My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Congratulations to Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) who was inducted into Arizona’s Cactus League Hall of Fame on Tuesday. The Canuck right-hander was inducted alongside fellow Cooperstowners Robin Yount and Ken Griffey Jr, as well as long-time executive Roland Hemond and Arizona Diamondbacks iconic organist Bobby Freeman. Jenkins pitched in the Cactus League for 10 spring trainings with the Chicago Cubs. Fellow Chatham, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Doug Melvin was present at the ceremony (see photo below).
· Happy 46th Birthday to Windsor, Ont., native and current St. Louis Cardinals first base coach Stubby Clapp! The gritty Canuck was the manager of the Memphis Redbirds for the past two seasons, leading them to back-to-back Pacific Coast League titles and the triple-A championship in 2018. For his efforts, he was named PCL Manager of the Year in both of those campaigns. Prior to that, he had served in coaching and managerial roles in the Houston Astros and Toronto Blue Jays organizations and also as a coach for Canadian National Team. Before coaching, Clapp enjoyed an 11-year professional playing career that included four seasons with the triple-A Redbirds (1999-2002) and 23 games with the big league Cardinals in 2001. Clapp is the only person to be part of the three Canadian men’s national teams to win gold at international competitions. He was an infielder on the 1991 Junior National Team that won at the World Youth Baseball Championship and a coach on the senior national teams that emerged victorious at the 2011 and 2015 Pan Am Games. All three of those teams have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
· One of the most moving Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in St. Marys, Ont., that I’ve ever attended was in 2003 when the Vancouver Asahi were honoured. I’m happy to see that their story is now being told in a Canadian “Heritage Minute” that was unveiled this week. You can watch it by clicking on the link below.
· Thank you again to former London Majors star and local baseball historian Dan Mendham for forwarding another great clip from Flagstaff Films. This one features footage of the 1950 Philadelphia A’s spring training and at the 13-second mark (see video below), you can see Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Phil Marchildon (Penetanguishene, Ont.) in his final camp with the club. Marchildon was not only an ace pitcher for the Philadelphia A’s in the 1940s, but he also served as a tail gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force. In his first big league season in 1941, he recorded 10 wins for the lowly A’s, before notching 17 victories and establishing himself as the team’s ace in 1942. Poised to join the pitching elite, Marchildon was called for military duty and would serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1943 to 1945. In August 1944, his plane was shot down and he was taken as a prisoner of war. He would spend nine months in a German prison camp. Upon his release and return to North America, Marchildon, after a short break, returned to the A’s rotation. Though still traumatized by the war, he registered 19 wins for the A’s in 1947. In all, Marchildon won 68 big league games and completed 82 of his 162 major league starts.
· Dodgers legendary pitcher Don Newcombe passed away on Tuesday at the age of 92. In parts of eight seasons with the Dodgers, the 6-foot-4 right-hander, who was one of the first black pitchers in Major League Baseball, had three 20-win campaigns. In 1956, he went 27-7 and posted a 3.06 ERA in 268 innings. For his efforts, he captured the Cy Young Award and National League MVP honours. Prior to pitching with the Dodgers, Newcombe honed his skills with the Montreal Royals. In 37 appearances – including 27 starts – with the triple-A Canadian club in 1948, he went 17-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 189 innings. He returned to post a 3.18 ERA in five starts with the Royals the following year before being promoted to the big leagues for good. The hard-throwing righty finished his major league career with the Cincinnati Reds (1958 to 1960) and Cleveland Indians (1960). In recent years, he had served in an honorary role with the Dodgers.
· Despite Brett Lawrie’s Instagram post on February 9 in which he said he had signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, there has been no formal confirmation from the club. And Lawrie, who’s very active on social media, has not posted any photos of himself at Brewers camp. He’s also not on the Brewers’ list of non-roster invitees.
· Forty-two years ago today, the Toronto Blue Jays acquired 1B/OF Ron Fairly from the Oakland A’s in exchange for minor leaguer Mike Weathers and cash. Fairly, who would become the Blue Jays first all-star in 1977, had played with the Montreal Expos from 1969 to 1974. With the Blue Jays in 1977, Fairly batted .279 with a .362 on-base percentage and also socked 19 home runs. He also became the first player to suit up for both Canadian major league teams.
· Just how good is Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) at getting on base? His career on-base percentage (OBP), according to this tweet, is the third best among all major leaguers since 1947.
· Right-hander Jack Crimian, who pitched parts of five seasons with the triple-A Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1950s, passed away on February 11, six days shy of his 93rd birthday. The Philadelphia native, who also toed the rubber for parts of four major league seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City A’s and Detroit Tigers, enjoyed his best professional season with Toronto in 1955. That season he went 19-6 with a 2.10 ERA in 40 appearances. He also tossed 16 complete games. To read more about Crimian, you can visit the excellent R.I.P. Baseball blog.
· This week’s trivia question: Ron Fairly was the first position player to have played for both Canadian major league teams (the Expos and the Blue Jays). Who was the first pitcher to do this? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1982 Donruss Andre Dawson card, a 1984 Donruss Gary Carter card, a 1985 Leaf Dale Murphy card and a 1987 Fleer Joe Carter card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Huntsville, Ont., native George Selkirk wore No. 3 for the New York Yankees after Babe Ruth left the club. One other Canadian also wore No. 3 for the Yankees before it was retired. Who was he?) is Frank Colman (London, Ont.)