My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· A big thank you to Andrew and Elena North for the time and effort they put into organizing the second annual Canadian Baseball History Symposium in St. Marys, Ont., this weekend. Yesterday was chock full of fascinating presentations about everything from Canadian baseball during the Great War to the Chatham Coloured All-Stars to the first Canadian to play in the major leagues (Bob Addy). David Matchett also led a lively discussion about how we should define a Canadian for the purposes of baseball research (e.g. Should we count a player like Mark Teahen, who was born in California but maintains a Canadian citizenship, as Canadian?). A definitive consensus wasn’t reached, but it’s a topic that might be revisited at next year’s conference.
· A nice touch by Andrew and Elena and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame director of operations Scott Crawford to include a tribute to 2017 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Roy Halladay at the event (See photo above). In what Andrew deemed a silent tribute to the former Toronto Blue Jays ace, Halladay’s 2003 All-Star Game jersey, hat and spikes and a signed photo sat on a lone table in the front corner of the room. It was almost exactly five months ago that Halladay was in St. Marys giving his induction speech.
· Because I eat, drink and sleep Canadian baseball history, sometimes I think that I must know everything about the topic, but this Symposium continues to prove me wrong. Michael Murray stumped me on a few questions in his baseball quiz, which has become a fun, interactive staple of the event. One of the Canadian players that I learned about thanks to Murray’s quiz was Montreal native Paul Calvert. He was a right-handed pitcher with the Washington Senators that led the American League with 17 losses in 1949.
· I also learned from David Matchett’s “What is a Canadian?” presentation that Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher’s parents were French Canadian and Durocher spoke French as a child.
· Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto fell two points short of being the 2017 National League MVP. I’m not one for voter outrage, but there were two baseball writers who ranked Votto, who led the National League in on-base percentage, OPS, walks and was a Gold Glove finalist, fifth on their ballots. These writers voted for Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado ahead of Votto. If either of these writers had bumped Votto up to third on the ballots, the Canadian slugger would’ve tied with Stanton, who took home the honour. The two-point margin was the third closest in National League MVP balloting history. There was a tie in 1979 between Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez and Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Willie Stargell, and in 1944, Cards shortstop Marty Marion edged Cubs outfielder Bill Nicholson by one point.
· Speaking of National League MVPs, I discovered this interesting old tweet (September 9, 2016) about Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker, who won the MVP Award in 1997, and former Montreal Expos great Vladimir Guerrero from Zachary Abate (@zabate): “Only 2 players in MLB history w/ 350+ HR, 150+ SB, & career .310+ BA — Larry Walker and Vladimir Guerrero.”
· And if that’s not enough to wow you, there’s this March 1, 2014 tweet from Ryan Spaeder (@theAceofSpaeder): “Vlad Guerrero (2002), Larry Walker (1997), & Willie Mays (1957) are the only players ever with a .333+ AVG, 33+ HR, & 33+ SB in a season.”
· Happy 31st Birthday to Victoria, B.C., native Michael Saunders. The left-handed hitting outfielder enjoyed his finest season with the Blue Jays in 2016 when he belted 24 home runs and played in the All-Star Game. In all, in parts of nine major league seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, Saunders owns a .232 batting average with 81 career home runs. He is currently a free agent.
· One of the most remarkable stats I’ve read about Halladay over the past couple of weeks came once again from Spaeder (@TheAceofSpaeder) on Twitter: “Roy Halladay had four seasons with at least 200 strikeouts and 35 or fewer walks. No other pitcher in baseball history has more than two.”
· Former Blue Jays shortstop Chris Woodward was interviewed for the New York Yankees manager’s job on Saturday. According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, the ex-Jay is the fifth candidate to be interviewed. The affable California native played the first six years of his major league career with the Blue Jays from 1999 to 2004 and returned to the Blue Jays for his final 11 big league games in 2011. The ex-Jay just completed his second season as third base and infield coach with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Prior to his stint with the Dodgers, he had worked as an infield coach with the Mariners for three years. Woodward also served as manager of the New Zealand World Baseball Classic qualifier team in February 2016. Canadian Rob Thomson (Corunna, Ont.), former Montreal Expo Hensley Meulens and current Blue Jays player development advisor Eric Wedge are reportedly among the candidates Woodward is competing against for the job.
· This week’s trivia question: Outside of Votto and Walker, there are two other Canadians to finish in the top 10 in National League MVP voting in a season. Who are they? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 O-Pee-Chee Lou Brock card, a 1985 O-Pee-Chee Rod Carew card and a 1985 Leaf Steve Carlton card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Marcus Stroman was named a Gold Glove Award winner on Tuesday. Who is the only other Blue Jays pitcher to win an American League Gold Glove Award? ) was R.A. Dickey in 2013.