By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
It was a quiet summer night about two years ago when I was perusing Twitter and stumbled upon a tweet from legendary left-hander Jim Kaat.
Kaat had written that nobody could say they “owned” Tom Seaver except for former Montreal Expo and Toronto Blue Jay Tommy Hutton, who went 16-for-50 (.320 batting average) with three home runs against the Hall of Fame right-hander.
I have great respect for Kaat, both as a pitcher (283 major league wins!) and as a broadcaster, but as a Canadian baseball history buff, I felt compelled to tell him he was wrong.
So I summoned up the courage to respond, and politely tweeted to him that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Melville, Sask., native Terry Puhl went 20-for-45 (.444 batting average) against Seaver. That’s the highest batting average of any player with at least 20 at bats against Seaver.
“Kudos to Terry,” Kaat responded. “Faced him a few times. Tough out. Used the whole field. Practically unheard of today!”
Puhl’s success against Seaver is the subject of this “Two Tidbits about Terry Puhl” blog entry – the second in my ongoing series. You can read the first entry here.
When I was a kid, I collected all of Puhl’s baseball cards and savoured any information I could get about him starring with the Houston Astros in the pre-Internet and pre-MLB Network days. My fear, however, is that, with the number of Canadian hitters that have excelled in the big leagues in the past 20 years, Puhl’s accomplishments are being forgotten. So with this in mind I’ve introduced this blog feature.
You can read a general bio about Puhl here.
Now let’s get to this week’s “two tidbits” about Puhl:
– For many years, it was a Major League Baseball tradition for the first game on Opening Day to be played in Cincinnati and that was the case on April 6, 1978 when the visiting Houston Astros took on the Reds at Riverfront Stadium. The first player to walk to the plate that day was Puhl, who was starting in left field for the Astros. Facing Seaver, Puhl belted the third pitch he saw from the Reds’ ace over the right field wall for his first major league home run. Puhl added a single off Reds reliever Pedro Borbon in the fifth inning to finish the day 2-for-4 with two runs. Seaver lasted only three innings, but the Reds rallied to win the game 11-9.
– As noted earlier, Puhl’s .444 batting average (20-for-45) is the highest batting average of any major league player with at least 20 at bats against Seaver. Among Puhl’s 20 hits off “Tom Terrific” were three doubles and two home runs. Against Seaver, Puhl had one, three-hit game (May 8, 1981) and four, two-hit games (June 26, 1978; September 5, 1978; July 5, 1979 and September 21, 1979). And in case you were wondering (like I was), three-time all-star Rick Reuschel is the pitcher Puhl had his most hits (28) off of. The Melville, Sask., native also fared well against two other Hall of Famers (aside from Seaver). He went 23-for-62 (.371 batting average) with three home runs against knuckleballer Phil Niekro and 15-for-39 (.385 batting average) with seven doubles, a triple and a home run against Don Sutton.