My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms out there! And especially to my mom, Glenyce Glew, who my dad and I have dragged to enough Toronto Blue Jays games over the years that she has become one of the team’s more spirited fans. I’m very fortunate in that not only does my mom enjoy baseball, she’s also loving, supportive, compassionate and generous. Today, I’m going on a drive with her and my dad and when 1 p.m. hits, the radio in the car will inevitably be switched to the Blue Jays game. And just as inevitably, my mom will at some point be yelling her support for the Blue Jays at the car radio.
· Ladner B.C. native James Paxton set a Canadian record when he struck out 16 Oakland A’s batters in a game on May 2. He followed that up by becoming only the second Canadian (Dick Fowler was the first with the Philadelphia A’s on September 9, 1945) to throw a no-hitter in the major leagues – and the first to do so on native soil. The only thing that could top these performances would be for him to record a perfect game in his start today. But that’s a pretty lofty standard, so we’re not banking on that. If you haven’t read Bob Elliott’s excellent article about Paxton’s no-no that includes reactions from everyone from Paxton’s father to his agent Scott Boras to his former coaches, you should. You can read it here.
· For the record, Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) tossed three one-hitters, 10 two-hitters and 20 three-hitters during his 19-year major league career from 1965 to 1983. Scott Jaysfan (@randomsjaystuff on Twitter) did some outstanding digging on Baseball Reference.com and came up with this list of the Canadians that have thrown one-hitters in the majors.
· On April 23, Alek Minassian allegedly drove a rented van at high speed down a busy Toronto street, attempting to hit pedestrians. He ended up killing 10 people and injuring 16 others. Like the rest of us, Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto, who hails from Etobicoke, Ont., was devastated when he watched reports of the incident, but he also saw footage of heroic Toronto police constable Ken Lam who, by himself, bravely apprehended the van driver. As a tribute, Votto wrote Lam’s name on his playing spikes for his game on April 26. Sportsnet hockey analyst Nick Kypreos presented those spikes to Lam on Thursday. You can click on the link in the tweet below to see the photo.
· In last week’s column, it was noted that the Toronto Blue Jays had three Canadians – Russell Martin (Montreal, Que.), John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) and Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) on their active roster. Pompey was sent back down to triple-A on Saturday. But with the struggles of their starting rotation, the Blue Jays may soon recall another Canuck. Right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) became the first pitcher in double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats history to begin a season 6-0 with his win on Friday. The 25-year-old right-hander owns a 2.23 ERA and has struck out 39 in 40-1/3 innings this season. Selected in the 10th round of the 2014 MLB draft, Romano is in his fifth season in the Blue Jays’ organization. He spent much of spring training in the club’s big league camp.
· Today would be the 135th birthday of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Jimmy Archer. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Archer moved with his family to Montreal as a baby and relocated to Toronto when he was three. At age 20, the young catcher made his professional baseball debut in Fargo, N.D. The following year in Boone, Iowa, he hit .299, convincing the Pittsburgh Pirates to purchase his contract and insert him in their lineup that September. Serving primarily as a backup catcher, Archer’s next big league assignment was with the Detroit Tigers in 1907. After participating in just 18 games in the regular season, the rifle-armed Canadian was summoned to thwart the Cubs’ running attack in Game 5 of the World Series. Archer did throw out speedy Cubs outfielder Jimmy Slagle, but the Cubs still won the game and later the series. Impressed by Archer, the Cubs brass offered him a contract prior to the 1909 campaign. Archer accepted the deal and served as the Cubs’ regular catcher for eight seasons. His best offensive season was in 1912, when he hit .283 with 58 RBI. But Archer was best known for his potent arm and is often acknowledged as the first catcher to throw out a runner from the squat position. His catching contemporary, Chief Meyers, once said, “The best throwing catcher of them all was Jimmy Archer. He didn’t have an arm. He had a rifle and perfect accuracy.”
· On Tuesday, Edmonton, Alta., native Rob Zastryzny was called up by the Chicago Cubs and tossed two scoreless innings in relief against the Miami Marlins. With that, he became the ninth Canadian to appear in a major league game this season. Unfortunately, he was sent back down to triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, where he boasts a 2-0 record with a 2.35 ERA in eight relief appearances this season. In 2017, the Canuck left-hander was hit hard after being recalled by the Cubs in early September, permitting 12 earned runs in 13 innings. He has now pitched in parts of three big league seasons with the Cubs and has posted a 4.06 ERA in 13 appearances.
· This week’s trivia question. Who is the last Canadian pitcher to start a regular season game for the Toronto Blue Jays? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Nolan Ryan card, a 1985 Donruss Leaf Tom Seaver card, a 1990 Leaf Ryne Sandberg card and a 1990 Leaf John Smoltz card.
The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the only major league player to record their 3,000th hit in a Canadian stadium?) was Tony Gwynn at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on August 6, 1999.