My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Thank you to Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for sharing with me that former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and Vancouver native Scott Richmond topped the Italian Baseball League in ERA (1.81), strikeouts (109) and innings pitched (89 1/3) this season. This was the first year that the 39-year-old right-hander pitched in Italy. Richmond had toed the rubber in the Chinese Professional Baseball League in the previous two campaigns. Earlier in his career, he pitched for parts of four seasons (2008-09, 2011-12) for the Blue Jays. He was also a member of the Canadian national teams that won gold at the Pan Am Games in 2011 and 2015.
· Given that he was not called up by the Blue Jays in September, Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) may have played his last game for the club. The 25-year-old outfielder endured another injury plagued season in 2018 that also included a short suspension in triple-A. But when healthy, the Canadian speedster was productive. In 52 combined minor league contests between class-A Advanced Dunedin and triple-A, he posted a .352 on-base percentage (OBP) and stole 11 bases. He also had 10 at bats in five games for the Blue Jays. Unfortunately, he is now well down on the Blue Jays’ depth chart of young outfielders/outfield prospects behind Teoscar Hernandez, Randal Grichuk, Billy McKinney, Jonathan Davis, Dwight Smith Jr. and Anthony Alford. Unless he is traded, Pompey will head into spring training next year out of minor league options. In other words, he will have to make the big club or the Blue Jays will have to run him through waivers to re-assign him to the minors.
· Congratulations to Cambridge, Ont., native Scott Thorman who managed the Kansas City Royals’ class-A Lexington Legends to a South Atlantic League championship. His team secured the title with a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies’ class-A Lakewood Blue Claws at First Energy Park in Lakewood on Friday. This was Thorman’s fourth season as a manager in the Royals’ system and second in Lexington. The 36-year-old Canadian, who played parts of two major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves in 2006 and 2007, previously managed the Burlington Royals of the Short-Season Rookie-ball Appalachian League.
· Happy 59th Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines! The fleet-footed outfielder celebrated his 37th birthday in style in 1996 when he clubbed two, three-run home runs for the New York Yankees to lead his club to a 10-0 win over the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. The home run Raines belted in the fifth inning in that contest off Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) travelled an estimated 457 feet to centre field. It was the longest home run hit by a Yankee that season.
· Another Canadian who enjoyed an outstanding season in the international ranks was London, Ont., native Jamie Romak. In 118 games with the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization, the 6-foot-3 slugger set career-highs with 38 home runs and a .315 batting average. This was his second season in Korea, the Canadian slugger had 31 homers in 102 contests for the same club in 2017. Prior to starring in Korea, Romak spent parts of 13 seasons in the affiliated minor league ranks in the Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks organizations. He had major league stints with the Dodgers in 2014 and the D-Backs in 2015.
· Please take a moment to remember 2011 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame Jack Graney Award winner and author of Shoeless Joe (which the movie Field of Dreams is based on) W.P. Kinsella who passed away two years ago today. The Edmonton, Alta., native was a highly acclaimed author who was known for his baseball-themed novels. A new biography about Kinsella by William Steele called “Going the Distance: The Life and Works of W.P. Kinsella” has just been released. I’ve just started to read it.
· You’re a hardcore Blue Jays fan if you can remember Bud Black’s three appearances with the club in September 1990. It was 28 years ago today that the Blue Jays acquired Black from the Cleveland Indians for pitching prospects Mauro Gozzo, Steve Cummings and Alex Sanchez. In his three games (including two starts) with the Blue Jays, Black posted a 2-1 record with 4.02 ERA. It’s also interesting to note that Black has Canadian roots. His father was an excellent hockey player born in the Edmonton area, while his mother is from Melville, Sask., the same town that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Terry Puhl was born in.
· A hat tip to Jayson Stark for this piece of trivia that he shared on Twitter on Tuesday: With Jose Bautista’s home run for the Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday, the ex-Blue Jays slugger became the first player to club home runs for three different teams in the same division in the same season. Earlier in the season, Bautista homered for the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets in the National League East division.
· 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: When Bud Black joined the Blue Jays in September 1990, he became the sixth left-hander to start a game for the Blue Jays that season. Name three of the other southpaws to start a game for the Blue Jays in 1990. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Montreal Expos team set.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (What pitcher appeared in the most games for the Montreal Expos?) was Tim Burke who made 425 appearances for the Expos between 1985 and 1991.