My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Congratulations to Montreal Expos legendary play-by-play man Jacques Doucet who is one of eight finalists for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Ford C. Frick Award which is handed out annually by the National Baseball Hall of Fame for excellence in broadcasting. Doucet was the Expos’ French radio play-by-play voice for 33 years and he returned to call Toronto Blue Jays games in French in 2012. The other Frick finalists are Joe Castiglione, Tom Hamilton, Ken Harrelson, Pat Hughes, Ned Martin, Mike Shannon and Dewayne Staats. For more information on the other finalists, click on this link. The final voting will be conducted by a committee that consists of the 11 living recipients of the award and four broadcast historians/columnists. The winner will be announced on December 11.
· Congratulations to former big league pitcher Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.) for being elected to the B.C. Sports Hall of Fame. Francis honed his skills with the North Delta Blue Jays and the Canadian Junior National Team before embarking a successful collegiate career with the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderbirds. His outstanding collegiate career caught the eye of the Colorado Rockies who selected him ninth overall in the 2002 MLB draft. Francis made his big league debut with the Rockies on August 25, 2004 against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The following year he won 14 major league games and finished sixth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting. From there, Francis evolved into the ace of the Rockies’ rotation, registering 13 victories in 2006 and a career-high 17 in 2007. He also helped lead the Rockies to their first National League pennant that season and earned wins in Game 1 of the National League Division Series and the opener of the National League Championship Series prior to becoming the first Canadian pitcher to start Game 1 of a World Series. In all, Francis pitched parts of 11 major league seasons, from 2004 to 2015, with the Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, Oakland A’s, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays. He ranks among the all-time Canadian major league leaders in several pitching categories, including second in innings by a left-hander (1,291), fifth in games started (291) and seventh in wins (72). For his efforts, Francis became the eighth member of Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2016.
· Happy 51st Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Port Hope, Ont., native Paul Quantrill! Selected by the Boston Red Sox in the sixth round of the 1989 MLB draft, the Canadian right-hander made his MLB debut with the Red Sox on July 20, 1992 and would pitch in a Canadian record 841 games during his 14-year big league career that also included stops with the Philadelphia Phillies, Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Florida Marlins. The rubber-armed reliever posted a 3.67 ERA in 386 contests with the Blue Jays from 1996 to 2001. His finest season came with the Blue Jays in 2001 when he posted an 11-2 record and a 3.04 ERA in a league-leading 80 appearances. For his efforts, he was an American League all-star and was named the Blue Jays Pitcher of the Year. Following that season, Quantrill was dealt to the Dodgers and he proceeded to top the National League in appearances in 2002 and 2003, before landing back in the American League with the Yankees to once again lead the league with 86 appearances. In all, in 14 major league seasons, Quantrill recorded a 3.83 ERA in 1,255 2/3 innings. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.
· The Pittsburgh Pirates have reportedly interviewed Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) for their vacant managerial position, but after firing general manager Neal Huntington on Monday, the Pirates have put their managerial search on hold. Travis Williams, previously the chief operating officer of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, has been hired as the team’s new president, while Pirates assistant GM Kevan Graves is serving as the club’s interim general manager.
· Let’s continue the campaign to get Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, BC) elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. This is the Canadian slugger’s 10th and final year on the writers’ ballot. Last season, his name was checked on 54.6% of baseball writers’ ballots. He requires 75% support to be elected. One of the common criticisms of Walker has been his durability. Some point out that he only played in more than 140 games four times in his 17-year major league career. But this tweet (click on link below) from Manny Randhawa shows that Walker was more durable than Barry Larkin, who was voted into the Hall in his third year of eligibility.
· Fun Canadian baseball fact I stumbled across the week: Big Red Machine members Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Joe Morgan combined to go 0-for-9 off Expos right-hander and Chatham, Ont., native Bill Atkinson. Atkinson, who owned a curveball that Gary Carter once described as the best he ever caught, was also dominant against Dodgers’ six-time all-star third baseman Ron Cey. Cey was 0-for-5 with four strikeouts against Atkinson.
· Ron Fairly, the only player to be selected to the All-Star Game as a member of the Expos and Blue Jays, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 81. I wrote a complete obituary of Fairly that you can read here. With Fairly’s death, four players on the Blue Jays’ 1977 squad have now died. Doug Ault, Gary Woods and Jesse Jefferson all previously passed away.
· A great piece of trivia about Fairly (courtesy of Horsehide Trivia): He is the first player after Stan Musial to play 1,000 games as an outfielder and 1,000 games as an infielder in the major leagues.
· 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, will include a bus trip and tour to the newly renovated Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame 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: At 81 years old, Ron Fairly had been the oldest living former Blue Jays player. With his death, there are now just two former Blue Jays who are 80 years old. Can you name one of them? The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1983 Fleer Ozzie Smith card, a 1984 Fleer Dave Winfield card and a 1986 Donruss Steve Carlton card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (The Blue Jays selected Pete Vuckovich with their 10th pick (19th overall) in the 1976 MLB Expansion Draft. They used their first pick to select infielder Bob Bailor. But who was the first pitcher the Blue Jays selected in the expansion draft?) was Jerry Garvin.