My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Don Wade of the Daily Memphian reported on Monday that the Texas Rangers have had “preliminary discussions” with Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp about their vacant managerial position. Wade also indicates that if Clapp doesn’t get a big league manager’s job with another club, that the Canadian skipper will likely be promoted to the St. Louis Cardinals’ big league coaching staff. Clapp has led the triple-A Memphis Redbirds to back-to-back championships.
· Speaking of Canadians that would make fine major league managers, Rob Thomson (above) (Sarnia, Ont.) stopped by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., on Friday to visit with director of operations Scott Crawford and see the new addition to the museum. Thomson just completed his first season as the Philadelphia Phillies bench coach after he had spent 28 campaigns in the New York Yankees organization, including his last five as the club’s bench coach. Thomson lives in Sebringville, Ont., in the off-season, just 15 minutes away from St. Marys.
· Happy 36th Birthday to Calgary, Alta., native and former Milwaukee Brewers closer Jim Henderson! Originally selected by the Montreal Expos in the 26th round of the 2003 MLB draft, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander spent parts of 10 seasons in the minors before making his major league debut with the Brewers on July 26, 2012. Henderson would post a 3.52 ERA in 36 games that season prior to unseating fellow Canadian John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) as the Brewers closer in 2013. Henderson pitched in 14 contests for the Brewers in 2014 before being sidelined by a shoulder injury. While working his way back from that injury, he pitched 35 games in the Brewers’ minor league system in 2015 and then signed with the New York Mets that December. A long shot to make the Mets out of spring training, he ended up toeing the rubber in 44 contests for them in 2016 and striking out 40 batters in 35 innings. That would prove to be his last of five big league seasons.
· Happy 59th Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Toronto Blue Jays legend George Bell! Born in 1959 in San Pedro De Macoris, Dominican Republic, Bell was the first Blue Jay to win the American League MVP Award. His monster 1987 campaign – that saw him belt a then-club record 47 homers and lead the league in RBIs (134), total bases (369) and extra base hits (83) – is one of the best in franchise history. Plucked from the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1980 Rule 5 draft, the power-hitting outfielder was an offensive force in Toronto for parts of nine seasons. A three-time all-star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner, Bell socked over 20 homers in six seasons and recorded more than 85 RBI seven times with the Jays. The former slugger ranks in the top 10 in most of the club’s all-time offensive categories, including fourth in RBI (740), total bases (2,201) and extra-base hits (471) and sixth in home runs (202). For his efforts, he was named the club’s MVP four times and was an inaugural member of the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence in 1996. His tenure with the Jays was followed by three seasons in Chicago with the Cubs (1991) and White Sox (1992, 1993). He retired after the 1993 campaign with 265 career homers and 1,002 RBIs.
· Thank you to former London Majors star Dan Mendham for sharing this photo (above) of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) while he was playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League sometime between 1964 and 1966.
· Twenty-six years ago today, the Blue Jays defeated the Atlanta Braves 2-1 to take a 3-1 lead in the 1992 World Series. Catcher Pat Borders clubbed a home run and Jimmy Key made his final start for the Blue Jays. The crafty southpaw limited the Braves to one run on five hits in 7 2/3 innings before he was lifted for reliever Duane Ward. With Blue Jays fans aware that he was a free agent after the season, Key left the game to a rousing ovation at SkyDome. Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Henke pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up the save.
· Today would’ve been Ralph McCabe’s 100th birthday. McCabe was a 6-foot-4 right-hander from Napanee, Ont., who pitched in one major league game with the Cleveland Indians on September 18, 1946. He started that contest and allowed five earned runs in four innings before he was relieved by fellow Canadian Joe Kraukauskas (Montreal, Que.). In total, McCabe toed the rubber for parts of eight minor league seasons – including two with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs (1943, 1944) – and posted a 59-44 record. He died on May 3, 1974 in Windsor, Ont., and is buried in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill, Ont.
· Happy 63rd Birthday to original Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jerry Garvin! The California-born lefty was dominant in the first month of the Blue Jays history, going 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA in five starts, including three complete games, in April 1977. He’d that finish season with a 10-18 record and a 4.19 ERA in 244 1/3 innings across 34 starts. He’d take the mound for parts of five more seasons with the Blue Jays. In 1980, he successfully reinvented himself as a reliever, posting a 2.29 ERA in 61 appearances. After his playing career, Garvin returned to California and became a real estate agent.
· Mary “Bonnie” Baker, the first Canadian woman to sign with the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), was posthumously inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday. The trailblazing Regina, Sask., native was the first of 64 Canadians to sign and suit up in the all women’s circuit formed during the Second World War. A catcher who appeared in an AAGPBL record 930 games over nine seasons, Baker is believed to be the inspiration behind Geena Davis’s character in the classic movie, A League of Their Own. You can read more about Baker here.
· 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: I mentioned Jerry Garvin’s dominant start to the 1977 Toronto Blue Jays season. What pitcher led the Blue Jays in wins in their inaugural season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1986 Provigo Montreal Expos team set.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Fergie Jenkins and Doug Melvin were born in Chatham, Ont. Aside from Jenkins, two others born in Chatham have played in the major leagues. Who are they?) was Bill Atkinson and Doc Miller.