My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· With the scoreless inning he pitched for the National League in the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday, Calgary native Mike Soroka became the sixth Canadian hurler to appear in MLB’s Midsummer Classic. According to TSN Stats Centre on Twitter, he joins a list that includes Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.), Jeff Zimmerman (Kelowna, B.C.), Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) and Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.). According to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, there have been 11 Canadian pitchers selected to participate in the MLB All-Star Game in total. On top of the aforementioned six that pitched in the games, five others – Oscar Judd (Rebecca, Ont.), Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.), John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) Jason Dickson (Miramichi, N.B.) and Jesse Crain (Toronto, Ont.) – were also on All-Star rosters.
· Happy 56th Birthday to 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rob Thomson! Born in 1963 in Sarnia, Ont., he grew up in nearby Corunna. Thomson was part of the Canadian squad that competed in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles when baseball was a demonstration sport. The following year, he was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 32nd round of MLB draft. The Canuck catcher/third baseman would advance as high as the class-A level before shifting his focus to coaching in 1988. He served as a minor league coach in the Tigers system for two seasons before joining the New York Yankees in 1990. Over the next 28 seasons, the hard-working Canadian worked in several capacities in the Bombers’ organization, including minor league coach, manager, field coordinator and director of player development before he joined the Yankees’ big league staff as a special assignment instructor in 2004. Four years later, he was hired as Yankees bench coach and that season, he managed three games in Joe Girardi’s absence to become the first Canadian to manage a major league contest since George Gibson with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1934. From 2009 to 2014, Thomson was the Yankees’ third base coach, and he played an important role on the Bombers’ 2009 World-Series-winning club. He returned to the bench coach role in 2015 and worked in that capacity through 2017. Thomson secured five World Series rings during his lengthy tenure with the Yankees. In December 2017, he was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies to be their bench coach and he’s now in his second season in that role.
· Thirty-two years ago today, Montreal Expos legend Tim Raines went 3-for-3 and had a two-run triple (click on the video link above to see it) for the National League in the 13th inning to lead them to 2-0 win in the 1987 All-Star Game played at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. For his efforts, he was named the game’s MVP. It was the last of seven consecutive All-Star games that the speedy outfielder would be selected to while with the Expos.
· Victoria, B.C., native Nick Pivetta got the start for the Philadelphia Phillies in their first game following the all-star break. The 26-year-old right-hander allowed three runs in five innings on Friday in his club’s 4-0 loss to the Washington Nationals. His record for the season now sits at 4-4 with a 5.81 ERA in 66 2/3 innings in 12 starts. The Canuck hurler is now in his third season with the Phillies. After going 8-10 with 140 strikeouts in 133 innings in 26 starts in 2017, he followed that up by fanning 188 batters in 164 innings and lowering his earned run average to 4.77 in 32 starts last season.
· As a child of the 1980s and a Canadian baseball junkie, it doesn’t get much better than this 2019 Joey Votto card (above) in a 1984 Topps design.
· I was sad to learn that former Montreal Royals pitcher Glenn Mickens passed away on July 9 at the age of 88. He spent parts of three seasons with the Royals from 1954 to 1956 and his finest season in professional baseball came in 1955 with the Royals when he went 12-3 with a 2.18 ERA in 49 appearances. In all, he pitched in parts of 13 professional seasons, including a four-game stint with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953. He was also one of the first American players to pitch in the Japanese professional ranks. He toed the rubber for Kintetsu of the Japanese Pacific League from 1959 to 1963. You can read an article I wrote about Mickens back in 2014 here.
· If there is a Canadian baseball history buff out there with deep pockets, Goldin Auctions is selling a game-used glove from Fergie Jenkins’ 1971 Cy Young Award-winning season. You can bid on it here. I can’t help but wish that an item like this would eventually end up in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.
· It was 25 years ago today that Joe Carter appeared in a game with the Toronto Blue Jays against the Texas Rangers at The Ballpark in Arlington with Toronto misspelled “TOROTNO” on the front of his jersey. Wilson, the uniform manufacturer, was responsible for the gaffe. I’m told the photo above is photoshopped, but it illustrates what the jersey looked like. Perhaps the misspelling was a bad omen for Carter and the Blue Jays. Carter would go 0-for-4 and the Blue Jays would lose 7-3.
· This week’s trivia question: Who is the only player that has represented both the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays in the MLB All-Star Game? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 2019 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame induction program.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (What Canadian player has been selected to the most MLB All-Star games (among Canadian players)?) was Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who has been selected to six All-Star Games.