My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· It was 27 years ago yesterday that Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins became the first – and still only – Canadian player inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. You can watch his induction speech here:
· One player making a strong case to join Jenkins with a plaque in Cooperstown is Etobicoke, Ont., native Joey Votto. With his home run in the 10th inning of the All-Star Game on Tuesday, he became the first Canuck to homer in the Midsummer Classic. Surprisingly, despite this being Votto’s sixth All-Star appearance, the home run was his first hit. Canadian Baseball Network contributor Neil Munro did extensive research to compile a list of the all-time Canadian All-Star Game leaders in several batting and pitching categories. You can view his work here.
· Votto also dropped a pop fly in foul territory off the bat of Seattle Mariners’ shortstop Jean Segura in the top of the eighth inning of the All-Star Game before he clubbed his home run. This inspired baseball historian and author Len Corben to do some research to see how many players have hit a home run and committed an error in the same All-Star Game. It turns out that Votto is the eighth player to do this. The other seven are Ted Williams (1941), Eddie Mathews (1959), Frank Robinson (1959), Frank Howard (1969), Mike Schmidt (1981), Terry Steinbach (1988) and Ken Caminiti (1996). Corben, in his excellent work, also notes that five of these players – including Votto – made their error first and then homered later.
· And if you’re looking for more evidence that Votto is worthy of National Baseball Hall of Fame of consideration, check out these remarkable stats recently shared on Twitter. It turns out that Votto has only popped out seven times since 2010 and he has never popped up to the catcher, pitcher or first baseman.
· What Toronto Blue Jays player has been selected to the most all-star games? The answer is not Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay or Jose Bautista, but Dave Stieb. Stieb, who was selected to seven Midsummer Classics, turns 61 today. An All-American outfielder when the Blue Jays selected him in the 1978 amateur draft, Stieb rocketed through the club’s system after he decided to focus solely on pitching. After winning 17 games and setting club records by tossing 288 1/3 innings, 19 complete games and five shutouts, Stieb was named The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year in 1982. The intense righty topped the American League in innings (267) again in 1984, en route to a 16-8 season. Embracing his role as ace on the Jays’ first division-winning squad in 1985, Stieb topped the American League with 2.48 ERA and started three games in the American League Championship Series. He would follow that up with three more seasons of 15 or more wins. After several near misses, Stieb tossed the only no-hitter in Blue Jays history on September 2, 1990. Stieb is also the Jays’ all-time leader in numerous pitching categories, including wins (175), innings pitched (2,873), strikeouts (1,658), complete games (103) and shutouts (30). For his efforts, he was named the Blue Jays Pitcher of the Year five times and is one of two pitchers on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence. He was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
· Today would also be the 138th birthday of London, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Gibson. Gibson was a standout catcher on his hometown London squad in the 1901 Canadian League, before he inked a deal with the Eastern League’s Montreal Royals in 1904. In the middle of the 1905 campaign, the Pittsburgh Pirates purchased the rights to Gibson from the Royals. The rifle-armed catcher would play 12 seasons in Steel Town and evolve into one of baseball’s most reliable defensive backstops. In 1909, he caught 133 consecutive games (then a major league record) and topped National League receivers in fielding percentage and putouts. Gibson also limited Ty Cobb to two stolen bases in his team’s World Series upset of the Detroit Tigers that season. In 1914, Gibson hit a career-high .285 for the Pirates. He would play two more seasons in Pittsburgh before being claimed on waivers by the New York Giants in 1916. In all, the gritty Canadian catcher played 1,213 games in parts of 14 major league seasons. After retiring as a player, he managed the Pirates from 1920 to mid-1922 and again from 1932 to 1934. In between, he served as the dugout boss for the Chicago Cubs in 1925. Gibson remains the last Canadian to be a full-time big league manager.
· And speaking of birthdays, former Toronto Blue Jays DH Cliff Johnson and ex-Blue Jays infielder and manager Tim Johnson turn 71 and 69 respectively today. This got me wondering how many players with the last name Johnson have played with the Blue Jays over the years. The answer is 10. The other Johnsons that have suited up for the Blue Jays are Dan, Dane, Jerry, Josh, Kelly, Reed and Tony. The only Johnson I have no memory of is Tony. Apparently, after playing two games for the Montreal Expos in 1981, he batted .235 with three home runs in 70 games as an outfielder/DH with the Blue Jays in 1982. Those were his last games in the big leagues.
· Thanks to former London Majors all-star and all-around baseball expert Dan Mendham for sharing this photo (above) of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Marchildon that was posted on Twitter by Old-Time Photos. I’ve read and written a lot about Marchildon, a Penetanguishene, Ont., native who was not only an ace pitcher for the Philadelphia A’s in the 1940s, but a Canadian war hero, over the years, but I’ve never seen this photo.
· This week’s trivia question: Like Stieb, there are two Montreal Expos players that were selected to seven All-Star Games each (while with the Expos). Who are they? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1989 Upper Deck Craig Biggio, 1991 Topps Chipper Jones rookie, a 1992 Upper Deck Jim Thome card and a 1993 Flair Wave of the Future Trevor Hoffman card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (This Canadian made his All-Star game debut starting in an American League outfield with Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams. Who am I talking about?) was Jeff Heath (Fort William, Ont.).