This is the sixth of my “Find the Canadian Connection” features. 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.
You can read all of the “Find the Canadian Connection” features here.
The card I pulled this time is a 1976 Topps Bill Stein (#131).
Selected in the fourth round of the 1969 MLB draft by the St. Louis Cardinals, this Battle Creek, Mich., native played parts of 14 big league seasons with the Cardinals (1972-73), Chicago White Sox (1974-76), Seattle Mariners (1977-80) and Texas Rangers (1981-85).
In 959 major league games, the 5-foot-10, 170-pound infielder/pinch-hitter batted .267 and recorded 751 hits – 44 of which were home runs. The right-handed hitting Stein made his major league debut with the Cardinals against the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium on September 6, 1972 and hit a ninth inning home run off left-hander Ken Reynolds in the Cards’ 3-2 loss to the Phils.
He saw his most action in a big league season with the Mariners in 1977 after he was the club’s third pick in the expansion draft the previous November. In 151 games with the M’s in 1977, Stein served as the team’s primary starting third baseman and belted 13 home runs and drove in 67. He also led AL third basemen in putouts with 146.
But Stein is best remembered as one of the American League’s top pinch-hitters of the early 80s. In 1981, he set a major league record by recording hits in seven consecutive pinch-hit at bats with the Rangers. The modest Stein, who expected to be used as a utility infielder that season, was surprised at his success.
“I didn’t feel they would use me for a pinch-hitter since they had John Ellis, but I got that first one early in the year and they just kept sending me up there,” Stein told reporters after he set the pinch-hit record on May 25, 1981. “It is an amazing streak. In fact, I was amazed after the third one. I was never a very good pinch-hitter. That just shows you how crazy this game can be.”
Stein completed that campaign with a .330 batting average in 53 games.
Two years later, again primarily in a bench role with the Rangers, he hit .310 and had two home runs and 33 RBIs in 78 games.
Following his playing career, he became a manager in the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants organizations between 1988 and 1992. In 1993, he served as the batting coach for the double-A Shreveport Captains.
In more recent years, he settled in Palm Coast, Fla., where he has played softball in the Flagler County Senior Softball League.
I found some interesting Canadian connections for Stein:
– Stein was a teammate of St. Louis Cardinals right-hander and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) in the minors (triple-A Tulsa, 1969) and with the big league Cards (1972-73).
– In the November 1976 MLB expansion draft, held to build the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners rosters, the Mariners selected Stein with their third pick and then 12 picks later they chose Canadian right-hander Dave Pagan (Nipawin, Sask.). Stein and Pagan would be teammates on the 1977 M’s squad. As noted earlier, Stein was their starting third baseman, while Pagan posted a 1-1 record with a 6.14 ERA in 24 appearances – including four starts.
– In 1981, Stein was a Rangers teammate of Canadian baseball legend Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.). While Stein was excelling as a pinch-hitter with the Rangers, the then 38-year-old Jenkins was enduring his worst big league campaign, going 5-8 with a 4.50 ERA in 19 appearances. Outfielder Rick Lisi, who was born in Halifax, N.S., also appeared in nine games for the Rangers that season and went 5-for-16 (.313). (Author’s Note: Thank you to Michael Murray for reminding me about Lisi.).
– Stein hit 44 major league home runs, but only one was clubbed north of the border. That round-tripper was a two-run shot in the top of the sixth inning off Blue Jays hurler Tom Buskey on May 14, 1980 in front of 13,055 fans at Exhibition Stadium. The Mariners won the game 7-0.
– Stein had six, four-hit games during his big league career – the last of which came when he was with the Mariners playing against the Blue Jays at Exhibition Stadium on July 26, 1980 in the second game of a doubleheader. Stein batted second and played second base in that contest and went 4-for-5 with two runs, a double and an RBI. The Blue Jays won 7-5.
– As far as I can tell, Stein faced three Canadian pitchers during his career. He went 4-for-20 with a double, an RBI and five strikeouts against Jenkins. He was 2-for-13 with a double, a walk and two strikeouts against Cleveland and he went 3-for-11 (all singles) with an RBI against longtime Detroit Tigers reliever John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.).