My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Ladner, B.C., native and 2018 Tip O’Neill Award winner James Paxton has now won nine straight starts for the New York Yankees. That’s the most consecutive starts that he has ever won in his career. Back in July and August 2017, he earned victories in seven straight starts for the Seattle Mariners. During his current win streak, he has posted a 2.50 ERA and has 61 strikeouts in 54 innings pitched. Yes Network statistician James Smyth also tweeted out on Monday that Paxton is the first Yankees pitcher to win eight consecutive starts in their first season with the team since Marius Russo in 1939. For the record, the most consecutive wins for a Canadian starting pitcher is held by Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Russell Ford (Brandon, Man.) who recorded wins in 12 straight starts for the Yankees in 1910.
· In case you were wondering (like I was), the most consecutive wins that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) ever recorded was seven. Thank you to Scott Crawford of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for sharing that Jenkins recorded seven consecutive wins in both the 1971 and 1974 seasons.
· Speaking of Jenkins, a beer named in his honour was unveiled in Chatham, Ont., this week. Thank you to Bob Elliott and Stephen Harding for sharing this information. The beer called Fergie’s Classic Pilsner (photo above) was created by Chatham-Kent based craft brewer, Sons of Kent. A portion of the profits from sales will go to the Children’s Treatment Centre in Chatham-Kent.
· Congratulations to Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) who recorded his 400th major league double on Wednesday. His milestone two-bagger came off Seattle Mariners’ lefty Marco Gonzales in the top of the third inning of the Reds’ 5-3 loss. With that, Votto became just the second Canadian big leaguer to reach 400 doubles. Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) is the only other. He had 471.
· Who is the only Canadian player to make their major league debut on Canada Day? The answer is Nipawin, Sask., native Dave Pagan. The right-hander started the second game of a doubleheader for the New York Yankees against the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium on July 1, 1973. The first big league batter he faced was Buddy Bell who hit a comeback ground ball to him that he fielded cleanly. The 6-foot-2 right-hander made it through the first inning without allowing a run, but he was lifted in the second after allowing four hits. The Yankees still won the game 11-3. Pagan proceeded to pitch parts of five seasons in the majors with the Yankees, Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners and Pittsburgh Pirates. Pagan turns 70 today. Happy Birthday to him!
· Congratulations to Canadian baseball legend Eric MacKenzie who had the baseball field in Courtright, Ont. that he so meticulously groomed for so many years renamed in his honour in a ceremony on Saturday (Click on the link above to see photos). A former big league catcher with the Kansas City A’s and ex-manager of the Canadian national team, MacKenzie was born in Glendon, Alta., but later settled in Leamington, Ont., and became the director of Parks and Recreation in Mooretown, Ont.
· I’ve always felt that there was a case to be made for Dave Stieb’s induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. I’m not saying he should be elected, but he was definitely worthy of more support than he received. When he became eligible in 2004, the Blue Jays legendary right-hander received just seven votes (1.4%) from baseball writers and fell off the ballot. Chris Bodig, of Cooperstown Cred, published an excellent piece detailing Stieb’s case this week. You can read it here. Stieb was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005.
· Forty-two years ago today, Baltimore Orioles Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver pulled his team off the field at Exhibition Stadium and forfeited a game over what he perceived to be unsafe playing conditions. To set the scene, Weaver’s Orioles had won the previous three games of this four-game series against the expansion Blue Jays and trailed the first-place Yankees in the American League East division by just 2-1/2 games with 17 contests remaining. On this dreary night, however, Blue Jays rookie Jim Clancy had shutout the Orioles through five innings. With a light rain falling since the third inning, the Blue Jays’ grounds crew had placed a tarp over the two mounds in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, which were located about five feet outside of the left field foul line. As the Blue Jays prepared to hit in the bottom of the fifth, Weaver emerged from the O’s dugout and told umpire Marty Springstead that the bullpen tarp represented a danger to his players. Weaver pulled his team off the field and insisted the Orioles wouldn’t play until the tarp was removed. Weaver’s extended argument with Springstead eventually resulted in the first – and only – deliberate forfeit by a big league team since 1914. I wrote a more detailed account of the game about six years ago. You can read it here.
· Happy 51st Birthday to former National Team member, Los Angeles Dodgers draft pick and Montreal Expos broadcaster Marc Griffin! He played for the Canadian Olympic Team in 1988 before suiting up for parts of five minor league seasons in the Dodgers and Montreal Expos organizations. He made it as high as double-A in 1994 before retiring to embarking on a career as an analyst on Expos broadcasts. He continues to work as an analyst with RDS.
· Happy 81st Birthday to Hall of Famer Gaylord Perry. Of his 314 major league wins, six came against the two Canadian major league teams. In 12 starts, spanning 85 1/3 innings, against the Expos, he went 4-3 with a 4.43 ERA, while in five starts against the Blue Jays, he posted a 2-1 record and a 2.03 ERA in 31 innings.
· Former Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame board member and longtime supporter of the museum David Morneau has organized “An Evening in Space,” an event that will feature colourful former Montreal Expos pitcher Bill Lee in conversation with Jack Graney Award winner Richard Griffin that will take place on October 9 in Kitchener, Ont. This should be an interesting night. I’ve already purchased my ticket. You can purchase tickets to the event here. Part of the proceeds from the tickets will go to the Sexual Assault Centre of Waterloo Region.
· If you’re a Canadian baseball history buff (like me), mark November 9th and 10th on your calendar. Longtime Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame volunteer and co-founder of the Centre for Canadian Baseball Research Andrew North has announced that the fourth annual Canadian Baseball History Conference will take place in London, Ont., on those dates. This year’s event, which will again be organized by Andrew, with plenty of help from his wife, Elena, will include a bus trip and tour to the newly renovated Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in St. Marys, Ont. For more information and for a complete list of the fascinating baseball presentations, you can click on this link. The registration fee is $70. To register, please email Andrew North at firstname.lastname@example.org.
· This week’s trivia question: Aside from Votto and Walker, who is the only other Canadian to record 300 doubles in the major leagues? The first person to provide the correct answer will win 1979 Topps, 1980 Topps and 1981 Topps Andre Dawson cards.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Blue Jays player to hit more than 26 home runs in a major league season?) was John Mayberry. He clubbed 30 home runs for the Blue Jays in 1980.