My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories.
· Happy Thanksgiving to all my Canadian readers! I’m very thankful for your support over the years. I hope you get to relax and enjoy time with your family today.
· Windsor, Ont., native and two-time Pacific Coast League manager of the year Stubby Clapp will likely be one of the candidates the Toronto Blue Jays will interview to replace John Gibbons, according to Ken Rosenthal of MLB on Fox and The Athletic. Rosenthal also lists ex-Jay John McDonald, Sandy Alomar Jr., David Bell and Dave Valle as possible candidates. If the Blue Jays are going to speak to Clapp, they better move quickly because Roch Kubatko, of MASN Sports, also tabs Clapp as a candidate to replace Buck Showalter in Baltimore.
· Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Chatham, Ont., native Doug Melvin will be interviewed for the New York Mets’ general manager’s position to replace Sandy Alderson. The 66-year-old Canadian has been serving as a senior advisor with the Milwaukee Brewers since stepping down from his role as the club’s GM following the 2015 season. After a minor league pitching career, Melvin worked in a number of administrative roles, including scouting director with the Yankees (1985) and as assistant GM and director of player personnel from 1988 to 1993 with the Baltimore Orioles. He landed his first general manager’s job with the Texas Rangers and held that post for eight seasons (1994 to 2001). Following a short stint in minor league operations with the Boston Red Sox, Melvin was named executive vice president and general manager of the Brewers on September 26, 2002. Melvin was named Baseball America Executive of the Year in 2011 after the Brewers won a franchise-record 96 games and the National League Central Division title.
· By his Joey Votto’s lofty standards, his 2018 campaign was a down season. The Etobicoke, Ont., native did, however, lead the National League in on-base percentage (.417) for the seventh time, prompting the following tweet from the Cincinnati Reds.
· It’s great to see that the Vancouver Asahi, who were inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003, will be honoured in a Canadian Heritage Minute by Historica Canada. Originating in 1914, the Vancouver Asahi played a brand of baseball deemed “brain ball.” They stole bases with abandon and dropped bunts with the accuracy of pool sharks. Playing their home games at the Powell Street Grounds, the Asahi team was a source of pride for Japanese Canadians. Hopeful recruits came not only from Vancouver, but from every surrounding town in the Fraser Valley. Wearing the Asahi uniform became the dream of virtually every Japanese Canadian boy. Beginning in 1937, the Asahi won the Pacific Northwest Championship five years in a row. However, 1941 would be the last carefree summer the boys would play as a team. Early in 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Canadian government interned all people of Japanese descent, confiscating their property and uprooting their lives. As a team, the Asahi never played together again. Yet, when these men, along with thousands of Japanese Canadians, were removed to prison camps, they took with them the spirit of baseball. Little by little, bats and balls appeared and these former Asahi players assembled baseball teams. Soon these men were playing against their RCMP prison guards, then with local townspeople – many of whom had never seen a Japanese person before and were surprised to discover they spoke perfect English. Baseball served as a common bond and helped to dispel suspicions and fears and led to lasting friendships. For more information about the production of the Canadian Heritage Minute, you can follow this link.
· Congratulations to former Toronto Blue Jays closer Tom Henke who will be inducted in the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in a ceremony at the Westin Harbour Castle Hotel in Toronto on October 23. Henke, who was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011, recorded a franchise record 217 saves with the Blue Jays. In total, he played eight seasons with the Canadian club and compiled a 2.48 earned run average in 446 appearances. The Missouri native will be inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame alongside Ontario Hockey League coaching legend Brian Kilrea and former hard-hitting, all-star defenceman Scott Stevens. For a complete list of the 2018 inductees and award winners, you can visit the Hall’s site.
· Thank you to former London Majors star Dan Mendham for sharing this photo of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.) with Mickey Mantle in 1951. Selkirk managed a 19-year-old Mantle when the young outfielder was a prized prospect with the triple-A Kansas City Blues. Mantle later cited Selkirk as one of the most important mentors and influences on his career. Whatever Selkirk was telling him in triple-A that season clearly worked. In 40 games with the Blues, Mantle batted .361 with 11 home runs and 50 RBI.
· Six years ago today, Montreal native Russell Martin led off the ninth inning with a solo home run off of Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson to break a 2-2 tie and spark a five-run rally for the New York Yankees and propel them to a 7-2 victory in the first game of their 2012 American League Division Series. That marked the second post-season home run of Martin’s career. He had previously homered for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the 2008 National League Division Series.
· Speaking of Martin, I keep hearing broadcasters say that Ian Desmond and Brandon Phillips are the last two Montreal Expos draft picks that are still active. Not true. Martin was originally selected by the Expos in the 35th round in 2000, but did not sign with the club.
· Happy 50th Birthday to Milt Cuyler, whom I will always remember as a fleet-footed outfielder with the double-A London Tigers at Labatt Park. In 1989, the Macon, Ga., native had 32 stolen bases and seven triples in 98 games for my hometown London squad before embarking on an eight-year big league career that included stops with the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers. According to his LinkedIn profile, Cuyler now resides in Cape Coral, Fla. In recent years, he has participated in youth baseball clinics and has been an active member of the Detroit Tigers alumni.
· Based on his performance this season, Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker’s job is secure. But I can’t help but think that the Braves’ organization, overseen by ex-Toronto Blue Jays general manager and Montreal native, Alex Anthopoulos, will be the eventual landing spot for John Gibbons in some capacity. Anthopoulos has been an ardent supporter of Gibbons and he surprised many when he brought Gibbons back for his second tenure with the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season.
· 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
· This week’s trivia: Montreal native Russell Martin has hit five post-season home runs. Only one Canadian has hit more. Who is it? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1990 O-Pee-Chee Montreal Expos team set.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (What Canadian player served as a pinch-runner and scored a run for the Blue Jays in their division-clinching game against the Baltimore Orioles on September 30, 1989?) was Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.).