But What Do I Know? . . . Ellen Harrigan, Freddie Freeman, James Paxton, Jackie Robinson

By Kevin Glew

Cooperstowners in Canada

My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:

– Congratulations to Kim Ng, who was named the general manager of the Miami Marlins on Friday. With this assignment, she becomes the first female general manager in major league history. Ng has spent 21 years working in the front offices of the Chicago White Sox, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers and along the way, has secured three World Series rings. For the past nine years, she has served as a senior vice-president with Major League Baseball. Ng is not, however, the first female general manager of a professional baseball team. Thirty years ago, Ellen Harrigan (Agincourt, Ont.) served as the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays’ class-A New York Penn League St. Catharines Blue Jays and continued in that role through the 1995 season. When Harrigan hired Marilynn Finn to be her assistant general manager and Eleanor Bowman as an administrative assistant, they formed what was believed to be the first all-female front office in professional baseball. Harrigan is currently senior director, baseball administration with the Dodgers.

– Congratulations to Freddie Freeman on being voted the National League’s Most Valuable Player. The announcement was made on Thursday. Freeman, who played for the Canadian national team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic (WBC), batted .341 with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs in 60 games for the Atlanta Braves this season. The all-star first baseman was born and raised in California, but both his mother, Rosemary, (Toronto, Ont.) and his father, Fred, (Windsor, Ont.) were born in Canada. His mother passed away from skin cancer when he was 10 years old and he played for Canada in the 2017 WBC to honour her memory.

–Despite an injury-shortened season, Canadian left-hander James Paxton is drawing plenty of interest on the free agent market, according to his agent Scott Boras. Jon Morosi, of Fox Sports, tweeted out Tuesday that Boras told him that “Paxton is ‘close’ to throwing for talent evaluators” and has “recently done additional strength training for his lumbar region” to continue his recovery from his back surgery in February. The Canuck southpaw made just five starts for the Yankees in 2020, going 1-1 with a 6.64 ERA, before he was sidelined with a flexor strain in his throwing arm. Baseball America recently highlighted Paxton as the fourth-best “Upside” free agent in a recent article by Kyle Glaser and J.J. Cooper. They write that Paxton “still has some of the best pure stuff from the left side in MLB.” MLB Trade Rumours predicts that Paxton will sign a one-year, $10-million contract with the White Sox. The 32-year-old Paxton has pitched in parts of eight major league seasons and had a career-best 15 wins with the Yankees in 2019.

– I can’t recall a year where it has been more difficult to select a Tip O’Neill Award winner. The Tip O’Neill Award is presented to the top Canuck player each year by the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame. Could this be the year that Jamie Romak (London, Ont.), who belted 32 home runs in a full season for SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO), wins it? Or should it go to Jordan Romano (Markham, Ont.) who was dominant out of the Blue Jays’ bullpen in an injury-shortened campaign? Or maybe it should be awarded to one of Cal Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) or Rowan Wick (North Vancouver, B.C.) who emerged as go-to relievers for their respective big league clubs? This is a tough decision, but you can offer your input on the Hall’s website by voting for the players you think deserve the award in the poll on the right side of the home page. Fan votes are one of the criteria that will help determine the winner.

– So it turns out that Panini is the first major trading card manufacturer to produce a solo card of Jordan Romano. Thank you to player agent Michael D. Bonanno for sharing this image (above) of the 2020 Panini Contenders Romano card. Still no definitive word on when he’ll get a solo card in a Topps set. As noted last week, Romano was featured on a 2020 Topps Heritage “Rookie Stars” card with fellow Blue Jays right-hander T.J. Zeuch.

– Thank you to MLB baseball historian John Thorn for tweeting out this photo (above) of the trophy that Jackie Robinson received when he won the International League batting title with the Montreal Royals in 1946. I didn’t even know that this trophy had ever hit the auction block, but in a November 2010 Heritage Auctions sale, it sold for $10,755. I don’t think it has ever surfaced for sale again, but this would be a Holy Grail artifact for the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Marys, Ont. So if by some miracle the owner of this trophy reads this, please consider loaning it to the Canadian ball shrine for display. It would be cherished and treasured.

–  Thirty-seven years ago today, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. was voted the American League’s Most Valuable Player. The 1983 AL MVP voting was also notable because it represented the first year that a Toronto Blue Jays position player garnered MVP votes. After hitting .306 with 27 home runs and 104 RBIs in 160 games, first baseman Willie Upshaw finished 11th in the voting and Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Lloyd Moseby, who batted .315 with 18 home runs, 104 runs and 27 stolen bases, finished 14th.

– Blue Jays’ lefty Hyun Jin Ryu’s third-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award voting this year got me thinking about the Blue Jays’ three Cy Young Award winners: Pat Hentgen (1996), Roger Clemens (1997, 1998) and Roy Halladay (2003). Then it hit me that they’re all right-handers. So then I wondered if Ryu’s third-place finish in the Cy Young voting was the highest ever by a Blue Jays lefty? The answer is no. Jimmy Key, on the strength of his 17-8 record and league-leading 2.76 ERA in 36 starts, finished second in 1987. Two other Blue Jays southpaws have also garnered significant Cy Young support. In 2000, David Wells, who posted a 20-8 record, finished third, while J.A. Happ, ended up sixth in the voting after registering a 20-4 record in 2016.

– This week’s trivia question: Two Montreal Expos left-handed pitchers have finished in the top 10 of the National League Cy Young Award voting. Can you name one of them? 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 (Two former Expos managers won the National League Rookie of the Year award to begin their playing careers. Can you name one of them?) was one of Bill Virdon with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1955 or Frank Robinson with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956.

9 thoughts on “But What Do I Know? . . . Ellen Harrigan, Freddie Freeman, James Paxton, Jackie Robinson

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  1. Thanks again for my Sunday morning Canadian baseball fix. It would be nice to see that 1946 international league trophy in St. Marys for a day.

  2. From Stephen Harding:

    Thank You Kevin for another informative post and a good day to all the Cooperstowners in Canada readers. Congratulations to Kim Ng on her appointment as MLB’s first female CEO. Congratulations also go out to the Florida Marlins for facilitating her appointment. I found Ellen Harrington’s role with the Blue Jay’s St. Catharines affiliate very interesting. That she was joined by Marilyn Finn & Eleanor Bowman is very interesting indeed. Who knew? Thank you for highlighting this Kevin. This is a baseball card waiting to happen. it should not be a total surprise, since the Jays have always been innovators in their management of their minor league operations. This was initiated by Peter Hardy. It paid off handsomely for the Jays over the years. Recently MLB dithered concerning improving working conditions and salaries in the minor leagues. The Jays responded by doubling everyone’s pay cheque. Good for them. The Toronto Blue Jays have exerted a positive influence on MLB ever since the team adopted the management culture of John Labatt Ltd in the Blue Jays’ front office. The founders of the team, Labatts, the Bank of Commerce & Mr. Webster remain as the most successful ownership group in all of baseball. The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum documents their achievement for visitors to enjoy and appreciate. Sincerely, Stephen Harding

  3. Great info Kevin.
    Thanks for sharing the information about Ellen.
    Just seeing that trophy makes me smile to know it’s out there.
    Let’s go Paxton…healthy and he’s a great pickup for any team

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