My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· I would like to extend my deepest condolences to Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) whose wife Lydia passed away unexpectedly on Monday. I’m sending good thoughts and strength to Fergie and his family at this difficult time.
· Congratulations to North Vancouver, B.C., native Rowan Wick who tossed a scoreless ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies in his major league debut with the San Diego Padres on Friday. The Padres won 7-0. He pitched a second shutout inning on Saturday in the Pads’ 4-2 loss to the Rockies. The hard-throwing right-hander is the third Canadian to make his big league debut this season, joining Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) and Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta.) who played their first major league games with the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves respectively. The 25-year-old, who was drafted in the ninth round by the Cardinals as a catcher in 2012, becomes the 10th Canuck to play in the major leagues this season.
· Congratulations to Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp for being named the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year for the second consecutive season. The long-time Canadian national team member and coach managed the St. Louis Cardinals’ triple-A Memphis Redbirds to a PCL American Southern division title this season. According to a press release sent out by the PCL, Clapp employed 61 different players this season, eight of which were on Baseball America’s list of the Cardinals’ top 10 prospects. In 2017, in his first year managing at the triple-A level, Clapp guided Memphis to a franchise-record 91 wins and led the club to a league championship. Before coaching, Clapp enjoyed an 11-year professional playing career that included four seasons playing for Memphis (1999-2002) and 23 games with the big league Cardinals in 2001. He is now in his 12th season in the professional coaching ranks. Last month, he was named manager of the Arizona Fall League’s Surprise Saguaros and will oversee a club that will consist of top prospects from the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays organizations.
· It was 28 years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Stieb pitched the first and still only no-hitter in Toronto Blue Jays history. Cleveland Indians second baseman Jerry Browne flew out to right fielder Junior Felix for the final out in the contest played at Cleveland Stadium in which Stieb walked four batters and struck out nine in a 3-0 win. The Blue Jays ace’s feat was especially rewarding when you consider that he had lost three previous no-hit bids with two outs in the ninth inning.
· Etobicoke, Ont., Joey Votto was activated by the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday after spending 13 days on the disabled list. The Canuck first baseman was shelved after being hit in the right knee by a 96-mph fastball thrown by Washington Nationals reliever Ryan Madson in the eighth inning on August 4. Votto played through discomfort in his knee until August 17 when he was placed on the disabled list. Since his return, he is 3-for-13 in three games. For the season, he’s now batting .283 with nine home runs in 121 games, but he still leads the National League in on-base percentage (.419).
· Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton also returned on Saturday to make his first start since being placed on the disabled list on August 15. He held the Oakland A’s to three runs and struck out 10 in five innings in the M’s 8-7 win. Paxton was injured just three batters into his August 14th start against the A’s when he was hit on the left forearm by a line drive off the bat of A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie. It was the 6-foot-4 lefty’s second stint on the disabled list this season. The Canuck southpaw has posted an 11-5 record with a 3.74 ERA and has struck out 186 batters in 144-1/3 innings in 25 starts this season. The M’s, who trail the A’s by four-and-a-half games for the final American League wild-card spot, desperately need Paxton in top form if they’re going to catch the A’s and secure their first playoff appearance since 2001.
· An interesting tweet from the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday stated that Paxton and Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) have a chance to be the first two Canadian pitchers to strike out 200 major league batters each in the same season. After last night’s start, Paxton has 186 strikeouts. Pivetta, meanwhile, has 168. Both, if they stay healthy, would appear to have about five starts left each. According to the Canadian Baseball Network’s Neil Munro, the closest two Canadian hurlers have come to accomplishing this was in 2008 when Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) had 187 strikeouts, while Rich Harden (Victoria. B.C.) had 181.
· Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dave Shury who would’ve turned 88 today. Though diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair for the last 40 years of his life, Shury was a passionate and respected voice for Canadian baseball, leaving an indelible stamp on the sport at the local, provincial and national levels. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in law in 1954, Shury helped develop the Saskatchewan Baseball Association the following year and was tabbed as the organization’s president in 1956. He also maintained a successful law practice, while doubling as the secretary of the Canadian Federation of Amateur Baseball, helping to organize our country’s first national senior team, one that would compete in the 1967 Pan-American Games in Winnipeg. Around the same time, Shury was also the driving force behind a successful campaign to secure government funding for Canadian baseball, which was critical in establishing Baseball Canada. For his efforts, he was named the first life member of Baseball Canada in 1972 and was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.
· If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 3rd and 4th on your calendar. Crackerjack Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and longtime SABR member Andrew North has announced that the third annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in London, Ont., on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by Andrew, with plenty of help from his wife, Elena, will include a tour of Labatt Park, the oldest continuously used baseball grounds in the world, as well as presentations about the Chatham Coloured All-Stars, the formation of the Toronto Blue Jays, Baseball in the Canadian Armed Forces during the Second World War, American Association triple-crown winner and Woodstock, Ont., native Tip O’Neill and the Montreal Royals. For more information and for a complete list of the presentations, you can click on this link. The registration fee is $70. To register, please email Andrew North at email@example.com.
· This week’s trivia question: What pitcher has the most strikeouts in a major league season by a Canadian left-hander? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1973 Topps Willie McCovey card, a 1988 Fleer Tom Glavine rookie, a 1989 Topps Randy Johnson rookie and a 1991 Knoxville Blue Jays Jeff Kent card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Jeff Reardon notched 152 saves for the Montreal Expos, which is the most by any pitcher in franchise history. What Expos reliever recorded the second-most saves in franchise history (I’m not counting the Washington Nationals years)?) was Ugueth Urbina who registered 125 saves for the Expos between 1997 and 2000.