By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) pitched a scoreless inning in relief on Friday and picked up his first major league win in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. With the win, Romano also becomes the first Canadian pitcher to record a win for the Blue Jays on Opening Day. With his fastball now regularly clocking in the high 90s, Romano has incorporated an excellent slider into his mix. The former Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team hurler, who made his big league debut last season, figures to be an important member of the Blue Jays’ bullpen this season.
– Calgary native Mike Soroka scattered four hits in his six scoreless innings in his Opening Day start for the Atlanta Braves against the New York Mets at Citi Field on Friday. Pitching against reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, the 22-year-old Canadian got a tough luck no-decision in the Mets’ 1-0 win. Baseball Canada’s Adam Morissette noted last week that Soroka joined a select group of Canadian pitchers who have made Opening Day starts for major league clubs. That list, which spanned back to 1967, included Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) for the Chicago Cubs (1967, 1969-73, 1983) and Texas Rangers (1975, 1979), Ryan Dempster (Gibsons, B.C.) for the Florida Marlins (2001-02) and Cubs (2011-12) and Érik Bédard (Navan, Ont.) for the Baltimore Orioles (2007) and Seattle Mariners (2008). Prior to 1950, Phil Marchildon (Penetanguishene, Ont.) made three Opening Day starts (1942, 1947-48) for the Philadelphia A’s, while fellow Canuck Dick Fowler (Toronto, Ont.) got the ball for the A’s in their first game in 1949.
– Two Canadians homered for their respective clubs on Opening Day: Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) socked a solo shot for the Cincinnati Reds in the fifth inning off left-hander Matt Boyd to help the Reds to a 7-1 win over the Detroit Tigers at The Great American Ballpark on Friday. Later that night, Tyler O’Neill (Maple Ridge, B.C.) belted a solo home run off right-hander Joe Musgrove in the third inning for the St. Louis Cardinals in their 5-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium. Votto hit another solo home run yesterday for the Reds in their 6-4 loss to the Tigers.
– It’s been called the game that put the Canadian Senior National Team on the map. It was 21 years ago today, that the Canadian Senior National Team upset the U.S. 7-6 in 11 innings in a preliminary round contest in the Pan Am Games played at CanWest Global Park in Winnipeg in front of a boisterous, capacity crowd. Trailing 6-3 heading into the bottom of the 11th, Canadian catcher Andy Stewart (Oshawa, Ont.) stepped up to the plate with two outs and belted a dramatic, three-run home run to tie it. Three batters later, with the bases loaded, Canada secured the victory when Stubby Clapp (Windsor, Ont.) hit a fly ball into left that dropped between U.S. shortstop Travis Dawkins and left fielder Shawn Gilbert to give Canada a walk-off victory. Canada finished the preliminary round 4-0, but lost a 3-2 nail-biter to Cuba in the semi-finals and ended up with a bronze medal. But that team made a huge statement for Canada on the international stage and showed our country could be force on the diamond too. You can watch Clapp’s game-winning hit in the video below.
– It was eight years ago today that Okotoks Dawgs alum Jim Henderson (Calgary, Alta.) made his major league debut when he hurled a 1-2-3 sixth inning for the Milwaukee Brewers in their 8-2 loss to the Washington Nationals at Miller Park. The 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out Roger Bernadina, the first batter he faced, for his first major league K. Henderson proceeded to post a 3.52 ERA in 36 games down the stretch for the Brewers that season, before recording 28 saves and becoming the club’s closer in 2013. He finished his MLB career by registering a 4.11 ERA in 44 appearances for the New York Mets in 2016.
– Happy 83rd Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Pete Ward! Son of Montreal Maroons hockey star, Jimmy Ward, Pete was born in Montreal, before moving to Portland, Oregon when he was eight years old. In 1958, the Baltimore Orioles signed him and he toiled in Vancouver during his first professional season. After five seasons in the minors, he made his big league debut with the Orioles on September 21, 1962. In his first at bat, he hit a two-run single against the Minnesota Twins. During that off-season, Ward was traded to the Chicago White Sox in a blockbuster deal that would bring Luis Aparicio to Baltimore. In his inaugural campaign in the Windy City, Ward was transformed into a third baseman. In 157 games that season, he hit .295, socked 22 home runs and finished second in the American League to Carl Yastrzemski in hits. He was named The Sporting News American League Rookie of the Year for his efforts. For an encore, he would belt 23 homers, knock in a career-best 94 runs and finish sixth in the American League MVP voting in 1964. Unfortunately, he suffered a neck injury in a car accident in 1965 that would hamper him for the rest of his career. He played his final season with the New York Yankees in 1970. After retiring as a player, he managed for eight seasons in the minors with the Yankees, White Sox and Pirates. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.
– Twenty years ago today the Toronto Blue Jays reacquired Canadian outfielder Rob Ducey (Cambridge, Ont.) from the Philadelphia Phillies for a player to be named later (which turned out to be left-hander John Sneed). Ducey only had 13 at bats in five games with the Blue Jays in his second stint with the club prior to being traded back to the Phillies for second baseman Mickey Moradini. Ducey had previously suited up for the Blue Jays for parts of six major league seasons from 1987 to 1992.
– Please take a moment to remember former big leaguer and Quebec baseball legend Roland Gladu who passed away 26 years ago today at the age of 83. The Montreal native enjoyed a 23-year playing career in the pro, semi-pro and foreign professional baseball ranks. In 1944, he got his only taste of big league action when he batted .242 with a home run and seven RBIs in 21 games for the Boston Braves. The following year, he suited for his hometown Montreal Royals and enjoyed an outstanding season, batting .338 with 12 home runs, 45 doubles, 14 triples and 105 RBIs. Towards the end of his playing career, he also served as a player/manager and later became a scout for the Cleveland Indians (1953) and Milwaukee Braves (1954 to 1964). As a Braves scout, he signed Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductees Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.) and Ron Piche (Verdun, Que.).
– Seven years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jason Bay (Trail, B.C.) played his final major league game. Batting leadoff (yes, leadoff!!!) and playing right field for the Seattle Mariners, he went 0-for-3 against the Minnesota Twins. The starting pitcher for the Twins that day was Scott Diamond (Guelph, Ont.). The Canuck lefty allowed just one run in 6-2/3 innings, but settled for a no-decision. Justin Morneau (New Westminster, B.C.) batted third and played first base and went 0-for-6 for the Twins, who eventually won the game 3-2 in 13 innings.
– Twenty nine years ago today, Montreal Expos right-hander Mark Gardner pitched nine no-hit innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium before Lenny Harris legged out an infield hit for the Dodgers in the 10th. Eddie Murray followed with another single before Gardner was lifted and left-hander Jeff Fassero was brought in to face Dodgers outfielder Darryl Strawberry. Strawberry promptly hit a walk-off single to left field that scored Harris and the Dodgers won 1-0. It was just the 11th time in major league history that a pitcher had lost a no-hitter in extra innings.
– This week’s trivia question: Who has the most major league home runs by a player BORN in the province of Quebec? 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 (Former Expos and Blue Jays switch-hitting first baseman David Segui turned 54 last Sunday. By my count there are four other switch-hitters that have played for both the Blue Jays and Expos. Can you name one of them? ) was any one of Mitch Webster, Maicer Izturis, Otis Nixon or Orlando Merced. My readers also pointed out that former pitchers Mickey Mahler and Tomo Ohka were also switch-hitters that played for both clubs.