By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– When Joey Votto (Etobicoke, Ont.) homered in the third inning for the Cincinnati Reds on Monday, it was his 1,900th MLB hit. With that, as the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame tweeted out, Votto became just the second Canadian to record 1,900 hits, joining Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker (2,160 hits). Votto has found his power stroke this week. In his past six games, he has belted three home runs and now has 10 on the season. During that period, he has also gone 7-for-18 to lift his batting average from .219 to .238.
– Speaking of Canadians belting home runs, Maple Ridge, B.C., native Tyler O’Neill socked two more for the St. Louis Cardinals this week. The muscular slugger now has seven this season and four in September. His slugging percentage this month sits at a healthy .467. O’Neill’s Cardinals lead Votto’s Reds by one game for second place in the National League Central division.
– In case you missed it, the New York Yankees transferred left-hander James Paxton (Ladner, B.C.) to the 45-day injured list on Wednesday. This ends the Canadian southpaw’s regular season. He has been sidelined since August 20 with a flexor strain in his throwing arm. There’s a slight possibility that Paxton, who went 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA in five starts this season, could pitch in the playoffs for the Yankees, but there’s a greater chance that the 31-year-old Canuck, who becomes a free agent after the season, has thrown his last pitch for the Bombers. Paxton has pitched in parts of eight major league campaigns and is coming off a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019.
– Happy 42nd Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jason Bay! Born in Trail, B.C. in 1978, Bay played for his hometown squad in the 1990 Little League World Series. After being selected in the 22nd round of the 2000 MLB draft by the Montreal Expos, he was dealt to the New York Mets and then to the San Diego Padres in just over a four-month span in 2002. After making his big league debut with the Padres in 2003, the right-handed hitting outfielder was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and it was in Steeltown that he’d become a star. He assumed starting left field duties for the club on May 7, 2004 and never looked back, hitting .282 and belting 26 home runs in 120 games that season to become the first – and still only – Canadian to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. Bay continued to excel for the Pirates over the next four seasons, registering back-to-back 30-home run, 100-RBI campaigns in 2005 and 2006 and earning All-Star honours in each of those years. He was dealt to the Boston Red Sox at the trade deadline in 2008 and the next season he clubbed a career-best 36 home runs and registered 119 RBIs. Following that season, he signed a four-year deal with the Mets and he would finish his 11-year major league career with the Seattle Mariners in 2013. Bay ranks in the top 10 in most of the all-time offensive statistical categories among Canadian major leaguers, including fifth in home runs (222) and sixth in slugging percentage (.481). Over the course of his career, Bay was named the winner of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award, as top Canadian player, three times and was added to Baseball Canada’s Wall of Excellence in 2014.
– On this date 22 years ago, Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Roy Halladay made his major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays. The then 21-year-old right-hander started and allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits, while striking out five, in five innings against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. One great piece of Canadian baseball trivia from this game is that Toronto native Rich Butler became the first major leaguer to hit a home run off Halladay (in a regular season game) when he belted a two-run shot in the fourth inning. It also seems fitting that Dave Stieb, a fellow Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer and member of the Blue Jays’ Level of Excellence, took over for Halladay in the sixth inning and allowed one run in 2 2/3 innings. This was the only MLB game in which Halladay and Stieb both pitched for the Blue Jays. Left-hander Steve Sinclair (Victoria, B.C.) also toed the rubber for the Blue Jays and got two outs for them in the 11th. The Blue Jays eventually won 7-5 in 12 innings.
– This photo (above) is an example of the magic that can happen at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremony in St. Marys, Ont. The event is often the only time of the year that many ex-players, managers and executives see other. To give you some background, yesterday was the 40th anniversary of Marysville, N.B., native Paul Hodgson’s first MLB home run. Starting in left field for the Toronto Blue Jays, Hodgson belted it off then Baltimore Orioles right-hander Dennis Martinez in the sixth inning at Memorial Stadium. Well, in 2016, when Martinez, who won 100 games for the Montreal Expos, was being inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Hodgson reconnected with El Presidente in the museum. Hodgson’s partner Lisa Chisholm snapped this great photo.
– The Blue Jays could desperately use right-hander Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) in their bullpen right now, but it doesn’t sound like the Canuck reliever will pitch again this year. Romano has been sidelined with a strained middle finger on his throwing hand since August 28. On Tuesday, Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo told reporters that Romano had started playing catch at 90 feet, but was not yet throwing off a mound. Montoyo could not provide a specific timeline for Romano’s return. Romano, an Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum, had been the Blue Jays’ best reliever this season. In 15 appearances, spanning 14 2/3 innings, he was 2-1 with a 1.23 ERA and had 21 strikeouts.
– Thirty-seven years ago today, Willie Upshaw doubled home Lloyd Moseby in the bottom of the first inning of the Blue Jays’ 7-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at Exhibition Stadium to record his 100th RBI of the 1983 season. This made him the first player in franchise history to reach that mark. Upshaw finished the season with 104 RBIs.
– Here’s a gift for those of you missing former Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Click on the video below to watch him hit his only major league home run. He hit it 34 years ago today.
– I’m still hurting from the sudden passing of fellow passionate Canadian baseball supporter Marty Healy on September 11 at the age of 42. Here is his obituary. I can’t think of anything more fitting than the family’s decision to have memorial donations for Marty directed to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. I think he would love that.
– This week’s trivia question: Who was the first major league player to suit up for the Montreal Expos and Toronto Blue Jays? Hint: He played with the Expos first in the early 1970s. 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 (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.) was Ron Taylor (Toronto, Ont.) who pitched 11 innings for the Cleveland Indians in his MLB debut on April 11, 1962.