My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· In case you missed it, Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) made his major league debut with the San Diego Padres on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park. The 24-year-old right-hander, and son of Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer, Paul Quantrill, held the Braves to two runs in 5 2/3 innings. The Padres eventually lost 5-1. With the promotion, Quantrill became the eighth Canadian to play in the major leagues this season, joining Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (Montreal, Que., Toronto, Blue Jays), Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont., Cincinnati Reds), Russell Martin (Montreal, Que., Los Angeles Dodgers), Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C, St. Louis Cardinals), James Paxton (Ladner, B.C., New York Yankees), Mike Soroka (Calgary, Alta., Atlanta Braves) and Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C., Philadelphia Phillies.). Also, when Quantrill took the mound for the Pads, it marked just the second time that a Canadian father and son have played in the major leagues. His father, Paul, was an all-star right-hander who enjoyed a 14-year big league career from 1992 to 2005 in which he pitched in a Canadian record 841 games. Dave McKay and Cody McKay, both born in Vancouver, were the first Canadian father/son duo to play in the big leagues. Selected eighth overall by the Padres in the 2016 draft, the younger Quantrill is in his fourth professional season after a successful collegiate career at Stanford. The 6-foot-3 right-hander fared well (3-1, 3.48 ERA in six starts) in his first taste of triple-A action with the El Paso Chihuahuas in 2018 and followed that up with a 3-1 record and a 4.68 ERA in five starts at the same level this season prior to his promotion.
· Two days before Quantrill made his major league debut at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, Calgary native Mike Soroka was dominating the Padres on the mound for the Braves. On Monday, he registered a career-best eight strikeouts in six innings while holding the Padres to one run on four hits. And he was just as effective yesterday when he limited the Marlins to two unearned and three hits, while striking out six, to lead the Braves to a 9-2 victory at Marlins Park. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed one earned run or less in each of his four starts this year and his record now sits at 3-1 with a 1.14 ERA in 23 2/3 innings. His performance has made him an early season contender for the National League Rookie of the Year Award. 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.
· Unfortunately, the news wasn’t all rosy for Canadian pitchers this week. Ladner, B.C., native James Paxton exited his start for the New York Yankees after three innings on Friday with left knee soreness. The 6-foot-4 lefty underwent an MRI on Saturday and was placed on the 10-day injured list with knee inflammation. Through seven starts with the Bronx Bombers this season, Paxton is 3-2 with a 3.11 ERA. He has fanned 52 batters in 37 2/3 innings.
· It was 16 years ago today that Fredericton, N.B., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Matt Stairs launched a 461-foot home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates off Houston Astros’ right-hander Wade Miller at Minute Maid Park. That was the longest home run hit at in the stadium until Prince Fielder smacked a 486-foot home run at the park on April 29, 2011.
· Please take a moment to remember Belleville, Ont., native and former Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Rutherford who would’ve turned 94 today. The 5-foot-10 right-hander was signed as an amateur free agent by the Dodgers in 1947. He pitched parts of five minor league seasons before he was called up by the big league Dodgers in 1952 and posted a 4.25 ERA in 22 games for their pennant-winning club. He became the first Canadian to pitch in the post-season when he relieved Joe Black in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the 1952 World Series. Rutherford returned to the minors the next year and he toed the rubber for parts of three more seasons before a shoulder injury forced him to retire. After hanging up his playing spikes, he pursued a career in medicine and graduated from the Kirksville Osteopathic College of Osteopathy and Surgery in Kirksville, Missouri in 1962. He later opened a general practice in River Rouge, Mich. He passed away on Christmas Day in 2016 at the age of 91.
· One of the coolest new artifacts at the newly renovated Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., is one of Rob Thomson’s World Series rings. This is on display in the brand new plaque gallery at the facility. I strongly recommend that you make the trip to the new museum to check it out.
· Forty-one years ago today, Pete Rose recorded his 3,000th career hit when he lined a single to left field off Montreal Expos ace and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Steve Rogers in the bottom of the fifth inning at Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. Fittingly, it was Rose’s longtime Big Red Machine teammate Tony Perez, who was playing first for the Expos, that was the first player to congratulate him. You can watch the video here.
· And please take a moment to remember (or learn about) little-talked about Canadian baseball legend and Brantford, Ont., native Bill Watkins on what would be his 161st birthday. If you want to learn about Watkins and his accomplishments, you should buy Chip Martin’s excellent book about the Detroit Wolverines. In that book, Martin provides vivid details about Watkins, who spent some of his early playing days with the semi-pro Guelph Maple Leafs and St. Thomas Atlantics prior to moving south of the border. After a brief big league playing career as an infielder with the American Association’s Indianapolis Hoosiers that was cut short when he was hit in the head by a pitch, Watkins chose to focus on managing. After the Hoosiers’ American Association franchise folded, Watkins organized the Western League and resurrected his Indianapolis squad in 1885 prior to it being sold and merged with the National League’s Detroit Wolverines in the same year. The Canadian skipper piloted the Wolverines to an 87-36 record in 1886 and a World Series title in 1887. In all, he served as a big league manager for nine years and led teams to 452 wins. He passed away in 1937 in Port Huron, Mich., at the age of 79.
· This week’s trivia question: Who was the last Canadian to be a full-time manager for a Major League Baseball team? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1980 O-Pee-Chee Andre Dawson card, a 1987 Fleer Paul Molitor card, a 1989 O-Pee-Chee Roberto Alomar card and a 1990 Bowman Larry Walker rookie card.
· The answer to last 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?) was Gibsons, B.C., native and 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ryan Dempster. He had 2,075 strikeouts during his 16-year big league career.