My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
· I was sorry to learn that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jack Graney’s daughter Margot (Graney) Mudd passed away in Plantation, Fla., on Friday at the age of 98 after a battle with influenza. I had the privilege of speaking to Margot about her father, who was a speedy outfielder and later a broadcaster with the Cleveland Indians during the first half of the 20th century, on multiple occasions. I met her in person when Graney’s name was added to the St. Thomas, Ont., Wall of Fame at a ceremony in 2014. My condolences to her daughter Perry Smith and her family.
· Canadian left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) told Sportsnet 590 The Fan on Monday that he’s “feeling really good” about his recovery from the back surgery he underwent in early February. He says he’s aiming to throw a bullpen this week. Paxton is likely the Canadian pitcher who’s benefiting the most from the delayed start to the season. The initial prognosis after his surgery was that he would miss three to four months. So if the season were to start in June (that’s unlikely), there’s now a possibility that Paxton could be ready for Opening Day. The procedure that Paxton underwent was a microscopic lumbar discectomy which included the removal of a peridiscal cyst. The Canuck southpaw, who has pitched in parts of seven major league seasons, is coming off a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019.
· Twenty-three years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and 2020 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) socked three home runs for the Colorado Rockies against the Montreal Expos at Olympic Stadium to lead his club to a 15-3 win. It was the first of three, three-home run games Walker would have in his career. You can watch footage of Walker’s first three-home run performance in the video below.
· I’m enjoying watching MLB’s 20 Greatest Games on the MLB Network. Earlier this week, I watched a good portion of Game 6 of the 1986 National League Championship Series between the New York Mets and Houston Astros at the Astrodome. It was a tremendous game that the Mets eventually won 7-6 in 16 innings. But I found myself focused on trying to spot Canadian Terry Puhl on the Astros’ bench. The Melville, Sask., native and 1995 Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee eventually emerged to pinch-hit for reliever Dave Smith in the bottom of the 10th inning. He grounded out to pitcher Roger McDowell. That was the only out Puhl made in that series. He had singled in his two previous pinch-hit at bats.
· It was 48 years ago today that the Montreal Expos traded Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Staub to the New York Mets for Ken Singleton, Tim Foli and Mike Jorgensen. Staub, who had been the Expos’ first superstar, went on to enjoy four decent seasons for the Mets, including registering 105 RBIs for them in 1975. But the Expos also fared well in this deal. Singleton had three strong seasons with the Expos. In 1973, he topped the National League with a .425 on-base percentage (OBP). Foli would be the Expos’ starting shortstop for six seasons, and though he was primarily known for his glove, he also became the first Expo to hit for the cycle when he accomplished the feat on April 21, 1976. Jorgensen also stayed with the Expos for parts of six seasons and posted career-highs in batting average (.310) and OBP (.444) in 1974.
· Here’s a great trivia question for you: What Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee had the last hit for the Pittsburgh Pirates at Exposition Field in 1909 and the first hit in the team’s new stadium, Forbes Field, that same year? The answer is George “Mooney” Gibson (London, Ont.). This is one of many of Gibson’s accomplishments that are documented in the excellent new book, George “Mooney” Gibson – Canadian Catcher for the Deadball Era Pirates, by Richard C. Armstrong and Martin Healy Jr. You can read my review of the book here.
· It seems like we have been inundated with bad news during the COVID-19 epidemic, so I’ve been trying to post an uplifting baseball photo every day on social media. This one of Roberto Clemente signing autographs for Expos fans at Jarry Park that was taken by Denis Brodeur is my personal favourite.
· In case you haven’t already discovered it, Alberta Dugout Stories is an excellent website that offers comprehensive information about baseball in the province and professional players that have played in it. The site also has a regular feature where they shine the spotlight on an old minor league team set of baseball cards. This week they highlighted cards from the 1989 triple-A Calgary Cannons. Among the players in this set are Omar Vizquel and Jay Buhner. I’m not sure what’s going on with the Buhner card (below). But it looks like the slugger and Frank Costanza’s favourite player at one point aspired to be a left-handed pitcher.
· Rest in peace to former big league reliever and beloved Chicago White Sox broadcaster Ed Farmer who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 70. He had been battling polycystic kidney disease for many years. He pitched parts of 11 major league seasons, but before becoming a broadcaster, he served as a scout with the Baltimore Orioles from 1988 to 1990. During that time, he witnessed Junior Felix burst on to the scene with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1989 and he quipped. “If he’s Junior Felix, I’d love to see Senior Felix.”
· This week’s trivia question: This Canadian was the first batter that Babe Ruth, who began his career as a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox, ever faced in a major league game. Can you name him? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. Please note: I’m going to hold off awarding prizes until after the COVID-19 epidemic. Hope you understand.
· The answer to last week’s trivia question (Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.) played with Jimmy Wynn on the Houston Astros. Who is the other Canadian pitcher and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee that was a teammate of Wynn’s on the Astros?) was Ron Taylor (Toronto, Ont.).