This is the fifth in my “Find the Canadian Connection” feature. For this feature, I close my eyes and reach into a random box of baseball cards in my basement and pull out a single card. I then try to establish a Canadian connection for the player featured on the card.
The card I pulled this time is a 1990 Topps Walt Weiss (#165).
Selected in the first round (11th overall) of the 1985 MLB draft by the Oakland A’s, this Tuxedo, N.Y. native played parts of 14 big league seasons with the A’s (1987-92), Florida Marlins (1993), Colorado Rockies (1994-97) and Atlanta Braves (1998 to 2000).
In 1,495 major league games, the 6-foot, 175-pound infielder batted .258, posted a .351 on-base percentage (OBP) and recorded 1,207 hits – 25 of which were home runs. The switch-hitting Weiss was named American League Rookie of the Year in 1988 and was the starting shortstop on the 1989 World Series-winning A’s, as well as on the 1988 and 1990 American League pennant-winning squads.
Weiss was a sure-handed shortstop, but despite a strong 10.3 career dWAR, he never won a Gold Glove. His insistence on using the same smelly, worn-out glove for most of his big league career garnered it the nickname “The Creature.”
As he matured, Weiss became a much better hitter and he registered a career-best .403 OBP with the Rockies in 1995 and was selected to the National League All-Star team while he was with the Braves in 1998.
The fundamentally sound infielder played in the post-season eight different times during his career, but was only part of one World Series-winning squad (1989 A’s). Still, Weiss was perceived as a winner and a strong leader, so it was of little surprise that he became a big league manager following his playing career.
He would manage the Rockies for four seasons from 2013 to 2016, posting a combined 283-365 record before he stepped down after the 2016 campaign. He has served as the bench coach of the Atlanta Braves since 2018.
I found some interesting Canadian connections for Weiss:
– In 1992, Weiss was an A’s teammate of Canadian left-hander Vince Horsman (Halifax, N.S.). With Weiss behind him at shortstop, Horsman recorded a career-best 2.49 ERA in 58 relief appearances that season.
– The A’s traded Weiss to the Marlins after the 1992 campaign and in 1993, Weiss served as the Marlins’ starting shortstop. One of his teammates that year was Canadian outfielder Nigel Wilson (Ajax, Ont.) who was the Marlins’ first selection (second overall) in the 1992 MLB expansion draft. Wilson had been signed as an amateur free agent by the Blue Jays in 1988 and he was 22 and coming off a 26-home run season with the Blue Jays’ double-A affiliate in Knoxville when the Marlins plucked him away from the Jays. Wilson spent the bulk of 1993 with the Marlins’ triple-A Edmonton Trappers, but managed to make his big league debut and play seven games with the major league club.
– From 1995 to 1997, Weiss was a teammate of Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and 2020 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.). Weiss was the Rockies’ shortstop when Walker put together his 1997 National League MVP winning season. That campaign, Walker batted .366 to capture the NL batting crown and belted 49 home runs and stole 33 bases.
– Weiss hit one of his 25 big league home runs off Canadian Jason Dickson (Miramichi, N.B.). It was a solo home run against Dickson in the top of the third inning of a Rockies’ 7-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Anaheim Stadium on September 2, 1997. In total, Weiss went 3-for-3 off Dickson that game – adding a double and a single. He would collect another single off right-hander Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the sixth inning to complete a perfect 4-for-4 day.
– Aside from his success against Dickson, Weiss struggled against Canadian pitchers during his big league career, he was just 4-for-22 (.182 batting average) against Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Kirk McCaskill (Kapuskasing, Ont.). And he only had one hit each off three other Canadian Baseball Hall of Famers – Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.) 1-for-14, Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) 1-for-9 and Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) 1-for-6. He was also 0-for-5 against Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.).
– As the dugout boss of the Rockies from 2013 to 2016, Weiss managed three Canadians: Jeff Francis (North Delta, B.C.), 2013; Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.), 2014-15 and John Axford (Port Dover, Ont.), 2015. Morneau batted .319 and won a National League batting title in 2014 with Weiss as his manager and with that, two Canadians – Walker and Morneau – had won NL batting titles with the Rockies and in both seasons, Weiss had a significant role with the club.