passionate and respected voice for Canadian baseball, leaving an indelible stamp on the sport at the local, provincial and national levels. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in law in 1954, Shury helped develop the Saskatchewan Baseball Association the following year and was tabbed as the organization’s president in 1956. He also maintained a successful law practice, while doubling as the secretary of the Canadian Federation of Amateur Baseball, helping to organize our country’s first national senior team. Around the same time, Shury was also the driving force behind a successful campaign to secure government funding for Canadian baseball, which was critical in establishing Baseball Canada. For his efforts, he was named the first life member of Baseball Canada in 1972. Shury was also the founder of the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame which his wife, Jane, heads today.
· 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. Aside from the aforementioned Bob Emslie, who is the only other Canadian major league umpire that has been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1976 Topps Jim Palmer card and a 1984 Topps Paul Molitor card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi is Canadian. Who is the only other Canadian general manager to lead a National League team to a postseason berth?) was Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.) who was the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers teams that advanced to the post-season in 2008 and 2011.