My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· For the first time, I’m starting to feel like there is hope that Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker will one day be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Ryan Thibodaux’s Hall of Fame tracker indicates that the Canadian slugger has gained 18 votes from last year from returning BBWAA voters out of the 101 public ballots. This is the most votes gained by any candidate. With that said, Walker has only been named on 40.6 per cent of the ballots, which is a far cry from the 75 per cent required for election. This is Walker’s eighth year on the ballot and he has two more years of eligibility, but it finally feels like he has some momentum in the voting.
· Please send your thoughts and prayers to Toronto Blue Jays legend and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tony Fernandez who announced on Twitter on Thursday that he has been hospitalized and is fighting polycystic kidney disease. I did some reading about the disease and the good news is that although there is no cure, there are treatments that can help it. You can read more about polycystic kidney disease here.
· Ladner, B.C, native James Paxton told Alexa Datt in an interview for MLB 12:25 Live on December 8 that if the Seattle Mariners win the World Series in 2018 that he will shave a red maple leaf into his hair. The Canadian lefty heads into the coming season as the co-ace of M’s staff (alongside Felix Hernandez), following a season in which he posted a 12-5 record and a 2.98 ERA while striking out 156 batters in 136 innings in 24 starts.
· I enjoy listening to extended interviews with Chatham, Ont., native and Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins because I always learn something new about him. Earlier this week, Jenkins spoke with Jon Zaghloul of SportsTalkChicago.com. During their conversation, Jenkins, who tossed 267 complete games in the majors, shared that he only missed three starts during his big league career – one for his mother’s funeral, another when he got hit with a line drive up the middle and another after he bruised his knee sliding into home plate. You can watch the full interview here.
· It was 27 years ago today that the Montreal Expos dealt Tim Raines to the Chicago White Sox for outfielder Ivan Calderon and reliever Barry Jones. Calderon would suit up for two seasons with the Expos and was an all-star for the club in 1991 when he batted .300 with 19 home runs. Jones, meanwhile, appeared in a National League-leading 77 contests for the Expos in 1991 and recorded a 3.35 ERA with 13 saves, before he was swapped to the Philadelphia Phillies for Darrin Fletcher after the season. Raines proceeded to bat .283 and post a .375 on-base percentage and steal 143 bases in five seasons with the White Sox.
· Two years after they dealt Raines, the Expos shipped fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Wallach to the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Tim Barker. Wallach, who played more games with the Expos than any other player, would suit up for parts of four seasons with the Dodgers. His strongest campaign with the Dodgers was in 1994 when he socked 23 home runs and had a .502 slugging percentage. Barker split the 1993 campaign between Expos’ double-A and triple-A affiliates, but he would never play a big league game with the club.
· Please take a moment to remember 1988 Jack Graney Award winner and legendary sports writer Milt Dunnell who would’ve turned 112 today. Born in St. Marys, Ont., home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, the highly respected scribe was best known for his work for the Toronto Star from 1949 to 1994. He also wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1988. He was the second winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Jack Graney Award, which is presented annually to a member of the media who has made significant contributions to baseball in Canada through their life’s work. He passed away in 2008 when he was 102 years young.
· The Joey Votto stat of the week comes from longtime baseball writer Jayson Stark:
Players who have averaged 20+ HR & 100+ BB over the last 5 seasons:
End of list
(Mike Trout averaged 99 BB, for those about to look that up)
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 19, 2017
· I was excited to receive London, Ont., native Brian “Chip” Martin’s new book, The Detroit Wolverines: The Rise and Wreck of a National League Champion, 1881-88, in the mail this week. The is the full story of the Wolverines, who were the predecessors to the Detroit Tigers. Martin is a superb storyteller and researcher, so I’m sure this book will be excellent. This is the author’s fourth baseball book with McFarland. You can purchase the book here.
· Great “Cooperstowners in Canada” photo of the week. This is a photo of Rickey Henderson at the 1982 All-Star Game at Olympic Stadium in Montreal courtesy of the Twitter account Phantom Dreamer (@ChrisRichardsPD).
— Phantom Dreamer (@ChrisRichardsPD) December 22, 2017
· This week’s trivia question: I mentioned earlier that Fergie Jenkins pitched 267 complete games during his major league career. Not surprisingly, that’s by far the most by a Canadian pitcher. What Canadian pitcher has tossed the second-most major league complete games? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1972 O-Pee-Chee National League Pitching Leaders card (with Jenkins, Steve Carlton, Tom Seaver), a 1981 Topps Andre Dawson card and a 1986 Donruss Joe Carter card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (With Jack Morris being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee on Sunday, there are now seven players who suited up for at least one game with the Blue Jays that have (or will have) a plaque in Cooperstown. Can you name four of them (other than Morris)?) was any four of Phil Niekro, Dave Winfield, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Roberto Alomar or Frank Thomas.