By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– In case you missed it, Langley Blaze and Junior National Team graduate Tyler O’Neill has been named one of three finalists for the Gold Glove Award for National League left fielders. The Maple Ridge, B.C. native is up against Shogo Akiyama, from the Cincinnati Reds, and David Peralta, from the Arizona Diamondbacks, for the honour. The finalists were announced by Rawlings on Thursday and the winner will be unveiled on Nov. 3. This is the first time that O’Neill has been a finalist. After playing parts of two seasons with the Cardinals in 2018 and 2019, O’Neill took over as the club’s starting left fielder this season. The 25-year-old Canuck had nine Defensive Runs Saved in 2020, which is four more than any other left fielder in the National League. He also fielded all 89 defensive chances he had flawlessly, finishing with a 1.000 fielding percentage, and his range factor per nine innings improved to 2.33 from 1.26 in 2019. O’Neill is vying to become the first Canadian outfielder to win a National League Gold Glove Award since fellow Maple Ridge, B.C., native Larry Walker captured one with the Colorado Rockies in 2002.
– Thank you to Scott Crawford at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame for sharing that slugger Jamie Romak (London, Ont.) played in his 2,000th professional game this week. The London Badgers alum and Great Lake Canadians coach has belted 32 home runs with the SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization (KB0) this season. This is his fourth season playing in Korea. His finest pro campaign came with the Wyverns in 2018 when he batted a career-high .316 and belted 43 home runs to tie for second in the KBO. His power display that season made him the first Canadian with back-to-back 40-home run campaigns in the professional ranks. For his efforts, he was named the Canadian Baseball Network’s Offensive Player of the Year in foreign or independent ball. Prior to his tenure in Korea, Romak played parts of 13 seasons in the affiliated minor league ranks after being drafted in fourth round by the Atlanta Braves in 2003. He had major league stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014 and the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2015.
– Happy 53rd Birthday to former Montreal Expos catcher, current Blue Jays Central analyst and Windsor, Ont., native Joe Siddall! The Canadian catcher honed his skills in his hometown before signing as an amateur free agent with the Expos on August 5, 1987. He proceeded to play 13 professional seasons and enjoyed big league tenures with the Expos, Florida Marlins and Detroit Tigers. He began as a radio analyst for the Blue Jays alongside Jerry Howarth in 2014 before transitioning to his current role in 2018. He was inducted into the Baseball Ontario Hall of Fame that same year.
– It was nine years ago today that the Canadian senior national team captured its first gold medal at the Pan Am Games. In the championship contest in Guadalajara, Mexico, veterans Andrew Albers (North Battleford, Sask.) and Scott Richmond (Vancouver, B.C.) combined to strike out 11 batters, while Jimmy Van Ostrand (Vancouver, B.C.) knocked in both of the team’s runs with a sixth-inning double, in Canada’s 2-1 victory over the United States. The entire team was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont., the following year.
– Forty-seven years ago today, the Chicago Cubs traded ace right-hander Fergie Jenkins (Chatham, Ont.) to the Texas Rangers for third baseman Bill Madlock and utility player Vic Harris. Though Madlock would win two batting titles in three seasons with the Cubs, Jenkins put together arguably his most dominant big league season in his first year with the Rangers, setting career-highs with 25 wins and 328 1/3 innings pitched. He also topped the American League with 29 complete games. For his efforts, he finished second to Catfish Hunter in the AL Cy Young Award voting. He added 17 wins in his second season with the Rangers before he was dealt to the Red Sox prior to the 1976 campaign. He later returned to the Rangers and was a key starter for them from 1978 to 1981.
– Thank you to Canadian baseball historian Andrew North for sharing with me Stephen V. Rice’s recently published SABR bio of Lefty Wilkie, who was the second pitcher from Saskatchewan to toe the rubber in the big leagues. From this bio I learned that after honing his skills as a youngster in semipro leagues in Saskatchewan and B.C., Wilkie, who was born in Zealandia, Sask., advanced into the professional ranks and was eventually purchased from the Pacific Coast League’s Seattle Rainiers by the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 28, 1940. The Canuck southpaw made his big league debut on April 22 the following year and would pitch in parts of three seasons with the Pirates, posting an 8-11 record and a 4.59 ERA in 68 games. You can read the full bio here.
– Please take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee and Penetanguishene, Ont., native Phil Marchildon who would’ve turned 107 today. While working in the Creighton Mine in Sudbury and starring for the company ball team, Marchildon was convinced to try out with the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 1938. The hard-throwing hurler would strike out seven of the nine batters he faced at the tryout and reported to the Leafs training camp the following spring. After two seasons with the Leafs, Marchildon’s contract was purchased by the Philadelphia A’s. In his first big league season, he recorded 10 wins for the lowly A’s, managed by Connie Mack. The ensuing season, he recorded 17 wins and established himself as the team’s ace. Poised to join the pitching elite, Marchildon was called for military duty and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force from 1943 to 1945. In August 1944, his plane was shot down and he was taken as a prisoner of war. He spent nine months in a German prison camp. Upon his release and return to North America, Marchildon was almost immediately pencilled into the A’s rotation. Though still traumatized by the war, Marchildon registered 19 wins for the A’s in 1947. In all, Marchildon won 68 big league games and completed 82 of his 162 major league starts. He passed away in 1997.
– I stumbled across this great mid-80s Toronto Blue Jays photo (below) online this week. It comes from the Toronto Public Library archives. Can you name these four players? Hint: Think Bobby Cox platoons.
– Please also take a moment to remember Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Jack Kent Cooke. A natural salesman, Kent Cooke was born in Hamilton, Ont., but moved to The Beaches area in Toronto in 1921. By age 14, he was a successful door-to-door encyclopedia salesman, and after a string of prosperous business ventures, including owning radio stations and publications, Cooke purchased the International League’s Toronto Maple Leafs in 1951. Under his flamboyant reign, the club drew more than 3.3 million fans to Maple Leaf Stadium from 1951 to 1963. Creative and sometimes off-the-wall, Cooke’s promotions made attending a game in Toronto an event. For his efforts, he was named minor league executive of the year by The Sporting News in 1952, when the Leafs drew 446,040 fans – an attendance mark that topped some major league clubs. While Cooke was the owner, the Maple Leafs won pennants in 1954, 1956, 1957 and 1960. The ambitious owner passionately believed Toronto was worthy of a big league team and pressed local politicians to build a larger stadium. While in Toronto, Cooke made attempts to purchase the St. Louis Browns, Philadelphia Athletics and Detroit Tigers. But when his dream of bringing the big leagues to Toronto was thwarted, he moved to the U.S., where he would eventually own several pro sports franchises, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings. He was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 1985. He passed away 12 years later.
– This week’s trivia question: As noted above, Lefty Wilkie was the second pitcher from Saskatchewan to play in the major leagues. In total, there have been nine big leaguers that were born in Saskatchewan. Can you name two other big leaguers that were born in Saskatchewan? 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 (Bobby Mattick was the second manager of the Blue Jays. Who was the second manager of the Expos?) was Karl Kuehl who took over for Gene Mauch in 1976.