My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· Congratulations to Atlanta Braves pitcher and Calgary native Mike Soroka, who just six days after being named the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s 2019 Tip O’Neill Award winner, was selected to the All-MLB Second-Team on Tuesday. Joining him on that squad is teammate and first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose parents were born in Canada. Soroka is taking time this off-season to give back to baseball in his home province. The all-star right-hander and Cincinnati Reds’ 15th round pick Matt Lloyd (Okotoks, Alta.) appeared at the Okotoks Dawgs Academy on Thursday to provide some pointers.
· Let’s continue the campaign to get Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) 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. For more on why Walker is worthy, I’d suggest you click on baseball writer’s Manny Randhawa’s tweet below. He has created one thread that provides numerous reasons why Walker should have a plaque in Cooperstown.
· Speaking of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, congratulations to former St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves catcher Ted Simmons on being elected by the Modern Era Committee last Sunday. Simmons, who spent his first 13 major league seasons with the Cardinals, loved to hit at Montreal’s Jarry Park. In 54 games there, he batted .324, which is his second-highest batting average at any major league park. In total, the new Cooperstowner had 69 hits at Jarry Park, including 11 doubles, two triples and five home runs.
· Happy 72nd Birthday to former Chicago Cubs reliever and New Denver, B.C. native Ken Crosby. The Canadian right-hander made 16 appearances for the Cubs during the 1975 and 1976 seasons. His sole big league win came when he hurled a scoreless inning in relief in a Cubs’ 1-0, 11-inning victory over the the New York Mets at Wrigley Field on September 24, 1975. Crosby relieved Cubs starter Rick Reuschel who had tossed 10 scoreless innings. Hall of Famer Tom Seaver also didn’t allow a run in 10 innings for the Mets, before reliever Skip Lockwood came in and issued three walks – including one that brought in the winning run – in the bottom of the 11th. It appears Crosby’s time in Canada was relatively short. He went to high school in Provo, Utah and was selected in the 10th round of the 1969 MLB draft out of Brigham Young University by the New York Yankees. He also spent time in the Cardinals organization before being dealt to the Cubs on July 22, 1975. He retired after the 1976 season.
· Congratulations to former Montreal Expos mascot Youppi! who was elected to the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind., on Wednesday. Mascots are elected to the Hall by a fan vote. With the induction, Youppi! becomes the first mascot to be enshrined that has worked for both a major league baseball team and an NHL club. Youppi! is currently the mascot of the Montreal Canadiens. And yes, the Mascot Hall of Fame is a real place.
· So here’s something I didn’t know: Hockey Hall of Famer and Toronto Maple Leafs legend Doug Gilmour grew up a Montreal Expos fan. I’m reading his biography (co-authored by Dan Robson) right now and on page 11, Gilmour writes, “So I grew up an Expos fan . . . I remember the first trip he [Gilmour’s dad] took me on to Jarry Park in Montreal. I was eight years old. It was so exciting to see my favourite players take the field in front of me. Guys like Rusty Staub and Ron Fairly. Seeing them in person was better than I could imagine.”
· Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Justin Jay Clarke would be 137 today. A product of Assumption College in Windsor, Ont., Clarke spent more than 20 years in professional baseball. But it’s his remarkable performance on June 15, 1902 that the Canadian catcher is best known for. On that day, Clarke belted eight home runs for Corsicana Oil City in a Texas League (Class D) game, leading his team to a 51-3 route of Texarkana. His eight home runs in that contest are still a professional record. Clarke graduated to the big leagues in 1905, suiting up for the Cleveland Naps and Detroit Tigers. Back in Cleveland in 1906, he hit a career-high .358 in 57 games, earning himself starting catching duties the following campaign when he suited up for a career-high 120 games. After three more seasons in Cleveland, he finished his big league career with one-year stints with the St. Louis Browns (1911), Philadelphia Phillies (1919) and Pittsburgh Pirates (1920). A strong defender and game-caller, Clarke caught the perfect game Addie Joss hurled against the Chicago White Sox on October 2, 1908 and was selected by Ty Cobb as one of the catchers on his all-time team. He passed away in River Rouge, Mich., in 1949 at the age of 66.
· Twenty-seven years ago today – and just six weeks after serving as the closer on the Toronto Blue Jays’ first World Series-winning squad – Tom Henke signed a two-year, $8-million contract with the Texas Rangers, the team that had selected him in the fourth round of the MLB draft back in 1980. In his first season under his new contract, Henke would record a career-high 40 saves.
· This week’s trivia question: Tom Henke holds the Blue Jays’ record for most total saves (217) with the club. What reliever recorded the most career saves for the Montreal Expos? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person to provide the correct answer will win a 1982 Topps Steve Carlton card, a 1984 Fleer Andre Dawson card and a 1984 O-Pee-Chee Wade Boggs card.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who was the first Expos player to hit for the cycle in a regular season game?) was Tim Foli on April 21, 1976.