By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– No Canadian major leaguer has benefited more from the delay to the start of the 2020 MLB season than left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.). The 2018 Tip O’Neill Award winner and New York Yankees southpaw told Yankees beat writer Bryan Hoch that he “tinkered with his arm angle” on Friday when he tossed 66 pitches from an indoor mound. Paxton had felt like his arm angle was “slightly low” in his previous sessions in summer camp with the Yankees. The Canuck lefty has almost fully recovered from the back surgery he underwent in early February. The initial prognosis after the surgery was that he would miss three-to-four months. The procedure that Paxton underwent was a microscopic lumbar discectomy which included the removal of a peridiscal cyst. Paxton, who has pitched in parts of seven major league seasons, is coming off a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019. He expects to start in two intrasquad games before the season begins.
– Forty-three years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) made his big league debut for the Houston Astros. Puhl came in as a defensive replacement for left fielder Jim Fuller in the eighth inning in the Astros’ 8-0 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Astrodome. Though he did not get an at bat in that game, Puhl would impress the Astros at the plate the rest of the season, hitting .301 with a .385 on-base percentage in 60 games. That performance earned him a starting outfield job the next season and he was named to the National League All-Star team when he batted .289 and stole 32 bases. He topped that the following campaign, when he recorded a career-high 172 hits and played 157 games in the outfield without making an error. In all, he hit .281 with 1,357 hits in parts of 14 seasons with the Astros, before he suited up for his final campaign with the Kansas City Royals in 1991. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., in 1995.
– Toronto Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters, including Blue Jays beat writer Keegan Matheson, that he has been impressed by Canadian right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) so far at the club’s summer camp. Montoyo said that if Romano keeps up his velocity (97-98 mph) that the Canuck will be in the competition for a spot in the back end of the Blue Jays’ bullpen. The former Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team hurler made his major league debut in 2019 and was one of the most impressive relievers in Blue Jays’ camp this spring. The 6-foot-4 right-hander struck out six batters in five scoreless innings in Grapefruit League action.
– I’m always up for a good George Selkirk joke. Selkirk is, of course, the Huntsville, Ont., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee that replaced Babe Ruth in right field for the New York Yankees in 1934. I was doing some research this week when I stumbled upon a joke that Yankees left-hander Lefty Gomez told at a banquet in December 1969. “When my boy was five years old, his hero was George Selkirk, who took Ruth’s place,” Gomez told the crowd. “My boy liked to be called George, too. One night the kid wet the bed. My wife said he wasn’t acting like Selkirk doing a thing like that. So he says, ‘Maybe you’d better called me ‘Pee Wee” as in Pee Wee Reese.”
– Here’s a Fergie Jenkins tidbit, courtesy of the always interesting baseball analyst, statistician and writer Ryan Spaeder, that illustrates just how good the Canadian baseball legend’s control was in his 1971 National League Cy Young Award winning season.
– I knew former Blue Jays left-hander Paul Spoljaric (Kelowna, B.C.) was an excellent pitcher in the Intercounty Baseball League following his major league career, but I didn’t know he had been this dominant (see graphic).
– Twenty-six years ago today, Montreal Expos outfielder Moises Alou hit a walk-off double off Chicago White Sox right-hander Jason Bere that scored Tony Gwynn in the bottom of the 10th inning to give the National League an 8-7 win over the American League in the All-Star game at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. You can watch it below. Expos outfielder Marquis Grissom also hit a home run off Randy Johnson in the sixth inning in this contest.
– I’m not a Roger Clemens fan by any stretch, but I couldn’t help but marvel at his performance 23 years ago today when in his first start at Fenway Park since leaving the Boston Red Sox and signing with the Blue Jays, he struck out 16 batters in eight innings and seemed to glare up at Dan Duquette, who had declined to sign him after the 1996 season, in the Red Sox GM suite throughout the game. For the record, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) got a hold for the Blue Jays in that contest, while Spoljaric recorded the save. You can watch footage of the game below.
– Please take a moment to remember Ron Fairly who would’ve turn 82 today. He passed away in October. Fairly was the first player to play for both Canadian major league teams (the Expos (1969 to 1974) and Blue Jays (1977)) and he is the only player to represent both the Expos (1973) and the Blue Jays (1977) in the All-Star Game.
– This week’s trivia question: Who is the only player to have 100 RBI seasons with both the Blue Jays and Expos? Please provide your answer in the “Comments” section below. Please note: I’m going to hold off awarding prizes until after the COVID-19 pandemic. Hope you understand.
– The answer to last week’s trivia question (Who is the only Expos player to hit three home runs in a game for them more than once? ) was Larry Parrish.