By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Canadian Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) appears to have found his batting stroke again. Hitting leadoff for the Cincinnati Reds, the Canuck slugger is 8-for-24 (.333 batting average) in his last seven games. Three of those hits have been home runs. After an 0-for-18 slump that lasted from August 21 to August 25, Votto’s batting average had dipped to .191. He sat out three games after that, but since returning, his batting average has climbed 44 points.
– In case you missed it, 1B/OF Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) and RHP Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) were dealt to the Cleveland Indians by the San Diego Padres on Monday prior to the trade deadline as part of a package for RHP Mike Clevinger. The move unites Naylor with his younger brother Bo, a catcher and a first-round pick of the Indians in 2018, who is at their alternate site. Naylor has played regularly in left field since landing with the Indians. The Indians have used Quantrill, a 2016 first-round pick, as a reliever. He tossed two scoreless innings for them on Tuesday and registered a hold in their win yesterday. His ERA this season now sits at 2.25.
– It was 27 years ago today that Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.) pitched his first game for the Montreal Expos in front of more than 40,000 boisterous fans at Olympic Stadium. With Windsor, Ont., native Joe Siddall catching and Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker in right field, the contest represented the first time in modern baseball history that three Canucks have been in the starting lineup for the same team. Boucher held the Colorado Rockies to one run in six innings in the Expos’ 4-3 victory. “That was a very special day,” Siddall told me an interview in 2018. “I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big deal until I was in the dugout before the game and I was out there early, as I usually was, waiting for the starting pitcher to come out and then I would go and do my stretching and long toss with him. And when Denis came out of our tunnel and out of our dugout and we started walking towards the bullpen, the fans went crazy. And that’s when I think it really hit me . . . But we can talk about the [all-Canadian] battery all we want, the biggest draw was that Denis Boucher was pitching for the Montreal Expos.” Making the day even more memorable for Siddall was that all three Canucks contributed to the Expos’ win. “Denis got a no-decision but he pitched very well. He pitched six innings and only allowed one run. I threw a guy out stealing and I think I also hit a double and Larry homered so it was pretty neat all-around.”
– Congratulations to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Allan Simpson (Kelowna, B.C.) who has been selected as one of three finalists for the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s prestigious J.G. Taylor Spink Award. The award honours a baseball writer “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” The other two finalists are longtime Kansas City Royals beat writer Dick Kaegel and late New York Mets beat reporter Marty Noble. The winner will be announced during the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) Meeting at the Winter Meetings in December in Dallas. The recipient will be honoured July 24, 2021 at Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, N.Y., as part of the Hall of Fame’s Induction Weekend, along with the late Nick Cafardo, the 2020 recipient. When the coverage of minor league baseball, college baseball and the draft was reduced in The Sporting News, Simpson came up with the idea for the magazine that would become Baseball America. He began producing a bi-weekly publication out of his garage in White Rock, B.C. in 1981, but he established post office boxes in Blaine and Bellingham, Washington so people would think Baseball America was an American production. Reports indicate the publication originated with 1,500 subscribers and 30 years later, it had approximately 250,000 readers. After 25 years, Simpson left Baseball America to become vice-president and director of national scouting with Perfect Game USA. The only Canadian to win the Hall’s Spink Award is Bob Elliott (Kingston, Ont.) in 2012.
– The Toronto Blue Jays have run into more than 20 outs on the bases this season, including two more last night. They have one of the greatest base runners in MLB history, Tim Raines, on their payroll as a special assistant. My question is: Would it hurt to add him as a coach? I’m sure there’s a COVID protocol to follow, but why not bring him on board?
– Happy 39th Birthday to former Blue Jay and Canadian citizen Mark Teahen. Teahen’s father, Mike, was born in St. Marys, Ont., and played on the Canadian national team in the 1970s. So to honour his family’s roots, Teahen suited up for Canada at the 2009 World Baseball Classic. In a seven-season major league career, the third baseman/outfielder batted .264 with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and Blue Jays.
– Fifty-five years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee John Hiller (Toronto, Ont.) made his MLB debut with the Detroit Tigers. He tossed a scoreless ninth inning for the Tigers in their 4-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Tiger Stadium. Hiller went on to enjoy an outstanding 15-year big league career with the Tigers. His best season was in 1973 when he toed the rubber in 65 games, notched 10 wins, posted a miniscule 1.44 ERA and recorded 38 saves (a major league record at the time) and was named American League Fireman of the Year. A member of the All-Time Detroit Tigers’ All-Star Team, Hiller registered 87 career wins, 125 saves and had a career ERA of 2.83.
– It was 23 years ago today that Rich Butler (Toronto, Ont.) made his big league debut with the Blue Jays. Batting seventh and playing right field, he went 0-for-3 against the Texas Rangers in the Blue Jays’ 2-1 win at SkyDome. Three days later, he recorded his first MLB hit and finished his seven-game big league stint that September with four hits in 14 at bats (.286 batting average). Following that season, Butler was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 10th pick in the expansion draft and he would play parts of two seasons with the Rays, prior to splitting his final pro campaign between the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers organizations.
– While Butler was making his MLB debut, Andy Stewart (Oshawa, Ont.) was appearing in his first MLB game with the Kansas City Royals on the same day. The Canuck catcher, who was signed by the Royals as an amateur free agent in 1989, pinch ran for Mike Macfarlane in the bottom of the eighth inning and then caught Royals pitcher Ricky Bones in the ninth. Stewart went 2-for-8 (.250 batting average) in five games down the stretch for the Royals. In all, he played in parts of 11 professional seasons.
– It was 40 years ago today that Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Tim Wallach pinch hit for Ron LeFlore and belted a solo home run in the eighth inning off San Francisco Giants pitcher Phil Nastu at Candlestick Park in his first major league at bat. With that, he became the first Expo to homer in their first MLB at bat. It was the first of 204 home runs that Wallach would belt in his 13 seasons with the Expos.
– Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver passed away on Monday at the age of 75 after battling Lewy Body Dementia and COVID-19. I wrote a blog entry about his Canadian connections that I ran on Thursday. After I heard of Seaver’s death, I was looking through baseball cards and I found this one (below). There can’t be a more Canadian Seaver baseball card than this one. It’s a 1971 National League Strikeout Leaders card that was part of the 1972 O-Pee-Chee baseball card set (that was printed in London, Ont.). Pictured alongside Seaver is Canadian Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) and Montreal Expos ace Bill Stoneman.
– This week’s trivia question: This Canadian had the highest batting average of any MLB player who had at least 20 at bats against Tom Seaver. Who am I talking about? 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 (Fergie Jenkins won 20 games in a season seven times during his major league career. Two other Canadian pitchers have won 20 games in a big league season. Can you name one of them? Hint: They played well before Jenkins. ) was Bob Emslie (St. Thomas, Ont.), who had 32 wins for the American Association’s Baltimore Orioles in 1884 and Russ Ford (Brandon, Man.) who had two, 20-win seasons for the New York Yankees in 1910 and 1911.