By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– It was 31 years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and 2020 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) made his major league debut. Batting sixth and playing right field for the Montreal Expos, Walker went 1-for-1 with two runs and three walks against the San Francisco Giants at Olympic Stadium. “Will Clark was the Giants first baseman, and after I had walked those first two times, he came over to me and said, ‘Geez, we’re pitching you like your Babe Ruth,’” Walker told author Josh Lewin for his book, You Never Forget Your First. “I didn’t know what to say to that, so I just kind of smiled.” Walker’s first big league hit was a single off Mike Lacoss in the bottom of the seventh inning. The Expos won 4-2. For a more detailed blog entry about Walker’s first game, click here.
– He almost did it. Canadian right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) nearly pitched the equivalent of a no-hitter – nine full innings across nine appearances – without allowing hit. He had thrown 8 2/3 innings of hitless ball until Miami Marlins’ catcher Francisco Cervelli singled off him with two outs in the ninth inning of the Blue Jays’ 14-11 loss at Sahlen Field in Buffalo on Wednesday. According to the Blue Jays, Romano set franchise records for most innings (8 2/3) and most batters faced (29) to open a season without allowing a hit. Romano has still not allowed a run this season. And after the club’s interim closer Anthony Bass coughed up a three-run lead in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s game against the Marlins, Romano will now likely be moved to the closer’s role. According to Baseball Savant, Romano’s fastball has been averaging 96.6 mph, but it’s his newly refined slider that has been his biggest weapon. He’s now throwing this pitch 60.8 per cent of the time.
– Ontario Terriers and Junior National Team alum Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) had quietly done a solid job as the long man out of the San Diego Padres’ bullpen this season before he started and allowed one run in 3 2/3 innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday. The 2016 first-rounder is now 2-0 with a 2.92 ERA in four appearances, spanning 12 1/3 innings, this season. In his rookie big league campaign in 2019, he went 6-8 with a 5.16 ERA in 23 appearances, 18 of them starts, for the Padres.
– It’s the 44th anniversary of one of the most important days in Blue Jays’ history. It was on this date in 1976 that Pat Gillick left his position as coordinator of player development with the New York Yankees to become the Blue Jays’ vice-president of player personnel. In his 18 years in Toronto, Gillick transformed an expansion club into World Champions. With Gillick as GM, the Blue Jays recorded 11 consecutive winning seasons (1983 to 1993), captured five division titles (1985, 1989, 1991-93) and won two World Championships (1992, 1993). For his efforts, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997 and became the sixth member of the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence in 2002. Since his departure from the Blue Jays, Gillick has led three more franchises to post-season appearances: Baltimore (1996-97), Seattle (2000-01) and Philadelphia (2007-08). He’s the only GM in major league history to guide four different clubs to the playoffs. When the Phillies won the Fall Classic in 2008, Gillick added a third championship to his resume. On July 24, 2011 he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
– A big thank you to longtime Montreal Expos photographer and baseball historian Russ Hansen for sharing this 1985 CTV News Atlantic story (below) about Ted Williams at a baseball clinic in St. John’s, Newfoundland on his Facebook feed. The Boston Red Sox legend, baseball’s last player to hit .400 in a season, spent many summers following his retirement fishing on the Miramichi River in New Brunswick. Click on the video below and watch the outspoken Williams talk about hitting. It’s well worth the four minutes.
– Thirty three years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tim Raines hit for the cycle when he went 5-for-5 to lead the Montreal Expos club to a 10-7 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Olympic Stadium. Raines, who also scored four runs on the day, tripled in the first, doubled in third and seventh and singled in the fifth, before he belted a home run to complete the cycle in the bottom of the eighth.
– Happy Birthday to Raines’ former Expos manager Buck Rodgers who turns 82 today. After nine seasons as a catcher with the Angels from 1961 to 1969, Rodgers would manage the Milwaukee Brewers for parts of three season from 1980 to 1982 prior to becoming the dugout boss of the Expos from 1985 to 1991. During that time, he helped the team record 520 wins, which is the second-most by an Expos manager. His best season with the club came in 1987 when he led the Expos to a 91-71 record. After being let go by the Expos, Rodgers returned to the Angels where he managed their big league club from 1991 to 1994.
– It was 31 years ago today that left-hander Tom Drees pitched his third no-hitter of the season for the Chicago White Sox triple-A Vancouver Canadians in a 5-0 win over the Las Vegas Stars. Earlier in the season, Drees had hurled no-hitters in back-to-back starts against the Calgary Cannons (May 23) and the Edmonton Trappers (May 28). Despite tossing three no-hitters and finishing the season with a 12-11 record and a 3.37 ERA in 26 starts for the Canadians, Drees was not called up by the White Sox that September. He wouldn’t make his big league debut until 1991 when he made four relief appearances with the White Sox.
– Thirty-six years ago today, the Expos traded Pete Rose back to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for Tom Lawless. After signing a one-year contract with the Expos, Rose batted .259 in 95 games for the club. One career milestone that Rose achieved as an Expo was his 4,000th hit, which he recorded when he doubled down the right field line at Olympic Stadium off Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Jerry Koosman in the fourth inning of a game on April 13, 1984.
– Tom Valcke, a longtime scout, coach and baseball executive in Canada, recently shared a story with me via email that proves that a little baseball magic can sometimes be found in the most unlikely places. “It was my wife Paula’s birthday on August 4th and she can’t have a better day than walking the cobblestone in Toronto’s Distillery District. While in an eclectic, artsy shop called GW General, where we wound up purchasing a coffee table, among some boxes of vinyl LP’s, I found a May 20, 1971 “Sport” Magazine, plunked myself in a chair, and had a pleasant visit with yesteryear. It was cool to re-live Fergie Jenkins’ best-of-times, even though Bob Gibson got the nod to start the All-Star Game, and countless other nuggets. I also immensely enjoyed reading an article entitled “Too Good To Be Noticed,” that outlined the incredible talent of Don Kessinger, written by no other than Canadian ball hall inductee Harry Simmons. Not only did Simmons have a computer quadrant in his brain well ahead of his time, but his talent for writing was seemingly ‘undershadowed.’ His opening paragraph would have caught anybody’s attention: “Don Kessinger is so efficient it’s easy not to notice him. He does everything in a smooth, gliding fashion. Don is almost colorless. If anything he’s gray in tone. But it’s a steel gray. It’s tough and it holds together.”
– This week’s trivia question: Five other Expos players, other than the aforementioned Raines, hit for the cycle while with the club. Can you name another Expos player that hit for the cycle while with the club? 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 (Jeff Zimmerman (Kelowna, B.C.) was selected to participate in the major league All-Star Game in his rookie season. In the past 25 years, two other Canadian pitchers have been chosen to participate for either the American League or National League in the All-Star Game in their rookie seasons. Can you name one of them? ) was either Jason Dickson (American League in 1997) or Mike Soroka (National League in 2019).