By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
My weekly observations and notes about some Canadian baseball stories:
– Happy 78th Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Fergie Jenkins! Born in Chatham, Ont., he was signed by the Philadelphia Phillies on June 15, 1962, but it wasn’t until he was acquired by the Chicago Cubs in 1966 that he was converted into a starting pitcher. In his first season as a full-time starter, Jenkins recorded 20 wins and was selected to play in the 1967 all-star game. That began a remarkable string of six consecutive 20-win seasons (1967 to 1972). His 1971 campaign ranks as his most impressive. That season, the durable right-hander topped the National League with 24 wins, 30 complete games and 325 innings pitched and became the first Canadian to win the NL Cy Young Award. After two more seasons with the Cubs, he was dealt to the Texas Rangers and proceeded to record 25 wins, 29 complete games, 245 strikeouts and a 2.82 ERA in 1974. The Canadian pitching legend retired with 284 career wins and as the only pitcher in history to record more than 3,000 strikeouts (3,192), while allowing fewer than 1,000 walks (997). Greg Maddux, Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling have since joined that elite group. For his efforts, he was elected the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1991.
– Happy 83rd Birthday to Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ron Taylor! In 1955, Toronto-area scout Chester Dies convinced Taylor to try out for the Cleveland Indians. By that time, the Toronto Leaside Baseball Association sensation had been dominating players several years older than him. Taylor impressed at the tryout and the Indians signed him. After several years in the minors, Taylor made one of the most remarkable pitching debuts in major league history, hurling 11 scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 11, 1962. Later that year, Taylor was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals, where he assumed a key bullpen role on the Cards’ 1964 World Series-winning squad. With the Cards trailing 2-1 in that Fall Classic series, Taylor held a New York Yankees lineup that boasted Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and Elston Howard hitless for four innings in relief in Game 4 to preserve a one-run victory. The unflappable right-hander found himself in a crucial relief role again with the New York Mets in the 1969 World Series. With two outs and two men on base in the ninth inning of Game 2, Taylor was summoned to face Brooks Robinson, who grounded to third base to end the game. In helping the Mets win, Taylor became the only Canadian to win a World Series with two different teams (Cardinals 1964, Mets 1969). In total, Taylor pitched seven innings without surrendering a hit in World Series play. Upon retiring from baseball, Taylor returned to Toronto, where he earned a degree in medicine from the University of Toronto and eventually became the Toronto Blue Jays’ team doctor.
–Canadian right-hander Zach Pop switched teams twice on Thursday. The Brampton, Ont., native, who pitched in the Baltimore Orioles organization in 2018 and 2019, was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Rule 5 draft, but was promptly flipped to the Miami Marlins for a player to be named later. The 24-year-old Ontario Blue Jays and Junior National Team alum is coming off Tommy John surgery, but he has posted an impressive 1.34 ERA in 57 minor league appearances over parts of four seasons. Selected in the seventh round of the 2017 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pop toed the rubber for parts of two seasons in their organization before he was shipped to the O’s as part of the package for slugger Manny Machado on July 18, 2018.
– The Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum continues to add to its already impressive collection. On Monday, they received a Cardinals jersey and helmet (pictured above) from Windsor, Ont., native Stubby Clapp that the iconic Canuck wore during the 2020 season. A national team hero and former big leaguer, Clapp served as the Cardinals’ first-base coach this past campaign.
– Burnaby, B.C., native Jim Adduci has been hired to be the Chicago Cubs’ new run production coordinator. The new position closes the book on Adduci’s 16-season professional playing career. The 35-year-old, who played in the Cubs organization from 2007 to 2012 and then again in 2019, enjoyed his longest tenure in the big leagues in 2018 with the Detroit Tigers when he batted .267 in 59 games. In the previous campaign, Adduci hit .241 in 29 contests for the Tigers. The 6-foot-2 first baseman/outfielder previously played parts of two seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2013 and 2014, batting a combined .189 in 61 games. Selected by the Marlins in the 42nd round of the 2003 MLB draft, Adduci enjoyed his greatest success with the Lotte Giants of the Korean Baseball Organization in 2015 when he hit .314 with 28 home runs and 106 RBIs in 132 games.
– It was 19 years ago today that the Toronto Blue Jays dealt Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Paul Quantrill (Port Hope, Ont.) and shortstop Cesar Izturis to the Los Angeles Dodgers for pitchers Luke Prokopec and Canadian right-hander Chad Ricketts (Waterloo, Ont.). It has long been reported that Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi had a choice between Prokopec and Canadian righty Eric Gagne (Mascouche, Que.) in the deal. Ricciardi chose Prokopec who went 2-9 with a 6.78 ERA in his only 22 appearances with the Blue Jays in 2002. Gagne, meanwhile, developed into one of the most dominant closers of his era. For the record, Quantrill had two strong seasons for the Dodgers, leading the National League in appearances in both campaigns, while posting a 2.70 ERA in 2002 and a 1.75 ERA in 2003. Ricketts registered a 3.24 ERA in 15 appearances in triple-A for the Blue Jays in 2002, but was cut loose after that season.
– Happy 56th Birthday to former big league lefty, 1984 Canadian Olympian and current New York Yankees International crosschecker and pitching analyst, Steve Wilson! Born in Victoria, B.C., Wilson pitched parts of six major league seasons with the Rangers, Cubs and Dodgers, registering a 4.40 ERA in 205 appearances, including 23 starts. In 1992, the 6-foot-4 left-hander posted a 4.19 ERA in a career-high 60 relief appearances. Following his playing career, he became a highly respected international scout for the Cubs, but he has since moved on to the Yankees.
– It was 24 years ago today that the Blue Jays signed Roger Clemens to a three-year, $24.75-million contract. Clemens proceeded to win the American League Cy Young Award in both of his seasons with the Blue Jays. In 1997, he also won the American League’s pitching Triple Crown, topping the circuit in wins (21), ERA (2.05) and strikeouts (292). He followed that up with another 20-win season in 1998, while again leading the league in strikeouts (271). Following that season, he asked to be traded as part of an oral agreement he had with the club if he didn’t believe the team would be a contender. On February 18, 1999, he was dealt to the New York Yankees for David Wells, Homer Bush and Graeme Lloyd.
– This week’s trivia question: As noted, Roger Clemens won the AL Cy Young Award with the Blue Jays in 1997 and 1998. Who are the other two Blue Jays pitchers to have won the Cy Young Award? 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 (Jamie Romak is not the first player born in London, Ont., to win the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame’s Tip O’Neill Award. One other player born in London has won it. Can you name him?) was Jason Dickson, who was born in London, Ont., on March 30, 1973. He won the Tip O’Neill Award in 1996.