My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Last Sunday, on the same day I sent out my column wondering why there had been no update on Langley, B.C., native Brett Lawrie, the Milwaukee Brewers announced that the Canadian infielder had officially signed a minor league deal with the club. The contract was made official after an extensive physical evaluation of Lawrie who has suffered from a number of injuries in recent years. The sparkplug third baseman, who has not played a major league game since July 21, 2016, has now started a comprehensive program with the club that will see him train in non-baseball activities for six weeks. If all goes well after that period, he’ll begin participating in baseball drills. Here’s a clip of Brewers general manager David Stearns talking about Lawrie.
· Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Montreal native Allan Roth who died on this date 27 years ago at the age of 74. In 1944, Roth made a pitch to Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey about the importance of advanced statistics, such as on-base percentage. Rickey grew intrigued with the young Canadian and hired him in 1947, making him the first statistician ever on a major league club’s payroll. Roth would collect and analyze stats for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers until 1964. The mathematically minded Canuck recorded every pitch and wrote his stats out by hand. Roth later wrote a column for The Sporting News and worked the NBC and ABC games of the week until 1990, feeding data to broadcasters such as Al Michaels and Vin Scully. “Long before there was Mary Poppins, there was Allan Roth,” Scully once said. Roth was elected to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously in 2010. He was also recently named of one of SABR’s 2019 Henry Chadwick Award winners. This award was established by SABR to honour the game’s great researchers.
· I’m not sure how I didn’t know this until this week, but outfield prospect Jacob Robson, who is in big league camp with the Detroit Tigers, was born in my hometown of London, Ont. Selected in the eighth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Tigers, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Canuck, who grew up in Windsor, Ont., is now heading into his fourth season in the Tigers organization. He split 2018 between double-A and triple-A and batted a combined .295 with a .376 on-base percentage, while clubbing 11 home runs and collecting 18 stolen bases in 124 games.
· Speaking of Canadians in big league camps, Adam Morissette of Baseball Canada lists a total of 21 of them in an article he wrote earlier this week. The Blue Jays lead the way with three Canadians – John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que.) – in camp. Morissette writes that 13 different major league teams have Canadians in camp.
· It was 21 years ago today that Larry Doby, the American League’s first African-American player, was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Less than three months after Jackie Robinson broke the National League’s colour barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Doby debuted with the Cleveland Indians on July 5, 1947. The left-handed hitting outfielder proceeded to have an excellent 13-year major league career with the Indians, Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers in which he batted .283, posted a .386 on-base percentage and walloped 253 home runs in 1,533 games. Following his career, he served as a scout, minor league instructor and later as the big league batting coach with the Montreal Expos from 1969 to 1973. He returned as a coach with the club in 1976. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 79.
· Please take a moment to remember original Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Jefferson who would’ve turned 70 today. In the Blue Jays inaugural season, the 6-foot-3 right-hander logged 217 innings for club, tossing eight complete games and posting a respectable 4.31 ERA. He followed that up by pitching 211 2/3 innings in 1978. On May 23, 1978, Jefferson set a franchise record by pitching a 12-inning complete game against the Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays eventually released Jefferson in September 1980 and he was picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates to finish out the season. In all, Jefferson pitched in nine big league seasons from 1973 to 1981 with the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Blue Jays, Pirates and California Angels. After he hung up his spikes, Jefferson returned to his hometown of Midlothian, Va., where he drove a garbage truck. He passed away from prostate cancer on September 8, 2011.
· The Blue Jays have reportedly signed right-hander Clay Buchholz. Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports that the deal will be a major league contract. In signing the veteran right-hander, the Blue Jays can only hope that he pitches as well for them at Rogers Centre as he did against them. In 17 career appearances (16 starts) at Rogers Centre, Buchholz has an 11-3 record and a 2.63 ERA in 106 innings. His 11 wins at Rogers Centre (outside of his 35 wins at Fenway while with the Boston Red Sox) are the most he has accumulated at any ballpark.
· This week’s trivia question: Jacob Robson may one day join them, but right now there are seven individual Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees that were born in London, Ont. Can you name three of them? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1978 Topps Tom Seaver card, a 1982 O-Pee-Chee Mike Schmidt card, a 1983 Topps Jim Rice card and a 1987 Donruss Cal Ripken Jr. card.
· The answer to last 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?) was Balor Moore.