My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· I have to think that Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton will be named to his first All-Star team when the American League roster is unveiled on Sunday (UPDATE: He was not named to the roster). The Canadian lefty boasts an 8-3 record and a 3.49 ERA and has struck out 154 batters in 118 2/3 innings in 19 starts this season for the Seattle Mariners. Thank you to Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Neil Munro of the Canadian Baseball Network for sharing that with his 11-strikeout performance on Canada Day, Paxton has now fanned at least 10 batters in seven games this season. This ties him with Navan, Ont., native Erik Bedard and Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins for the second-most 10 strikeout games in a season by a Canadian. Chatham, Ont., native Jenkins holds the record with nine 10-strikeout games in 1970. With a little less than half the season remaining Paxton is on pace to break this record. Crawford also points out that Paxton is a good bet to break Bedard’s record for most strikeouts (221 in 2007) by a Canadian left-hander in a major league season.
· In case you missed it, Burnaby, B.C., native Jim Adduci was called up by the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The left-handed hitting first baseman/outfielder is 3-for-12 (.250 batting average) with two runs and an RBI since his call-up. Adduci was batting .309 with seven home runs in 70 minor league games for the triple-A Toledo Mud Hens and had been named to the International League All-Star team. The 33-year-old veteran enjoyed three separate major league stints with the Tigers in 2017 and went 20-for-83 (.241 batting average) and finished with a .323 on-base percentage (OBP). The 6-foot-2 Canadian previously played parts of two seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and 2014. Selected by the Florida Marlins in the 42nd round of the 2003 MLB Draft, he has now played parts of 15 professional seasons and has also had stints in the Marlins and Cubs organizations.
· It was 46 years ago today that Toronto native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee John Hiller returned to the mound for the Detroit Tigers nearly 18 months after suffering a massive heart attack at his home on January 11, 1971. In his return, he permitted two runs in three innings in relief in the Tigers’ 5-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park. Hiller, who was told he’d never pitch professionally again after the heart attack, proceeded to post a 2.03 ERA in 24 appearances with the Tigers that season. And any lingering questions about his stamina were laid to rest in 1973 when he toed the rubber in 65 games, notched 10 wins, posted a miniscule 1.44 ERA and recorded 38 saves (a major league record at the time) and was named American League Fireman of the Year. A member of the All-Time Detroit Tigers’ All-Star Team, Hiller would pitch for 15 major league seasons, registering 87 victories, 125 saves and a career ERA of 2.83.
· Happy 62nd Birthday to Melville, Sask., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Terry Puhl. The Houston Astros offered Puhl a contract after he led his hometown midget squad to a Canadian championship in 1973. Just five days after his 21st birthday, the wide-eyed Saskatchewan native would start his first big league game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. So nervous he was shaking, Puhl overcame his jitters to record his first hit and score the game-winning run. He went on to hit .301 in 60 games that season and win himself a starting role in 1978. His steady offensive and defensive efforts earned him All-Star honours in 1978, when he hit .289 and stole 32 bases. He topped that the following campaign, when he recorded a career-high 172 hits and played 157 games – the entire season – in the outfield without making an error. He was just the fourth player in 124 years to suit up for at least 150 games in a season without a defensive miscue. After belting a career-high 13 homers in the regular season, Puhl was at his best in the 1980 post-season, hitting .526 in the Astros’ grueling, five-game National League Championship Series against the eventual World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. A consistent contributor for the Astros over the next decade, the sure-handed Canuck played his final season with the Kansas City Royals in 1991.
· Ten years ago today, the Chicago Cubs acquired Victoria, B.C., native Rich Harden and right-hander Chad Gaudin from the Oakland A’s for Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson and a 22-year-old catching prospect named Josh Donaldson. Though the deal may seem lopsided now, Harden was dominant for the Cubs after he joined them, going 5-1 with a 1.77 ERA and allowing just 39 hits while striking out 89 batters in 71 innings down the stretch to help lead the club to a division title. The Canuck righty racked up 171 strikeouts in 141 innings for the Cubs the following season before being sidelined by injuries. Donaldson, of course, emerged as an all-star third baseman with the A’s before being dealt to the Toronto Blue Jays on November 28, 2014 for a package that included Langley, B.C., native Brett Lawrie, Sean Nolin, Kendall Graveman and minor league shortstop Franklin Barretto.
· Thirty-one years ago today, Montreal Expos right-hander Floyd Youmans tossed a one-hitter against Nolan Ryan and the Houston Astros to propel his club to a 1-0 victory at the Astrodome. The Astros’ lone hit was an eighth-inning single by Kevin Bass. The Expos scored the game’s only run in the top of the first inning when Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Raines singled and stole second and fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tim Wallach drove him in with another single.
· This week’s trivia question: As noted earlier, John Hiller had 38 saves for the Tigers in 1973. There have been three other Canadians that have recorded 30 or more saves in a major league season. Can you name two of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a set of 24, 1985 O-Pee-Chee Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays mini-posters (They are 5” by 7” each).
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (There are four Canadians that have played for both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays. Can you name two of them?) was any two of Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.), Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.), Matt Stairs (Fredericton, N.B.) or Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.).