By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Former New York Mets pitcher and Montreal native Ray Daviault passed away on Friday at the age of 86.
QMI Agency sports journalist Benoit Rioux reported Daviault’s death on Twitter on Sunday. The cause of Daviault’s death has yet to be determined.
Born in Montreal in 1934, Daviault signed his first professional contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1953 and the French-speaking right-hander arrived at their spring training camp not knowing a word of English.
In seven minor league seasons in the Dodgers’ organization, he rose as high as triple-A and had two brief stints with his hometown International League Montreal Royals in 1957 and 1958. His finest season in the Dodgers’ chain came with class-A Macon in 1959 when he registered a 3.09 ERA in 204 innings in 41 appearances – including 26 starts.
Following that campaign, he was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the minor league draft and had two excellent seasons in double-A and triple-A – posting 2.76 and 3.17 ERAs respectively – before being chosen by the Mets in the MLB expansion draft on October 10, 1961.
In 1962, the Mets’ inaugural campaign, Daviault became the first Canadian to play in a regular season game for the club when he tossed two innings on April 13. In that contest, Daviault was summoned to pitch the eighth and ninth innings against a powerful Pittsburgh Pirates club. Though he walked four, he also retired Hall of Famers Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski on ground outs.
On June 10 that same year, Daviault made his first big league start and held a Chicago Cubs team that boasted Cooperstowners Lou Brock, Billy Williams and Ron Santo to one run in 5-1/3 innings at Wrigley Field before the Mets’ bullpen coughed up four runs in an eventual 5-4 loss.
In all, the 6-foot-1 right-hander registered a 6.22 ERA in 36 appearances for the Mets in 1962, which he split between the big leagues and triple-A Syracuse. In 1970, Daviault reminisced about his demotion to Syracuse that season with New York Daily News reporter Dick Young. Daviault recalled that near the end of April he got word that his manager Casey Stengel wanted to see him.
“I said to myself, ‘Oh-oh, Syracuse, here I come,” recalled Daviault. “Casey told me to sit down. He told me he wanted me to know he appreciated how hard I tried. He said nobody on the club gave more effort. He said my pitching was lousy but my effort was good.”
His 36 appearances with the Mets in 1962 would be only big league action, but the Canadian righty pitched one final season with the International League’s Buffalo Bisons in 1963 before being forced to retire due to an elbow injury.
After hanging up his playing spikes, he returned to Quebec and worked for O’Keefe and Molson breweries. He also coached some elite junior teams in the province, served as an instructor in baseball camps and sometimes threw batting practice for the Expos at Olympic Stadium.
For his efforts, he was inducted into the Quebec Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.
In 2017, he was a guest of honour at a Toronto Blue Jays’ spring training game played at Olympic Stadium.