By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– With the retirement of Ron Gardenhire, the Detroit Tigers are searching for a new manager. I would suggest that one excellent candidate was born right across the border in Windsor, Ont. Stubby Clapp, who was interviewed by the Pittsburgh Pirates for their managerial post last off-season, has served as the St. Louis Cardinals’ first base coach for the past two seasons, but he has a track record of winning. Prior to being promoted to the Cards, he managed the triple-A Memphis Redbirds to back-to-back Pacific Coast League championships. He was also a key contributor to the Junior National Team that won gold at the World Youth Baseball Championships in Brandon, Man., in 1991 and he was later a coach on both of Canada’s Senior National Teams that captured gold at the Pan Am Games (2011, 2015). For the record, the last Canuck to be a full-time big league manager was Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Gibson (London, Ont.) with the Pirates back in 1934.
– Speaking of Clapp, take 11 minutes to listen to him being interviewed on Sports 56 – an all-sports Memphis radio station. In the interview which was recorded on Friday, Clapp discusses what it was like to be locked up in a hotel room in Milwaukee for nine days after some members of the Cardinals tested positive for COVID-19. Clapp shares that one of the positive outcomes of this isolation period was that he got to spend a lot of time on FaceTime with his father who was about to undergo open heart surgery. Clapp reports in the interview that his father’s surgery went well.
– Abraham Toro (Longueuil, Que.) became the first Canadian to appear in a postseason game for the Houston Astros in 40 years when he drew a walk in a ninth-inning pinch-hit appearance in the third game of the American League Championship Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. Melville, Sask., native and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Terry Puhl had been the last Canuck to play for the Astros in the postseason. He did so back in 1980 when he set a then National League Championship Series record with 10 hits in 19 at bats (.526 batting average) in the Astros’ epic five-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Toro had been on the club’s Wild Card Series and Division Series rosters, but he didn’t see any game action. Scouted by fellow Canadian Jim Stevenson (Leaside, Ont.), the switch-hitting infielder was the Canadian Baseball Network’s Minor League Offensive Player of the Year in 2019.
– If the Atlanta Braves can somehow defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh game of the National League Championship Series today, Alex Anthopoulos (Montreal, Que.) will became the second Canadian general manager to build a team that has advanced to the World Series. Farhan Zaidi (Sudbury, Ont.) was the first when helped construct the Dodgers teams that lost in the 2017 and 2018 Fall Classics.
– Twenty-eight years ago today, Toronto Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston sent rookie Ed Sprague up to pinch hit for reliever Duane Ward in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the 1992 World Series at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta. The Blue Jays had lost the series’ first game and trailed this contest 4-3. With one out and Derek Bell on base with a walk, Sprague belted the first pitch he saw from Braves closer Jeff Reardon over the left field wall to put the Blue Jays ahead 5-4. Blue Jays closer Tom Henke held the Braves off the scoreboard in the bottom of the ninth to record the save. Sprague’s home run is one of the most important in Blue Jays’ history. It shifted the momentum in the series that the Blue Jays eventually won in six games. You can re-watch the home run by clicking on the video below.
– It’s been a really tough year for Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.). He has had to say goodbye to far too many of his friends and fellow Cooperstown inductees. Al Kaline, Tom Seaver, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Whitey Ford and, most recently, Joe Morgan have passed away in 2020. Morgan, who was a member of the 1972 National League All-Star team with Jenkins, died last Sunday at the age of 77 from a nerve condition. Jenkins tweeted out a tribute to Morgan the next day. “Our exclusive club got smaller today as we lost Joe Morgan,” wrote Jenkins. “A great player but even better person. His smile and enthusiasm was unmatched. My thoughts and prayers are with the Morgan family.”
– New York Yankees legend Whitey Ford passed away on October 8 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. I published an article about his Canadian connections on Friday. Perhaps his most important Canadian link was to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Selkirk (Huntsville, Ont.), who managed a 20-year-old Ford when the young lefty was with the class-A Binghamton Triplets in 1949. That season Ford recorded the best ERA (1.61) of his career. So as a Canadian baseball writer, I could barely contain my excitement when I found this team photo (below) of the 1949 Binghamton Triplets that was sold in a Huggins & Scott auction in June 2014 that has both Ford and Selkirk in it.
– Forty one years ago today, the Blue Jays hired Bobby Mattick to be their new manager to replace Roy Hartsfield who had guided the expansion club in its first three seasons. One of the Blue Jays’ original employees, Mattick was hired as the club’s scouting supervisor in 1976 prior to his promotion to director of player development in 1978. When he accepted the Blue Jays skipper position in 1980 at age 64, he became the oldest rookie manager to start a season in big league history. He would compile a 104-164 record in two seasons in the dugout before he returned to the front office, first as executive coordinator of baseball operations and then as the Blue Jays’ vice-president of baseball. In 2003, the Blue Jays renamed their Spring Training complex in Dunedin, Fla., in his honour.
– This Wins Above Replacement (WAR) graphic (below) from the Shock Me 20th Century Baseball page (shared by author and historian Maxwell Kates on Facebook) reinforces just how good Joe Morgan was. It also illustrates that there are a number of players that competed before advanced statistics were introduced that have never received their proper due. Most notable to me is former (for a brief tenure) Montreal Expo Graig Nettles. Ex-Toronto Blue Jays coach Gene Tenace is also on the list, along with former Expos Tony Perez and Ken Singleton.
– When I was younger and collecting baseball cards, one of the fun things to do was to look for error cards. This 1982 Fleer Rodney Scott card is one example. Yes, that is Hall of Famer Tim Raines in the photo.
– This week’s trivia question: As noted above, Bobby Mattick became the second manager of the Blue Jays 41 years ago today. Who was the second manager of the Montreal Expos? 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 has made the most regular season appearances for the Blue Jays?) was Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont,) who made 386 appearances for the Blue Jays between 1996 and 2001.