This is the eighth 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 1988 Topps Mike Easler (#741).
Selected in the 14th round of the 1969 MLB draft by the Houston Astros, this Cleveland native played parts of 14 big league seasons with the Astros (1973-75), California Angels (1976), Pittsburgh Pirates (1977 to 1983), Boston Red Sox (1984-85), New York Yankees (1986-87) and Philadelphia Phillies (1987).
In 1,151 major league games, the 6-foot, 190-pound outfielder/DH batted .293 and recorded 1,078 hits – 118 of which were home runs. His nickname “Hit Man” was apt because while he was potent with the bat, he was considered a defensive liability and teams struggled to find a position for him early in his career. From 1973 to 1979, he served primarily as a pinch-hitter, most notably with the 1979 “We Are Family” World Series-winning Pirates.
When he finally received semi-regular playing time in 1980 – platooning with Lee Lacy in left field for the Pirates – he excelled, batting .338 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs in just 393 at bats. Easler’s batting average was well above that of Bill Buckner (.324) who captured the National League batting title, but the Bucs outfielder didn’t have enough at bats to qualify.
Easler was a regular in the Pirates lineup for the next three seasons before they traded him to the Boston Red Sox for LHP John Tudor on December 6, 1983. In Boston in 1984, Easler became the Sox primary DH and responded with a career season, batting .313 (sixth in the AL), while rapping out 188 hits (fifth in AL) – including 27 home runs, 31 doubles and five triples. His 310 total bases also ranked fifth in the league.
After his production dipped in 1985, Easler was dealt to the New York Yankees for Don Baylor just prior to the beginning of the 1986 campaign. With the Bombers, he would bat .302 and club 14 home runs in 146 games for the Yankees in 1986.
He split his final big league season between the Phillies and Yankees in 1987 prior to suiting up for two seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters of the Japan Pacific League.
After hanging up his playing spikes, he became a respected hitting coach. His resume includes big league tenures with the Milwaukee Brewers (1992), Red Sox (1993), St. Louis Cardinals (1999 to 2001) and Los Angeles Dodgers (2008).
According to his SABR bio, as of 2015, he was living in Las Vegas and has been ordained as a Baptist minister.
I found several Canadian connections for Easler:
– By my count, Easler had three Canadian teammates during his career. He competed alongside RHP Ken Crosby (New Denver, B.C.) when he was with the triple-A Tulsa Drillers in the St. Louis Cardinals organization in 1975. He later played with RHP Dave Pagan (Nipawin, Sask.) with the Pirates’ triple-A Columbus Clippers in 1977 and 1978 and with Doug Frobel (Ottawa, Ont.) with the big league Bucs in 1982 and 1983.
– Easler loved to hit at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium. His .371 batting average in 19 games there was, by far, his highest batting average at any major league park. In those 19 contests, he had 26 hits – including three home runs and three doubles – and had a .543 slugging percentage.
– Overall, he posted a .356/.407/.600 slash line in 40 games against the Blue Jays. That batting average and slugging percentage were his highest against any big league team.
– He also hit well against the Montreal Expos. In 80 games versus the Expos, he batted .307 with nine home runs. In 37 contests at Olympic Stadium, he hit .296 and clubbed five home runs and had 10 doubles.
– His first of four, two-home run games in his big league career came at Olympic Stadium while he was with the Pirates on April 22, 1980. He belted a three-run home run off Expos RHP Scott Sanderson in the first inning and added a solo shot in the fifth. The Pirates won the game 5-3.
– Easler had one, two-triple game during his major league career and it came against the Expos at Three Rivers Stadium on October 1, 1981. His triples came in the fourth and eighth innings off Expos RHP Ray Burris. The Expos still won the game 5-2.
– He had just one at bat at Jarry Park. His sole plate appearance there was on May 28, 1974 while he was a member of the Astros. He pinch hit for pitcher Mike Cosgrove in the eighth inning and struck out in the Astros’ 8-4 victory.
– Thank you to Kooky Canuck on Twitter for pointing out that Easler was Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp’s hitting coach on the 2001 Cardinals. And thank you to Stubby Clapp himself for sharing that Dave McKay (Vancouver, B.C.) was on that Cards’ coaching staff with Easler.