My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· London, Ont.-based SABR member and baseball statistician Tim Blaker was the first visitor to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. when it re-opened to the public yesterday morning (See photo below). For being the first to visit, he received an autographed Fergie Jenkins postcard. I had the opportunity to view the newly renovated museum on Thursday as part of a gala for donors and long-time supporters. I’ve been involved with the museum in some capacity for 23 years and I’ve never felt more excited about it. The new displays, the Harry Simmons Memorial Library, which will house the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research, and the new visitors’ lounge are all spectacular and I highly recommend that you make the trek to St. Marys to take it all in.
· Speaking of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, it’s great to see the Vancouver Asahi, who were inducted into the St. Marys, Ont.-based shrine in 2003, honoured with a postage stamp, which was unveiled on Thursday. As the Canada Post press release states, the Asahi were an “amateur Japanese-Canadian baseball team that helped remove racial barriers through sport” prior to the Second World War. You can read more about their inspirational story on the Hall’s website. It was particularly touching to see that Kaye Kaminishi, the only surviving member of the Asahi, was present at the stamp ceremony. It was also great to see Kaminishi (as pointed out to me by my former Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame colleague Zach Harmer) wearing his Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame blazer at the stamp ceremony on Thursday (see photo below).
· Last Sunday, Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton struck out 12 batters in his second consecutive start, and given the rich history of the New York Yankees, it was surprising to learn that this was only the second time a Yankees pitcher has accomplished this feat. According to MLB Stats (@MLBStats on Twitter), David Cone was the first back in 1998. Paxton’s streak ended on Friday when he struck out eight San Francisco Giants in 5-2/3 innings in a 7-3 Bronx Bombers victory. Through six starts with the Yankees this season, the Canuck lefty’s record stands at 3-2 with a 3.38 ERA. He has fanned 51 batters in 34 2/3 innings.
· Calgary native Mike Soroka has been outstanding in his first two starts for the Atlanta Braves this season. After allowing just one run and striking out six in five innings in first start on April 18, the 21-year-old Canuck followed that up by limiting Joey Votto and the Cincinnati Reds to one run on five hits in 5-2/3 innings, while tying a career-high with seven strikeouts, on Wednesday to record his first win of the season. Soroka made his big league debut with the Braves in 2018 and went 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in five starts before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. A graduate of the Canadian Junior National Team, Soroka was a first-round pick (28th overall) of the Braves in the 2015 MLB draft. Prior to being promoted by the Braves in 2018, Soroka had pitched in parts of four minor league seasons in the organization.
· Please take a moment to remember former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and broadcaster John Cerutti who would’ve turned 59 today. He passed away from a heart condition in his hotel room at Rogers Centre on the last day of the Blue Jays’ 2004 regular season. The crafty southpaw recorded 46 wins and posted a 3.87 ERA in 191 games in parts of six seasons with the Blue Jays from 1985 to 1990. His best season was in 1989 when he went 11-11 with a 3.07 ERA in 205 1/3 innings in 33 appearances, including 31 starts. On June 7 that year, he became the first Blue Jays pitcher to register a win at SkyDome. He finished his playing career with one season with the Detroit Tigers in 1991 and later became a respected analyst on Blue Jays’ TV broadcasts. The Toronto chapter of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America renamed their Good Guy Award after him following the 2004 season. This honour is handed out annually to a person associated with the Blue Jays who “best exemplifies a positive image for baseball.”
· Montreal native Russell Martin was activated from the 10-day injured list by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Saturday. He had been sidelined with lower back inflammation since April 10. Martin, who began his big league career with the Dodgers in 2006, was traded back to the club by the 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.
· Twenty years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker belted three home runs and had eight RBIs for the Colorado Rockies to lead the club to a 9-7 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. This was the second three, three-home run game that Walker had during his major league career. It’s interesting to note that each of Walker’s three-home run games occurred when he was with the Rockies and none of them occurred at Coors Field.
· Happy 55th Birthday to Cincinnati Reds legendary shortstop Barry Larkin! Before the multi-talented infielder went on to enjoy his Hall of Fame big league career in which he would be selected to 12 All-Star games and win three Gold Gloves, he was 22-year-old prospect playing a road spring training game at Dunedin Stadium on March 20, 1987 when my timid 13-year-old self leaned over the visiting team dugout to ask him to autograph my notebook. He obliged (see image below). As he signed it and handed it back to me, I bobbled it and dropped it and Larkin retrieved it and picked it up for me. That was my first in-person autograph from a major league player (though I later had Terry Francona sign the same page). I’ve been a huge Barry Larkin fan ever since.
· And just because I was curious (and like oddball data) . . . I was wondering how Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Cleveland performed in Cleveland during his big league career. The answer is not particularly well. The Swift Current, Sask., native was 2-5 with a 4.19 ERA in 19 games at the old Municipal Stadium. In 68 2/3 innings, he allowed 68 hits and walked 27 batters and struck out 18.
· This week’s trivia question. Chatham, Ont., native Fergie Jenkins had 3,192 strikeouts during his 19-year big league career. Who has the second most major league strikeouts by a Canadian pitcher? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win an autographed 1983 Fleer Ernie Whitt card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Joey Votto is one of four left-handed hitting Canadians to hit at least 200 home runs in their major league career. But who is the only right-handed hitting Canadian to belt 200 home runs in the major leagues?) was Trail, B.C., native Jason Bay.