By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– I was very sad to learn of the sudden passing of passionate Canadian baseball supporter, collector and author Marty Healy on Friday at the age of 42. I only met Marty a few times, but he was always enthusiastic and kind, and his knowledge of Canadian baseball players was encyclopedic. He regularly shared photos of the game-used major league jerseys of Canadian players that he purchased for his extensive personal collection with me. He was also the co-author, with Richard Armstrong, of the outstanding book about Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer George Gibson that was published in March. It gives me some comfort to know that he was able to see his book published. My deepest condolences to his family and to his co-author Richard.
– Right-hander Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) appears to be back on track after a rough final two weeks of August in the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen. The hard-throwing reliever has allowed just one run in six September outings and his ERA has dropped from 5.00 (on August 26) to 3.52. Last season, he made 31 big league appearances and recorded a 2.43 ERA while striking out 35 batters. The Junior National National Team and Vancouver Cannons grad is a converted catcher who made his big league debut with the Padres in 2018.
– Maple Ridge, B.C., native Tyler O’Neill has been better at the plate for the St. Louis Cardinals this month. Since the beginning of September, he has belted two home runs and two doubles and owns a .457 slugging percentage, which represents a significant improvement from August when he slugged .250 in 16 games.
– In case you missed it, the San Diego Padres have added 2020 second-round draft pick Owen Caissie (Burlington, Ont.) to their player pool. A Fieldhouse Pirates and Junior National Team alum, the power-hitting outfielder was selected 45th overall by the Padres in the June draft. According to Baseball Canada, the 18-year-old Caissie becomes the fifth Canadian to join a player pool of a big league team. The others are RHP Jordan Balazovic (Mississauga, Ont., Minnesota Twins), Nick Pivetta (Victoria, B.C., Boston Red Sox), Bo Naylor (Mississauga, Ont., Cleveland Indians) and Rob Zastryzny (Edmonton, Alta., Baltimore Orioles.).
– Eighty-four years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Heath (Fort William, Ont.) made his major league debut with the Cleveland Indians. Batting seventh and playing left field, he went 1-for-3 in the Indians’ 5-2 win over the Philadelphia A’s at League Park. His first major league hit was a single off right-hander Randy Gumpert in the bottom of the fourth inning. Heath’s debut was overshadowed, however, by the performance of 17-year-old fireballer and Indians starter Bob Feller who struck out 17 batters (and also walked nine!) in his complete-game win.
– On this date 29 years ago, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Joe Carter registered his 100th RBI of the 1991 season with the Toronto Blue Jays. With this, he became the first major leaguer to record 100 RBIs with three different teams in three consecutive seasons. In 1989, Carter knocked in 105 runs for the Indians and in 1990, he cashed in 115 for the Padres.
– Seventy-nine years ago today, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Dick Fowler (Toronto, Ont.) allowed just one run and tossed a complete game in his major league debut for the Philadelphia A’s to lead them to a 3-1 win over the Chicago White Sox at Shibe Park. Fowler permitted seven hits and walked two, while striking out four, in the contest. It was his first of four appearances for the A’s that season.
– Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.) replaced Babe Ruth in right field for the New York Yankees, earned five World Series rings and became the first Canadian big league general manager when he was hired by the Washington Senators in November 1962. You can also add great eye for managerial talent to his already impressive resume. When Selkirk was GM for the Senators, he hired a heady 29-year-old infielder named George “Sparky” Anderson to be the manager of the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs (a Senators’ affiliate at the time) for the 1964 season. It was Anderson’s first pro managerial gig. Earlier that same year, he acquired Gil Hodges from the New York Mets and named him the Senators’ manager. Both Anderson and Hodges would become World Series-winning managers.
– Thirty-two years ago today, Kevin Reimer (Enderby, B.C.) made his big league debut for the Texas Rangers. He pinch-hit for Rangers’ second baseman Jeff Kunkel with two outs in the ninth inning and flied out to left field off Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in the A’s 2-1 win. Reimer collected his first two hits in his first big league start the following day.
– It was 12 years ago today that George Kottaras (Scarborough, Ont.) made his big league debut for the Boston Red Sox in a game against his hometown Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Kottaras replaced catcher Jason Varitek in the seventh inning and struck out in his first at bat, but he reached first base when the ball got away from Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas. Later that inning, he came around to score his first big league run. That was one of three appearances that Kottaras made for the Red Sox that September.
– This week’s trivia question: Earlier I mentioned that Dick Fowler tossed nine innings in his major league debut. What Canadian pitcher tossed the most innings in their major league debut? Hint: He’s a Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and it’s not Fergie Jenkins, but he pitched in the same era as Jenkins. 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 (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?) was Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.) who went 20-for-45 (.444 batting average) against Seaver.