My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· As anticipated Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker was not elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame when the voting results were announced on Wednesday. The Canadian slugger’s name was checked on 34.1 per cent of writers’ ballots, which represented a 12.2 per cent increase from the 21.9 per cent support he received last year. This is progress, but it’s still a long way from the 75 per cent required for induction. With his eighth year on the ballot now complete, Walker has two more years of eligibility. The seven-time Gold Glove Award winner told Mitch Melnick of TSN 690 Montreal on Friday that he was pleased with the rise in support, but he also finds it frustrating that he’s being penalized for playing 30 per cent of his games at the hitter friendly Coors Field. “No needles in my ass. I played the game clean,” Walker said in the interview. “It’s almost like Coors Field is my PED.” You can listen to entire interview here.
· In case you missed it, four ex-players – Chipper Jones, Vladimir Guerrero, Jim Thome and Trevor Hoffman – did receive enough votes to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. After some speculation that he would go in as a Montreal Expo, Guerrero (with input from the Hall) opted, instead, to be the first player to be pictured in an Angels cap on their plaque. This didn’t sit well with some of his Canadian fans, but it’s an understandable decision. In six seasons with the Angels, Guerrero was a four-time all-star, four-time Silver Slugger Award winner, won an American League MVP Award (2004) and made five trips to the postseason. If you evaluate his career objectively, it’s hard to argue with his cap choice, plus (as you can see in the photo below) he’s pictured as an Expo on his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame plaque.
· Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was known as a tough park to hit in, but apparently it wasn’t for 2018 Hall of Famer Chipper Jones, who garnered the most support in the Cooperstown voting (97.2 per cent). In 70 games at the Big O, his slash line was .341/.448/.549. He also hit eight home runs there.
· New Hall of Famer Jim Thome’s 612th and final major league home run was belted off of Toronto Blue Jays reliever Carlos Villanueva on September 26, 2012 at Camden Yards in Baltimore. And yes, (I had to look it up to confirm it) Thome once played for the Orioles. For the record, the left-handed hitting slugger socked 23 home runs off Blue Jays’ pitching, including nine at Rogers Centre. He also clubbed two homers at Olympic Stadium.
· Nine of 2018 Cooperstowner Trevor Hoffman’s 601 big league saves were recorded against the Expos at Olympic Stadium. It’s also interesting to note that three Canadians served as catchers for him during his major league career: George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont., 22 games), Luke Carlin (Aylmer, Que., 10 games) and Pete LaForest (Hull, Que., 2 games).
· And while we’re talking about Hall of Famers, mark this Thursday, February 1 on your calendar. On that date, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame will unveil its 2018 induction class.
· Fun Joey Votto Fact of the Week: According to a tweet from baseball writer Christopher Kamka on Wednesday, Votto’s .428 career on-base percentage is the second highest of any living major leaguer, next to Barry Bonds (.444). Votto ranks ahead of Frank Thomas (.419), Edgar Martinez (.418) and Wade Boggs (.415), who round out the top five.
· Happy 86th Birthday to 2008 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Gladwyn Scott! The Hamiota, Man., native has dedicated more than 60 years to baseball as a player, coach, builder and volunteer. Though he didn’t play organized baseball until he was 16, Scott eventually pitched on his hometown squad with his brother Glennis. His father, Jim, was the team’s catcher. At age 20, he began coaching and has since served in numerous administrative capacities, including managing three Hamiota teams to provincial championships. He was also a coach on Canada’s first national team, the country’s 1967 Pan Am Games entry. From 1983 to 1987, Scott was president of the Manitoba Baseball Association and a vice-president with Baseball Canada from 1986 to 1989. He also scouted part-time for the Blue Jays from 1987 to 1993 and for the Atlanta Braves from 1994 to 2001. For his contributions to baseball in his province, Scott has been inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame.
· Former Vancouver Mounties manager Rocky Bridges died three years ago today. I think the baseball card above befits the personality of Bridges, who’s often recalled as one of baseball’s most colorful and quotable characters. Prior to managing, he batted .247 in 919 games in parts of 11 major league seasons with eight different teams between 1951 and 1961. But it’s safe to say that he was better known for his quips than his hits. He used to joke about the fact that he played for eight different teams during his 11-year career. His four-season stay with the Cincinnati Reds was his longest. “It’s a good thing I stayed in Cincinnati for four years,” he once quipped. “It took me that long to learn how to spell it.” Another time Bridges was coaxed into going to a fancy restaurant and the waiter suggested he try the snails, “No thanks,” he responded. “I prefer fast food.”
· This week’s trivia question: I mentioned earlier that Trevor Hoffman had recorded nine saves against the Expos at Olympic Stadium. Who was the first Canadian pitcher to record a save for the Expos? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1982 Topps and 1983 O-Pee-Chee Nolan Ryan cards.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (One Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee played both professional hockey and baseball. Can you name him? was Kirk McCaskill (Kapuskasing, Ont.).