My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· If you’re looking for a memorable virtual gift for the Canadian baseball fan in your family, Fergie Jenkins is donating the proceeds from his cameo.com account to the workers at Sloan Park, the Chicago Cubs spring training stadium, this week. For $50 at cameo.com, Jenkins will create a short personalized video message for you or for a friend or loved one. You can order your cameo here.
· Happy 72nd Birthday to Nanaimo, B.C., native Ralph Dickenson! Best known for his more than four decades as collegiate and minor league coach, the Canadian baseball lifer has worked for several major league organizations during his career, including with the Montreal Expos (2001-02) and Toronto Blue Jays (2010 to 2012). Prior to his coaching career, Dickenson was a two-way player in the Minnesota Twins organization. With the Twins’ class-A affiliate in Lynchburg in 1972, he batted .280 in 77 games primarily as an outfielder and posted a 1.72 ERA in 16 pitching appearances as a right-handed reliever.
· It was a rough spring for right-hander Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C.) with the Philadelphia Phillies. After making extensive changes to his off-season training regimen and rejigging his mechanics, he posted an 8.22 ERA in three appearances. But he also struck out 10 batters in 7 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old right-hander was fighting for a rotation spot with the Phillies after a disappointing 2019 campaign – his third in the big leagues – that saw him record a 5.38 ERA in 30 appearances, including 13 starts.
· Congratulations to the inspiring Derek Aucoin whose biography, Le Tete Haute, will be released on Wednesday. It was written by Benoit Rioux and is available in French. The preface is written by Steve Rogers. I’ve been fortunate to interview a large number of players and ex-players during my writing career, but few have had a greater impact on me than Aucoin. He’s a 6-foot-7 gentle giant whose heart is even bigger than his physical stature. He has the kind of energy and charisma that lights up a room and fortunately for those of us in the Canadian baseball community, he has gracefully transformed from being a Montreal Expos pitcher into a selfless ambassador for baseball in this country. Most importantly, he has been passionate about sharing the game with children and few in Canada have given more to the sport in recent years. He is currently batting brain cancer and this book will document some of that fight as well as his rise to pitch for his hometown Montreal Expos. I continue to marvel at Derek’s courage and grace and I’m sending my strength to him, his lovely wife Isabelle and their beautiful son, Dawson.
· Canadian Baseball Network alum and current Canadian Press scribe Melissa Couto recently caught up with veteran major league reliever John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.) who didn’t pitch in 2019 after sustaining a stress fracture in his elbow last spring in Toronto Blue Jays camp. Axford told her that he trained at the University of California, Berkeley this spring. He had hopes of attracting the interest of a big league team, but an offer never materialized. He has since returned to his home in Burlington, Ont. “It would be great to keep playing and I’d love to continue playing for another few more years, but I’m also at the point of realizing this may not happen this year because of everything that’s going on, so I have to prepare myself for that. But it’s more about looking at the bigger picture of what’s going on here,” Axford said, speaking of the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read the full article here.
· Below is one of best Canadian baseball history photos I have seen in a long time. This was shared by Expos Fest founder and organizer Perry Giannias. In this photo, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and Montreal Expos legend Jim Fanning (right) and Cooperstowner Don Drysdale, an early broadcaster for the Expos, are surveying the construction at Jarry Park prior to the 1969 season (likely in the winter of 1968).
· Happy 55th Birthday to former Blue Jays outfielder Glenallen Hill! May he not have any nightmares about spiders on his birthday. For those of you who are too young to know the story, when Hill was an up-and-coming outfielder with the Blue Jays in 1990, he reportedly had a nightmare about spiders while he was sleepwalking. And while trying to escape the spiders in his dream, he crashed through a glass table and suffered bruises and cuts on his feet, legs and elbows. The next day he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. This incident overshadowed his solid major league career that saw him belt 186 home runs in 13 seasons.
· Please take a moment to remember former Blue Jays pitcher Cory Lidle who would’ve turn 48 today. He went 12-15 in 31 starts for the Blue Jays in 2003 and pitched parts of nine seasons in the big leagues in total, before was killed when a plane he was co-piloting crashed into a high-rise apartment building in New York City on October 11, 2006.
· This week’s trivia question: What Canadian pitcher did the Blue Jays trade with Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten to acquire Tom Candiotti during the 1991 season? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. The first person with the correct answer will win a five-pack of Larry Walker Expos cards (Sorry, no rookie cards).
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Ted Cox hit two home runs for the Blue Jays in 1981. Who led the Blue Jays in home runs that season?) was John Mayberry who clubbed 17 home runs that campaign.