My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Fifty years ago today, the first regular season Major League Baseball game was played on Canadian soil when the Montreal Expos took on the St. Louis Cardinals in front of 29,184 fans at Jarry Park. With his three-run home run in the first inning and two-run triple in the second, left fielder Mack Jones was the offensive star for the home squad in the Expos’ 8-7 victory. Don Bosch and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Staub also had two hits each for the Expos. Dan McGinn was the winning pitcher after he hurled 5 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of starter Larry Jaster. And if you’re looking for the answer to the trivia question: who was the first player ever to walk to the plate in a big league game on Canadian soil? The answer is Hall of Famer Lou Brock. He lined out to Expos second baseman Gary Sutherland in the top of the first inning. You can review the game’s box score here.
· Former Montreal Expos pitcher Scott Sanderson passed away on Thursday after a long battle with larynx cancer, per Danny Gallagher of the Canadian Baseball Network. He was just 62. After being selected in the third round of the 1977 MLB amateur draft by the Expos, Sanderson would pitch the first six seasons of his MLB career with the club. His finest season was 1980 when he posted a 16-11 record with a 3.11 ERA and tossed seven complete games in 211 1/3 innings across 33 starts. The 6-foot-5 right-hander was also a key member of the Expos’ rotation the following year when the club advanced to the postseason, registering a 2.95 ERA in 22 regular season starts. After the 1983 campaign, the Expos dealt Sanderson to the Chicago Cubs and he would spend six seasons at Wrigley before closing out his career with stops with the Oakland A’s, New York Yankees, California Angels, San Francisco Giants and Chicago White Sox. In all, he won 163 games in 19 big league seasons. After he hung up his playing spikes, he became a widely respected player agent.
· Montreal native Russell Martin was placed on the 10-day injured list with lower back inflammation by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. Martin, who began his big league career with the Dodgers in 2006, was traded back to the club by the Toronto Blue Jays in January. The 36-year-old catcher was 5-for-15 (.333 batting average) and had seven runs in six games for the Dodgers prior to the injury.
· I missed this last week, but when Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton recorded a win in his start for the New York Yankees on April 4, he became the first Canadian starting pitcher to record a win for the Bronx Bombers in more than four decades. Before Paxton, the last Canadian hurler to start and register a win in a regular season contest for the Yankees was Nipawin, Sask., native Dave Pagan on June 6, 1976. With Thurman Munson as his catcher, Pagan tossed a complete game that day, limiting the Oakland A’s to two runs on six hits in nine innings. Oscar Gamble was the Yankees hitting star that game. He socked a three-run walk-off home run off Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers to give the Bombers and Pagan a 5-2 win.
· Happy 59th Birthday to the second Canadian ever to suit up for the Toronto Blue Jays, Paul Hodgson! (Author’s Note: Vancouver native Dave McKay was the first Canadian to play for the Blue Jays). The 6-foot-2 Marysville, N.B., native also became the first exclusively right-handed hitting Canadian to club a home run for Blue Jays when he belted a solo home run off Baltimore Orioles right-hander and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Martinez in the top of the sixth inning at Memorial Stadium on September 19, 1980. Hodgson, who is one of the most interesting guys you’ll ever meet, now lives in Toronto. He and his lovely better half, Lisa Chisholm, often attend the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s induction ceremonies in St. Marys, Ont. And if you ever have a chance to talk to Hodgson, ask him about the time he took Blue Jays teammates Bob Davis and Jackson Todd, both from Oklahoma and hardcore old school country fans, to see Anne Murray in Toronto.
· Happy 78th Birthday to Pete Rose! Most remember him as a member of the Cincinnati Reds, but he batted .259 in 95 games for the Montreal Expos in 1984 and recorded his 4,000th major league hit with the club. Yesterday marked the 35th anniversary of that milestone hit – which was a fourth-inning double off Philadelphia Phillies veteran lefty Jerry Koosman at Olympic Stadium. You can watch video of the hit here (starts at around the 3:30 mark).
· And just because I was curious . . . heading into Marcus Stroman’s start today, the Blue Jays have not scored a single run in any inning that he has pitched in this season. This got me thinking about Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.). Someone once told me that Jenkins had several 1-0 losses in one of his 20-win seasons. Well, that turns out to be true. Six times during the 1968 season, Jenkins was the starting pitcher in games the Cubs lost 1-0. He also made four other starts in which his club failed to score a run. Despite that poor run support, Jenkins still managed to go 20-15 with a 2.63 ERA in a National League-leading 40 starts in which he tossed 308 innings that season.
· This week’s trivia question. Paul Hodgson was the first exclusively right-handed hitting Canadian to belt a home run for the Toronto Blue Jays. Who was the second? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1975 Topps Rollie Fingers card, a 1985 O-Pee-Chee Orel Hershiser rookie card, a 1986 O-Pee-Chee Rickey Henderson and a 1989 Upper Deck Greg Maddux.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Bobby Doerr was the Blue Jays’ first major league batting coach. Who was the club’s second big league batting coach?) was Cito Gaston.