Find the Canadian Connection – 1986 Fleer Update Mike Heath

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This is the seventh 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 1986 Fleer Update Mike Heath (#U-50).

Selected in the second round of the 1973 MLB draft by the New York Yankees, this Tampa, Fla., native played parts of 14 big league seasons with the Yankees (1978), Oakland A’s (1979-85), St. Louis Cardinals (1986), Detroit Tigers (1986-90) and Atlanta Braves (1991).

In 1,325 major league games, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound catcher batted .252 and recorded 1,061 hits – 86 of which were home runs. The right-handed hitting Heath made his major league debut with the 1978 World Series-winning Yankees and primarily served as the backup catcher to Thurman Munson.

His seven seasons with the A’s represented his longest tenure with one club. A rifle-armed catcher, Heath could also contribute with the bat. His finest campaign with the A’s was 1985 when he hit .250 and clubbed 13 home runs and six triples in 138 contests.

Though the card I pulled for this article showcases Heath with the Cardinals, he suited up for just 65 games with them in 1986 before he was dealt to the Tigers for right-hander Ken Hill (yes, the future Montreal Expos ace) on August 10.

Heath seemed to get a second wind in Motown and helped lead the club to an unlikely American League East title in 1987 when the Tigers swept the Toronto Blue Jays at Tiger Stadium in the season’s final series to advance to the playoffs. That year, Heath set career-highs in batting average (.281), on-base percentage (.339) and slugging percentage (.430).

He would play parts of three more seasons with the Tigers before finishing his career with half a season with the Braves in 1991.

On top of being a strong-armed catcher, Heath played at least one game at every other position except pitcher during his big league career. Tigers manager Sparky Anderson, for one, savoured Heath’s versatility.

“You had a guy who was versatile, but I fit into how Sparky wanted to run things with the Tigers,” Heath told Michigan Live in an interview in 2015. “I loved playing for the Tigers; it was a great time in my life. Sparky was phenomenal. I got to play under Billy Martin (in New York), Bobby Cox (in Atlanta) and Sparky. So I was pretty fortunate because Sparky was the type of manager I needed at that point in my career – he was great to talk to.”

After he hung up his playing spikes, Heath worked as a manager in the Chicago White Sox organization for a year and a half before walking away from the game.

According to this 2015 Michigan Live article, Heath still lives in the Tampa, Fla., area and has developed an interest in motorcycles and spends much of his time travelling the country with his wife on their Harley Davidsons.

I found a few Canadian connections for Heath:

– Heath was a teammate of Vancouver native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dave McKay on the Oakland A’s from 1980 to 1982.

– Heath had his only five-hit, big league game against the Blue Jays at SkyDome on June 12, 1989. All five of his hits were singles. He also had two RBIs. Kelly Gruber countered with five hits for the Blue Jays to help them to a 5-4, 11-inning win.

– His only big league home run in Toronto came on June 29, 1984 at Exhibition Stadium when he walked to the plate for the A’s and belted a solo shot off Blue Jays’ ace Dave Stieb in the fifth inning to tie the game. The A’s eventually won 2-1, handing Stieb another of his many hard-luck losses.

– Heath also hit one home run in Montreal. On April 18, 1986, during his short tenure with the Cardinals, he clubbed a two-run blast off Expos lefty Joe Hesketh in the top of the sixth inning. Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Andre Dawson homered for the Expos in the same contest. The Cardinals won 4-2.

– For his career, Heath went 12-for-33 (.364 batting average) in 11 games at SkyDome. That’s his highest batting at any big league park that he had more than 15 at bats in.

– Heath did not fare well against Canadian pitchers, going a combined 2-for-22. Here is the breakdown: 1-for-5 vs. Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.), 1-for-8 vs. Kirk McCaskill (Kapuskasing, Ont.), 0-for-8 vs. Reggie Cleveland (Swift Current, Sask.) and 0-for-1 vs John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.). All four of these hurlers have been inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame.

 

9 thoughts on “Find the Canadian Connection – 1986 Fleer Update Mike Heath

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    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks, Brent. Hope you are doing well and staying safe these days.

  1. Tom Valcke – Stratford, Ontario – Tom Valcke put his iCASE Baseball Academy as well as his position of Head Coach at George Brown College into hiatus, when Hong Kong brought him there in 2018 to serve as head coach of their Men's Olympic baseball team, where he finished with unprecedented success in the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia, spiking their WBSC World Ranking from #41 to #28 in just one year under his tutelage. China then scooped up Valcke, as he became the GM and Head Coach of Panda Sport and Culture, a division of the China Olympic Federation, overseeing baseball and softball, and training the national team coaches of baseball and softball, men's and women's teams. Panda Sport and Culture is based in Zhongshan, China's nationally recognized "#1 Baseball City," located on the southeast tip of China, and has a climate much like Florida. On his own initiative, he spent his evenings working with the local coaches of Zhongshan's local amateur youth baseball teams. For the first time in history, the same city won all four 2019 China National Championship gold medals, in 18U, 15U, 12U and 10U, that city being Zhongshan! Valcke worked with the China Baseball Association and Major League Baseball in helping the world's largest country accelerate their evolution into baseball, and helped them design and build a professional baseball stadium, a 600-room dormitory, and a new HQ for Panda Sport and Culture, where he held the role of CEO, in charge of a staff of 60. Valcke, former Technical Director, and Executive Director of Baseball Canada, and former coach of Team Canada, remains a baseball analyst with CBC Canada Radio and TV. The former president/CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who spent a decade as the Canadian Supervisor with the Major League Baseball Central Scouting Bureau, served as a television broadcaster for the Montreal Expos, the GM of the Calgary Cannons Triple-A club, and the CEO/Head Coach of the World Children's Baseball Fair. He is the proud father of Alanna, Jaxon and Mia, and lucky husband of Paula since 1987. Jaxon and Mia are current star players and captains, respectively, of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds baseball and softball teams. Mia also became the second female in history to play in World Cups for Team Canada Women's baseball team as well as Team Canada Women's softball team. https://www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/canadian-baseball-network-articles/baseball-nomad-valcke-a-top-amateur-executive http://www.wbsc.org/csta-prestige-awards-honors-tom-valcke/ https://cooperstownersincanada.com/2012/01/23/valcke-recognized-for-global-baseball-efforts/
    Tom Valcke says:

    Very “edutaining,” as always Kevin. Thanks!

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks, Tom. I was thinking of you when I wrote this. Being from Windsor, I imagine you were cheering for the Tigers in ’87?

      1. Tom Valcke – Stratford, Ontario – Tom Valcke put his iCASE Baseball Academy as well as his position of Head Coach at George Brown College into hiatus, when Hong Kong brought him there in 2018 to serve as head coach of their Men's Olympic baseball team, where he finished with unprecedented success in the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta, Indonesia, spiking their WBSC World Ranking from #41 to #28 in just one year under his tutelage. China then scooped up Valcke, as he became the GM and Head Coach of Panda Sport and Culture, a division of the China Olympic Federation, overseeing baseball and softball, and training the national team coaches of baseball and softball, men's and women's teams. Panda Sport and Culture is based in Zhongshan, China's nationally recognized "#1 Baseball City," located on the southeast tip of China, and has a climate much like Florida. On his own initiative, he spent his evenings working with the local coaches of Zhongshan's local amateur youth baseball teams. For the first time in history, the same city won all four 2019 China National Championship gold medals, in 18U, 15U, 12U and 10U, that city being Zhongshan! Valcke worked with the China Baseball Association and Major League Baseball in helping the world's largest country accelerate their evolution into baseball, and helped them design and build a professional baseball stadium, a 600-room dormitory, and a new HQ for Panda Sport and Culture, where he held the role of CEO, in charge of a staff of 60. Valcke, former Technical Director, and Executive Director of Baseball Canada, and former coach of Team Canada, remains a baseball analyst with CBC Canada Radio and TV. The former president/CEO of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, who spent a decade as the Canadian Supervisor with the Major League Baseball Central Scouting Bureau, served as a television broadcaster for the Montreal Expos, the GM of the Calgary Cannons Triple-A club, and the CEO/Head Coach of the World Children's Baseball Fair. He is the proud father of Alanna, Jaxon and Mia, and lucky husband of Paula since 1987. Jaxon and Mia are current star players and captains, respectively, of the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds baseball and softball teams. Mia also became the second female in history to play in World Cups for Team Canada Women's baseball team as well as Team Canada Women's softball team. https://www.canadianbaseballnetwork.com/canadian-baseball-network-articles/baseball-nomad-valcke-a-top-amateur-executive http://www.wbsc.org/csta-prestige-awards-honors-tom-valcke/ https://cooperstownersincanada.com/2012/01/23/valcke-recognized-for-global-baseball-efforts/
        Tom Valcke says:

        Yes Kevin, I was a die-hard, from ’68, through the Dombrowski era. Denny McLain, the 30-game winner, picked me up in Windsor in the early ’90’s, and we drove to the same banquet in Hamilton together. I was the pre-dinner 10-minute speaker, and he was the featured post-dinner 40-minute guy. I told him I threw more pitches as Denny McLain than he did himself. The explanation is too long for this forum … at least today. But it is true!

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      That’s true, Scott. For some reason I have a picture of Heath in an Expos uniform in my head. But he never played with the Expos. My mind clearly works in weird ways. Thanks for your support.

    1. cooperstownersincanada – Kevin Glew is a professional writer based in London, Ontario. His work has been featured on CBC Sports, Sportsnet.ca, MLB.com and Sympatico.ca. He has also written articles for Baseball Digest, Baseball America, The Hockey News, Sports Market Report and the Canadian Baseball Network. He has been involved with the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for more than 16 years, including a two-year stint as the museum's acting curator.
      cooperstownersincanada says:

      Thanks for your support and for reading.

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