My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Congratulations to Montreal Expos superstar Pedro Martinez, long-time standout Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Lloyd Moseby and Canada’s premier baseball historian Bill Humber who will be inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on June 16 in St. Marys, Ont. The Canadian ball hall unveiled its new class on Thursday. During the conference call with the inductees, I asked Martinez if he felt his former Expos teammate Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) was worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. “Larry Walker definitely is a Hall of Famer in my eyes, in my heart,” said Martinez. “Larry Walker was a special player that could do it all. Talk about having an instinct for the game. Larry Walker was that player. And a lot of fun . . . I would love to be with him again.”
· And if the interactions between Martinez and Moseby on the conference call are any indication, it should be a lot of fun in St. Marys in June. At one point in the call, Martinez was discussing how happy Dominican people are when Moseby injected and said, “What about George Bell?” To which Martinez, without missing a beat, responded. “OK. There’s always a couple of grumpy ones.”
· Canada’s foremost baseball historian, Bill Humber, will also be inducted into the Canadian ball hall in June and a strong argument could be made that without his tireless and trailblazing research efforts, there wouldn’t be a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I wrote an article about him for the Canadian Baseball Network website. You can read it here.
· Speaking of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, it was seven years ago today that Vladimir Guerrero (2017 CBHFM inductee) signed a one-year contract with the Baltimore Orioles. Yes, Guerrero, like fellow 2018 Cooperstowner Jim Thome, played his final major league games with the Orioles. In 145 games with the O’s in 2011, Guerrero batted .290 with 13 home runs. Thome would suit up for his final 28 big league contests with the O’s the following year.
· It was 20 years ago today that the Toronto Blue Jays signed slugger Jose Canseco to a one-year, $3-million contract. Canseco proceeded to sock a career-high 46 home runs with the Blue Jays in 1998. In his excellent 2009 biography of Roger Clemens, The Rocket That Fell to Earth, author Jeff Pearlman reveals that Canseco was signed largely at the request of Clemens. The two had become fast friends when they played together in Boston in 1995 and 1996.
· George Farelli of the Canadian Baseball Network reports that Surrey, B.C., native Adam Loewen has signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. The 6-foot-6 lefty went 6-1 with a 3.81 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 52 innings between double-A and triple-A in the Rangers organization last season. He last pitched in the big leagues in 2016 when he made eight appearances for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 2002 first-rounder, who will turn 34 in April, had previous pitching stints with the Baltimore Orioles (2006 to 2008) and Philadelphia Phillies (2015) and played for the Blue Jays as an outfielder in 2011.
· Long before Chatham, Ont., natives Fergie Jenkins, Bill Atkinson and Doug Melvin were making names for themselves in the big leagues, Doc Miller was putting the small Southwestern Ontario city on the map as one of baseball’s top batsmen. Today would be Miller’s 135th birthday. In 1909, Miller hit a combined .359 in 147 games with the Western League’s Pueblo Indians and the Pacific Coast League’s San Francisco Seals, earning him his first big league opportunity with the Chicago Cubs the following year. However, after just one game with the Cubs, the Canuck outfielder was dealt to the Boston Doves, where he would hit .286 and knock in 55 runs. His breakout year came the following season, when he recorded a league-best 192 hits and hit .333, falling one point shy of the batting crown captured by Honus Wagner. During the 1912 season, Miller was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies, where he batted .288 in 67 games and.345 in 69 contests the ensuing campaign. In 1913, he also set a major league record with 21 pinch-hits that stood for 19 years. His final year in the big leagues was with the Cincinnati Reds in 1914. Miller’s .295 career major league batting average ranks him fourth all-time among Canadians. Miller later attended the University of Toronto and became a physician following his playing career.
· Please take a moment to remember former Montreal Expos left-hander Woodie Fryman who passed away seven years ago today at the age of 70. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Inducted into the Expos Hall of Fame in 1995, the Kentucky native enjoyed two stints with the Expos (1975-76, 1978 to 1983) and was the Expos Player of the Year as a starting pitcher in 1976. When he was brought back to the club in 1978, he returned to the rotation, but was then used exclusively as a reliever in his final five seasons. In three of those campaigns, his ERA was 2.79 or lower. In total, he pitched in 18 big league seasons and won 141 games.
· And it looks likely that the last Montreal Expo will play on. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com reported on Saturday that the Texas Rangers are in talks with right-hander Bartolo Colon on a minor league contract. Set to turn 45 in May, Colon, who went 10-4 with a 3.31 ERA in 17 starts for the Expos in 2002, split 2017 between the Atlanta Braves and the Minnesota Twins and posted a combined 6.48 ERA in 143 innings. The 5-foot-11, 285-pound right-hander has 240 major league wins in 20 seasons.
· This week’s trivia question: Earlier I noted that it’s easy to forget that Vladimir Guerrero and Jim Thome played their final major league games with the Baltimore Orioles. Few associate these two Hall of Famers with the Orioles. There is one Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer who also finished his big league career with the O’s that most would not associate with them. Can you name him? (Hint: He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame within the last 10 years). 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, a 1982 O-Pee-Chee Dale Murphy card, a 1984 Topps All-Star Jim Rice card and a 1989 Upper Deck Ryne Sandberg card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Canadian pitcher to record a save for the Expos?) was Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.).