My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· In case you missed it, Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton was named winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2018 Tip O’Neill Award on Tuesday. Canada’s baseball shrine presents this honour annually to the Canadian player judged to have excelled in individual achievement and team contribution while adhering to baseball’s highest ideals. Paxton, who was traded by the Seattle Mariners to the New York Yankees on November 19, is a first-time winner. Nicknamed “Big Maple” by Mariners fans, the 6-foot-4 southpaw became the first Canadian pitcher to throw a major league no-hitter on Canadian soil when he held the Toronto Blue Jays hitless on May 8 at Rogers Centre. That performance came just six days after he had set a Canadian record by striking out 16 batters on May 2 in a start against the Oakland A’s. In all, the 30-year-old Paxton had eight starts in which he struck out at least 10 batters and went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and fanned 208 batters in 160 1/3 innings. Paxton appeared on Primetime Sports on Sportsnet 590 The Fan with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt on Wednesday to talk about the honour and his 2018 campaign. You can listen to the interview here.
· We’ll find out today which (if any) of the 10 finalists on the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Today’s Game Era ballot will be elected. Among those on the ballot are Toronto Blue Jays World Series hero Joe Carter and former Montreal Expos reliever Lee Smith. The other eight up for consideration are Harold Baines, Albert Belle, Will Clark, Orel Hershiser, Davey Johnson, Charlie Manuel, Lou Piniella, and George Steinbrenner. Any candidate who receives votes on 75% of the ballots cast by the 16-member committee will be inducted. The 16-member committee consists of Hall of Fame members Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Pat Gillick, Tony La Russa, Greg Maddux, Joe Morgan, John Schuerholz, Ozzie Smith and Joe Torre; major league executives Al Avila (Detroit Tigers), Paul Beeston (Blue Jays), Andy MacPhail (Philadelphia Phillies) and Jerry Reinsdorf (Chicago White Sox); and veteran media members/historians Steve Hirdt, Tim Kurkjian and Claire Smith.
· With baseball writers in the process of completing and submitting their Hall of Fame ballots, I would like to strongly encourage them to vote for Maple Ridge, B.C. native Larry Walker. Each week until the voting results are announced I’ll feature a tweet that reinforces that Walker, who was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009, is worthy of a plaque in Cooperstown. This week’s tweet is a quote from Kevin Frandsen (courtesy of Ryan Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder on Twitter)).
· It makes me sad to think that it was five years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Roy Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Blue Jays and announced he was retiring. He was just 36 years old and seemed to have so much life ahead of him. Rest in peace to a true legend.
· Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Heath who died on this date 43 years ago at the age of 60. Born in Fort William, Ont., Heath made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians on September 13, 1936, but the 1938 season was his breakout campaign. That year, he finished second in the American League batting race (.343) and recorded 21 home runs, 112 RBI and a league-leading 18 triples. He would top that season in 1941 when he became the first American League player to register 20 doubles, 20 triples and 20 home runs in a season. He also hit .340, stole 18 bases and was selected to his first all-star team. In all in parts of 14 major league seasons, Heath batted .293 with 194 homers.
· Thirty-six years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and then Blue Jays general manager Pat Gillick orchestrated one of the best trades in franchise history. On this date in 1982, Gillick dealt veteran reliever Dale Murray and infield prospect Tom Dodd to the New York Yankees for outfielder Dave Collins, pitcher Mike Morgan and a young power-hitting prospect named Fred McGriff.
· Happy 45th Birthday to former Toronto Blue Jays and Montreal Expos third baseman Tony Batista. The Dominican infielder belted 41 home runs for the Blue Jays in 2000 to become the first third baseman in franchise history to club 40 homers in a season (Josh Donaldson became the second in 2015). Batista is also the only player to have 100-RBI seasons for the Blue Jays and the Expos. And he did it all employing one of the most unorthodox and unforgettable batting stances in major league history.
· Please take a moment to remember Canadian right-hander Rube Vickers who died on this date in 1958 at the age of 79. Vickers is the only major league player ever to come from St. Marys, Ont., which is the home of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. He pitched parts of five years in the big leagues between 1902 and 1909. He also owns the Pacific Coast League (PCL) record for innings pitched in a season. The 6-foot-2 right-hander pitched an astounding 518-2/3 innings in 58 starts for the PCL’s Seattle Siwashes in 1906. He finished that season with a 39-20 record and a 2.19 ERA.
· Thank you to the Montreal Royals Twitter account (@Royals_46season) for sharing this photo (above) of Hall of Famer Roy Campanella with the Royals during the 1947 season. Before becoming an all-star major league catcher for the Dodgers, Campanella batted .273 with 13 home runs in 135 games for the International League’s triple-A Montreal Royals in 1947.
· Please bid on the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s silent auction items. There’s lot of fantastic autographed memorabilia that would make great Christmas gifts and the proceeds will greatly benefit the Hall and its programs. You can review the items and bid here.
· This week’s trivia question: Aside from the aforementioned Tony Batista, there are two other players that have hit 15 or more home runs in a season for both the Blue Jays and the Expos, can you name one of them. Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 O-Pee-Chee Jim Rice card, a 1979 O-Pee-Chee Don Sutton card and a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Mike Schmidt card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who holds the Expos record for most assists in a season by an outfielder?) was Ellis Valentine and Warren Cromartie who both registered 24 assists in the 1978 season.