My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Happy Mother’s Day to all of the moms reading this! I’m fortunate that my mother, Glenyce Glew, is a wonderful, energetic, caring and supportive woman who has been dragged to enough baseball games over the years that she has become a Toronto Blue Jays fan. And at the beginning of this blog in 2010, she was one of the few who read and supported it and she still leaves comments. I love you, Mom and thanks for everything you do.
· Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) made his first home start with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday and allowed two runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings to the New York Mets and was saddled with his first major league loss. The 24-year-old right-hander had made his major league debut the previous Wednesday and limited the Atlanta Braves to two runs in 5 2/3 innings at SunTrust Park. Through two starts, his ERA sits at a healthy 3.60. With his promotion, Quantrill became the eighth Canadian to play in the major leagues this season. Also, when he took the mound for the Padres, 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-season 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.
· Hall of Famer Yogi Berra would’ve turned 94 today. The ever quotable New York Yankees legend passed away in 2015. And to this day, whenever I have to attend a funeral, I think of Berra’s advice to his younger teammate Mickey Mantle. “Always go to other people’s funerals. Otherwise they won’t go to yours.” More recently, I’ve been thinking that another Yogi-ism could be applied to the trolling that’s become epidemic on social media. Once when Berra was opening his fan mail in the Yankees clubhouse, he turned to a teammate with the following advice: “Never answer an anonymous letter.”
· Calgary native Mike Soroka’s 95-mph sinker is starting to garner a lot of attention. On Twitter, MLB.com pitching analyst Rob Friedman shared a 30-second video of 30 sinkers that Soroka has thrown this season (see above). The 21-year-old right-hander has now allowed one earned run or less in each of his five starts this year and his record now sits at 3-1 with a 1.21 ERA in 29 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.
· Happy 84th Birthday to Montreal Expos legendary manager and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Felipe Alou. He was part of the Expos organization as a player, instructor or manager for 27 of its 36 years of existence. Alou joined the Expos as an instructor following a successful 18-year playing career – that included a 19-game stint with Montreal in 1973 – in which he hit .286, collected 2,101 hits and was selected to three all-star games. Born in the Dominican Republic, Alou joined the Expos’ coaching ranks in 1976. After managerial stints with the Expos’ class-A and double-A affiliates in 1977 and 1978, he was promoted to Dick Williams’ big league staff in 1979 and 1980, but he returned to the minors in 1981 to manage the Expos’ triple-A Denver Bears to a league title. After another coaching stint with the big club in 1984, Alou served as the dugout boss of the triple-A Indianapolis Indians in 1985 and the class-A Advanced West Palm Beach Expos from 1986 to 1991. After leading the latter club to a Florida State League championship and being named the league’s top manager in 1991, Alou was hired as the Expos big league manager on May 22, 1992. In accepting the position, Alou became the first Dominican manager in major league history. In parts of 10 seasons as Expos manager, he accumulated a franchise-record 691 wins and led the budget-conscious club to three second-place finishes (1992, 1993, 1996) and had the Expos sitting in first-place in 1994 when the season was cancelled due to a players’ strike. For his efforts, Alou was named National League Manager of the Year in 1994. After leaving the Expos, Alou worked as a bench coach with the Detroit Tigers in 2002, before serving as manager of the San Francisco Giants from 2003 to 2006. Since 2007, he has worked as a special assistant to Giants general manager Brian Sabean.
· Thanks to Heritage Toronto for their great work in creating a plaque to commemorate Maple Leaf Stadium which was home to the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs from 1921 to 1967. Although it’s rarely talked about today, there was a rich history of baseball in Toronto before the Blue Jays. The Maple Leafs won 10 International League championships and five of those titles came when the team was playing their home games at Maple Leaf Stadium, which was located at Bathurst Street and what is now Lake Shore Boulevard. Legendary players and managers such as Carl Hubbell, Burleigh Grimes, Wee Willie Keeler, Ralph Kiner, Elston Howard, Sparky Anderson and Dick Williams are among those that wore Maple Leafs uniforms. A plaque was unveiled at a ceremony on Wednesday at 50 Stadium Road near Toronto’s waterfront.
· Happy 35th Birthday to the only player from my hometown of Dorchester, Ont., to ever play in the big leagues, Chris Robinson! Selected by the Detroit Tigers in the third round of the 2005 MLB amateur draft, Robinson toiled in the minors for parts of nine seasons before making his major league debut with the San Diego Padres on September 4, 2013. The Canadian catcher’s first big league hit was a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning off of Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander Eury De La Rosa in the Padres’ 12-2 win on September 25, 2013. Robinson is, however, best known for his efforts on the international stage. He suited up for Canada’s Senior National Team in several competitions, including the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, 2008 Olympics and 2013 World Baseball Classic. He was also a member of Canada’s Pan Am Games teams that won gold at the 2011 and 2015 competitions. He is now the director of baseball operations of the Great Lakes Canadians elite baseball program in London, Ont.
· This week’s trivia question. Felipe Alou was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015. Who is the only other former Montreal Expos manager that has been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win an autographed Jimmy Key card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the last Canadian to be a full-time manager in Major League Baseball?) was London, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer George Gibson, who last managed the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934.