By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– With the Atlanta Braves completing a sweep of the Miami Marlins in their National League Division Series on Thursday, Alex Anthopoulos (Montreal, Que.) became the third Canadian general manager to build a team that has advanced to the National League Championship Series (NLCS). He joins Doug Melvin (Chatham, Ont.) whose Milwaukee Brewers reached the NLCS in 2011 and Farhan Zaidi (Sudbury, Ont.) whose Los Angeles Dodgers competed in the NLCS from 2016 to 2018.
– Forty years ago, Melville, Sask., native Terry Puhl set a then NLCS record with 10 hits in 19 at bats (.526 batting average) in the Houston Astros’ epic five-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Puhl is the last Canadian to appear in a postseason game with the Astros. Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) has seemed destined to break that drought this postseason, but despite being on the club’s Wild Card Series and Division Series rosters, he has yet to see game action. The switch-hitting infielder played in more than half of his club’s regular season games. Scouted by fellow Canadian Jim Stevenson (Leaside, Ont.), Toro was the Canadian Baseball Network’s Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2019.
– Almost any longtime Toronto Blue Jays fan can tell you exactly where they were 28 years ago today when Roberto Alomar walked to the plate against Oakland A’s closer Dennis Eckersley in the top of the ninth inning in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series (ALCS) at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum and belted a two-run home run to tie the game at six. The Blue Jays had trailed 6-1 until the eighth inning. Alomar’s home run sent the game into extra innings and the Blue Jays eventually won 7-6 in 11 innings when Derek Bell scored on catcher Pat Borders’ sacrifice fly. The win gave the Blue Jays a commanding 3-1 series lead. You can watch the home run by clicking on the link below.
– For another project I was working on this week, I put together a list of the Canadian pitchers with the most appearances for the Montreal Expos. Here’s the list: 1) Claude Raymond (St. Jean, Que.), 111 games; 2) Bill Atkinson (Chatham, Ont.), 98 games; 3) Mike Johnson (Edmonton, Alta.), 67 games; 4) Rheal Cormier (Cap-Pele, N.B.), 34 games; 5) Mike Gardiner (Sarnia, Ont.), 24 games; 6) Denis Boucher (Lachine, Que.), 15 games; 7) Larry Landreth (Stratford, Ont.), 7 games; 8) Shawn Hill (Georgetown, Ont.), 3 games; 9) Derek Aucoin (Lachine, Que.), Matt Maysey (Hamilton, Ont.) and Dave Wainhouse (Toronto, Ont.), 2 games each.
– National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and New York Yankees legend Whitey Ford passed away on Friday at the age of 91. The New York native was the go-to pitcher on many of the World Series-winning Yankees teams of the 1950s and early-1960s. His 236 wins are the most in Yankees history and he led the American League in that category three times. A 10-time all-star, he twice topped the American League in ERA and shutouts and won the 1961 AL Cy Young Award. He also owns several World Series records, including most wins (10) and strikeouts (94). Among his Canuck connections are that he was managed by Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Selkirk (Hunstville, Ont.) with the class-A Binghamton Triplets in 1949. Thanks also to author and baseball historian Maxwell Kates for reminding me that Whitey Ford served as the TV analyst, alongside play-by-play man Don Chevrier, for the first ever Blue Jays game (April 7, 1977). As Kates noted in a Facebook post, it was the only Blue Jays game that Ford would call.
– Five years ago, with his Blue Jays club down 2-0 to the Texas Rangers in the best-of-five ALDS and facing elimination, right-hander Marco Estrada pitched a gem, holding the Rangers to one run on five hits in 6 1/3 innings at Globe Life Ballpark in Arlington. Blue Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki hit a three-run home run in the sixth inning to help secure the 5-1 win and keep the team’s playoff hopes alive. You can watch some highlights by clicking on the link below.
– Please take a moment to remember former Blue Jays pitcher Cory Lidle who died 14 years ago today when the small plane he was in crashed into an apartment building in New York City. He was just 34 years old. The 5-foot-11 right-hander made 31 starts for the Blue Jays in 2003 and posted a 12-15 record and a 5.75 ERA. In all, he recorded 82 big league wins and a 4.57 ERA in 277 appearances in parts of nine seasons with the New York Mets, Tampa Bay Rays, A’s, Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, Phillies and Yankees.
– Thanks to Bob Elliott for forwarding me this fascinating list of Little League World Series alumni. The list features Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jason Bay, who suited up for a team from his hometown of Trail, B.C. in 1990 and former Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders who played for his hometown Victoria, B.C. squad in 1999. I didn’t know that Saunders had competed in the event.
– While the Astros have advanced to the ALCS, they will do so without right-hander Joe Biagini. The former Blue Jays right-hander, who had been designated for assignment by the Astros last month, has elected to become a free agent. Biagini struggled to a 10.42 ERA in 17 appearances with the Astros after he was acquired, along with Aaron Sanchez, in exchange for outfielder Derek Fisher on July 31, 2019. Prior to his tenure with the Astros, Biagini had a been a popular pitcher with the Blue Jays, compiling a 4.74 ERA in 204 appearances from 2016 to 2019.
– Please take a moment to remember former Montreal Expos pitcher Clay Kirby who died 29 years ago when he was just 43. The 6-foot-3 right-hander pitched his final 22 big league games with the Expos in 1976, posting a 1-8 record and a 5.72 ERA. Earlier in his career, he was a standout pitcher for the San Diego Padres and Cincinnati Reds. In all, in eight big league seasons, he won 75 games and recorded a 3.85 ERA in 261 appearances. According to his SABR bio, he died of a heart attack in his easy chair at his home in Arlington, Va.
– This week’s trivia question: What Canadian pitcher has made the most regular season appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays? 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 (According to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame when Josh Naylor (Mississauga, Ont.) registered four hits in Game 1 of the Cleveland Indians’ Wild Card series against the Yankees, he became the third Canadian to register four hits in a postseason game. Can you name one of the other two Canucks to have four hits in a playoff game? Hint: They both played for National League teams.) was one of Terry Puhl (Melville, Sask.), with the Astros in Game 5 of the 1980 NLCS and Larry Walker (Maple Ridge, B.C.) with the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.