My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Congratulations to my many friends and colleagues that were recognized on Bob Elliott’s exhaustively researched “Top 100 Most Influential Canadians” in baseball list. In particular, I wanted to acknowledge the work of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame director of operations Scott Crawford and Hall board chair Adam Stephens. They moved up 10 spots from last year’s list, from No. 85 to No. 75. Thank you also to Bob for acknowledging me (and this site) in the Honourable Mentions section. You can read the entire list here.
· Given the push the Colorado Rockies have made for Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker’s National Baseball Hall of Fame election on social media, I had just assumed the club had already retired his No. 33. Apparently, that’s not the case. Why they haven’t is baffling. But as Drew Creasman of BSN Denver points out in this piece, it’s long overdue. “Why should a national audience accept Larry Walker as a true Hall of Famer if his own team — and by extension home state and fans — haven’t proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they believe he is?” writes Creasman. The Denver scribe later adds, “The Rockies must retire his number to create that final push that puts Larry Walker in the Hall of Fame … Where he belongs.”
· Speaking of Walker, have you ever wondered how the Canadian slugger would fill out a Hall of Fame ballot if he had a vote? Well, thanks to an ambitious and fascinating project by Ryan Spaeder, (@theaceofspaeder on Twitter), we can find out. A must-follow on Twitter for his advanced baseball analysis, Spaeder has been asking former players to fill out a Hall of Fame ballot and has been documenting the results on his website. Walker, as humble as he is, did not vote for himself. Instead the 10 boxes on the ballot he would check if he had a vote are Roy Halladay, Jeff Kent, Scott Rolen, Mariano Rivera, Edgar Martinez, Billy Wagner, Fred McGriff, Todd Helton, Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling.
· In examining the other ex-player/manager ballots on Spaeder’s site, it’s disappointing to me that Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and former Montreal Expos manager Felipe Alou didn’t include Walker on his ballot. Alou managed Walker on the Expos from 1992 to 1994.
· Former Toronto Blue Jays great Vernon Wells added his name to Walker’s list of supporters when he sent out this tweet on Thursday.
· Vancouver native Scott Richmond’s international baseball odyssey continues. This week the 39-year-old right-hander signed with the Auckland Tuatara of the Australian Baseball League and he joined the New Zealand club this weekend. After pitching parts of four seasons in the majors with the Toronto Blue Jays between 2008 and 2012, Richmond has since toed the rubber in the Chinese Professional Baseball League for two seasons before starring for the Nettuno club of the Italian Baseball League last season. You can read more about Richmond’s baseball odyssey here.
· It’s always fascinating to listen to Fergie Jenkins talk about his baseball career. Canadian baseball writer Jonah Keri spoke with Jenkins for over half an hour on Christmas Day. You can listen to the interview on Keri’s CBS podcast here.
· In case you missed it, Michael Saunders (Victoria, B.C.) is not retired, despite not having played since being released by Chicago White Sox on June 21. Per Bob Elliott’s Canadian Baseball Network article, the former big league all-star will suit up for the Canadian team at the Pan Am Games qualifier in Sao Paulo, Brazil beginning on January 29. The senior Canadian baseball squad has captured gold at the last two Pan Am Games in 2011 and 2015 and both of those teams have subsequently been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Other players on the Canadian roster with big league experience will include Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.), Adam Loewen (Surrey, B.C.), Dustin Molleken (Regina, Sask.), Chris Leroux (Montreal, Que.) and Phillippe Aumont (Gatineau, Que.).
· It’s with a very heavy heart that I share that my long-time youth baseball coach and friend Lorne Thompson passed away on Christmas Eve Day at the age of 77. The Dorchester, Ont., native was a one-of-a-kind, unfiltered character and I loved him for that. He was one of the most influential and passionate coaches I had in my youth and he had the foresight to move this mediocre infielder to centre field, which allowed me to do one of the few things I was half-decent at in my childhood and teenage years – chase fly balls. Mr. Thompson (or LT as we liked to call him) was blunt and supportive, tough yet caring. I looked up to him and was fortunate to stay in contact with him over the years. He was a supportive member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and in his true candid fashion, each year he’d complain about who had and hadn’t been inducted, but he was always there on induction day, renewing his membership and bidding generously on the Silent Auction items. I’ll miss him, but I definitely won’t forget him. My condolences to his wife, Barb, his children Robert, Chris and Sarah and his grandchildren. For details on the memorial service, click on this link.
· Happy 83rd Birthday to Hall of Fame left-hander Sandy Koufax! No, he never pitched in Canada during his professional career, but when I talk to many baseball fans around my dad’s age they tell me that, in his prime, he was the best pitcher they ever saw. And I’ve always said that if I could go back in “baseball time,” one of the things I would definitely like to see is one of Koufax’s starts.
· This week’s trivia question: While Sandy Koufax never pitched with the Dodgers’ triple-A affiliate Montreal Royals, two other Dodgers greats who went on to be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown did. Who are they? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Tom Seaver card, a 1983 O-Pee-Chee Tony Perez card, 1984 Donruss Andy Van Slyke rookie card and a 1987 Fleer Pete Rose card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Fergie Jenkins had a career-high 30 complete games in 1971. Remarkably that’s not the record for most complete games in a major league season by a Canadian pitcher. Who holds that record?) was Bob Emslie, who tossed 50 complete games for the American Association’s Baltimore Orioles in 1884.